Ford Focus ECOnetic
Model/Engine size: 1.6-litre
Fuel economy combined: 74.2 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10
Ford has managed to bring the CO2 emissions for the Ford Focus down to 99g/km, which shows real progress bearing in mind that it was only a few years ago when there were no mainstream cars available that emitted less than 100g/km CO2.
An ECOnetic version of the Focus already existed but Ford has now reduced the emissions from 114g/km CO2 to 104g/km. And now there’s an option of an Auto-Start-Stop system, which brings the emissions down to just 99g/km on that model. This makes it the first European Ford to offer this feature and it results in combined fuel economy of 74.2mpg.
The engine in the ECOnetic is a 1.6-litre 109PS Duratorq TDCi diesel. Ford has applied a range of engineering solutions to this and the five-door or estate Focus ECOnetic, in either 90PS and 109PS form, deliver 104g/km CO2 and 70.6mpg, even without Auto-Start-Stop.
The Auto-Start-Stop system does what it says on the tin, cutting out the engine when the car stops at annoying obstacles such as traffic lights, and restarting automatically when you want to drive off. This means that it emits zero-CO2 in this situation, so making a considerable difference in urban areas, including the Dagenham locality, where the new car was launched and driven. It’s claimed that this feature can cut fuel consumption by up to 10% overall. The system is designed not to work in certain conditions such as if the car is constantly stop-starting, in a long queue, or in cold weather.
The car also captures energy that is usually lost when braking or decelerating and stores it in the battery, so providing more energy to be used when, for example, the engine is cut at traffic lights. Ford calls this Smart Regenerative Charging. The Auto-Start-Stop system may stop working if there is not sufficient charge left in the battery, so Smart Regenerative Charging helps to prevent this situation occurring.
Another innovative idea to make the car more efficient is something that sounds very technical, but can be explained much more simply. The 99g/km Focus Econetic has a ‘low tension FEAD’, which stands for Front End Accessory Drive, but all this means in simple terms is that Ford has found a way to lower the tension of the alternator belt, so reducing resistance on the engine and so reducing fuel consumption by 1%.
The Duratorq 1.6-litre TDCi engine itself has been improved, with new injectors, recalibrated engine management, and a revised intake system. The exhaust system is also now fitted with an oxygen sensor and standard coated Diesel Particulate Filter (cDPF).
The gear ratios of the Ford Durashift five-speed manual gearbox have also been revised, offering a longer ratio for third, fourth and fifth, bringing down engine revs and engine noise. The modifications mean that the Focus is still acceptable to drive, however the long gearing means that it certainly doesn’t have the zesty feeling of get-up-and-go of most small petrol cars.
To check that you’re using the gear ratios to best effect, there’s also a new Ford Eco Mode which monitors you, the driver, and offers advice in the instrument cluster about how to drive more fuel efficiently.
The Focus ECOnetic is also lower to the road, by 10mm at the front and 8mm at the rear, and outer areas of the grille are fitted with blanking plates. This means that it’s slightly more aerodynamic, with a Cd (coefficient of drag) of 0.31.
Then there’s the wheels (and tyres). To achieve 99g/km, the Focus needs specific rubber, Michelin Energy Saver 195/65R15 tyres, which lower rolling resistance. The car also comes flat wheel covers. However Ford itself admits that customers aren’t particularly delighted with the resultant appearance of the car with these wheel trims, so the firm is offering alloy wheels as an option. These cost extra (£255), and the combination of tyre and alloy wheel means that the 99g/km ECOnetic no longer emits 99g/km CO2. However because the basic car emits 99g/km, the owner can still claim these official emissions even with different wheels and tyres. This leads to an interesting debate about what else you could do to green cars before someone starts to question their ability to benefit from incentives such as tax reductions.
Of course the driving dynamics of the Focus are widely acknowledged to be amongst the best in class, and this strong base means that even with the green treatment, the driving experience is still enjoyable.
So the Focus Econetic drives well, it has low emissions, and you can’t argue with the sales success of the Focus overall. So it’s all good? Well, the one thing you need to keep your eyes open about is the price premium. The 99g/km model costs £20,428, or £19,916 for the five-door version without Auto-Start-Stop. The ECOnetic estate (without Auto-Start-Stop) costs £20,886. These are all relatively expensive prices for a Focus, but green technology does come at a cost. You need to work out the miles you will drive, and the savings you will make, before forking out the extra price. Maybe a standard diesel Focus will work for you, as the 1.6 TDCi 109 still manages 62.7mpg.
If you do like the idea of a 74mpg Focus, then it’s on sale in February. Remember that the all-new Focus will be here in around a year’s time.
In addition to being efficient in the fuel it uses, Ford is also keen to point out that the Focus also has a high recycled content. Various components such as plastics that are hidden from view are made from materials that have already had a former life. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that Ford’s RS seat materials are made from old plastic bottles.
Finally, it’s worth being aware that the diesel engine for the Focus is manufactured at Dagenham, a factory that currently has two wind-turbines on site, and a third is currently on its way. The company is hoping that its increasing sustainability initiatives will result in a 30% reduction in CO2 by 2020 from a 2006 baseline.
Think back a few generations to the Escort, and the typical fuel consumption in real-life would have been around 30mpg. So 74mpg is a quantum leap, especially bearing in mind that today’s cars are much heavier, primarily due to increased safety requirements.
The real good news story about the Focus is that it has been the UK’s best selling car for most of the last ten years, until Ford knocked itself of the top with the new Fiesta. So in theory, the Focus ECOnetic is bringing low emissions to the masses, however because of the price premium, in reality this doesn’t happen as the ECOnetic is only expected to sell in low numbers relative to overall Focus sales (the 104g/km version is expected to account for around 3% of Focus sales, but the 99g/km model is not forecast to exceed 1%).
For drivers who want a driver-focused family-sized hatchback and who need to cover lots of miles up and down the UK as economically as possible, then the Focus ECOnetic should be near the top of the shortlist. For drivers who also do lots of stop-start driving, then the Auto-Start-Stop 99g/km CO2 model deserves consideration. Both models are on sale now.
Fuel economy extra urban: 83 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 62.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0
Weight: 1357 Kg
Company car tax liability (2009/10): 13%
Price: £20,428 (From £17,870 to £27,575)
Insurance group: 7E
Power: 109 hp
Max speed: 119 mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds