Car reviews - Ford - Focus - Coupe-Cabriolet
Wind-in-the-hair motoring, boot space, electric boot shut, lots of features, interior comfort, torsional integrity
Room for improvement
Sluggish performance, unresponsive four-speed auto, suspension noise, boot access, noisy roof operation
19 Nov 2007
CALLING a convertible a sportscar has also been something of a misnomer because usually they are anything but sporty in the way they drive.
Such is the case with the new Ford Focus CC, but that is not entirely the point because what this car is all about – and you can say the same of its Astra, Megane, EOS and 308 rivals – is cruising around looking hot.
Judging by the looks we received driving around Adelaide and down the Fleurieu Peninsula during the press preview drive, the Focus CC fulfils the criteria in this regard, even if we are not totally convinced by the styling. The three-quarter perspective is its best angle because from the side or behind it is a case of “Does my bum look big in this?”.
We also thought the bootlid felt a bit flimsy, but there’s no need to slam it because Ford has provided a handy electric motor system that pulls it tight.
The upside of the big bum is an admirable boot capacity but, while it is still quite good with roof retracted, that two-piece design means the pieces are longer than a three-piece design so it leaves only a very small opening to slip your cases in or out of the boot.
It’s all very well having a luggage space height of 26cm, but that’s not quite so useful when you have to put the roof back up to get your stuff in and out over the high boot lip.
And, while we agree that operating the roof while moving must put a lot of strain on the mechanicals, it can be a very useful feature when the lights change and you haven’t quite finished the procedure (29 seconds sounds fast until you do it in traffic).
Wind buffeting and noise are comparable with others in this segment and we found that removing the aerial from the top of the windscreen removed some whistling, at the expense of radio reception, of course.
Overall, though, Pininfarina and Ford have done a good engineering job on the Focus, producing an affordable convertible that looks and feels solid with either the roof up or down. We do not doubt its torsional rigidity because scuttle shake was only apparent over some quite rough roads.
Less impressive was the noise, though, and not only from the roof operation, which sounded like someone throwing their suitcases into the boot. Cruising with the roof up, interior road and suspension noise was quite intrusive and not in keeping with the otherwise comfortable disposition of the CC.
It’s not as if the suspension is hard, either, because it is sensibly tuned on the soft side to suit its cruising nature, providing a generally good ride.
Perhaps the XR5 bushes and low-profile tyres are to blame for the noise, as well as a surprisingly harsh reaction to some sharp road irregularities.
The handling was much as you would expect, being competent without being sharp and going to gentle understeer when pushed. Standard stability control (switchable) should ensure that CC drivers will not get into much trouble.
However, the electro-hydraulic steering feels surprisingly dead. Owners of CCs fitted with the manual gearbox can go into the menu system and electronically alter the amount of electric power assistance to improve the on-centre feel, but Ford does not think that auto drivers would be interested.
Performance is the real killer for driving enjoyment, though.
The 2.0-litre engine really struggles with the extra mass of the CC, especially with the auto. As well as being limited to four gears, the ratios are widely spaced (especially between first and second) so acceleration is very tardy. You often find yourself labouring in second gear and it takes a really determined press of the throttle to gain a sudden response – at which point the CC jumps back a gear and revs its head off.
Slipping across into sequential manual mode (push forward for downshifts) allows you to select the gear you want, but the response is delayed and the shifts are lazy.
Going with the five-speed manual provides better response, but the performance is still lifeless right across the rev range and you have to put up with not having enough room to slip your foot across between the clutch and the centre tunnel.
Interior comfort at least ensures a pleasant cruise, with good seats (though with manual slide and backrest adjustment), auto everything else and a good sound system, though still with the ugly Focus steering column control stalk.
And you can even take adults in the back seat with a reasonable degree of comfort, provided those in the front slide forward a little.
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