I have never had such mixed feelings about a car. On one hand, it's been incredibly reliable, very well put together and is still a lot of fun on a good winding B-road. On the other its coarse, noisy engine, awful seats and general lack of refinement (road din seems to have got worse in the last 20k) make me dislike it strongly at times.
To drive, the Focus is a mixed bag. The journos rave about the chassis, and it is good, although I still think my old 306 was slightly better. It managed to be just as sharp in the handling department, but rode better, and felt far better insulated from dodgy road surfaces. The Focus's steering is fabulous though and I haven't driven anything else with as much feel, or such perfect weighting and gearing.
The TDDi engine is awful. Crude, clattery, rumbly and smoky, it's all the bad stuff you've heard about diesels and more. When you start it up, it jolts into life with an undignified "clunk", which rattles coins in the tray or loose items in the doorbin. The clattering and rumbling under the bonnet subsides slightly as it warms, but never quite enough. In its defence however, it has been utterly reliable, and I've never even needed to top up the oil between services.
Performance is actually reasonable, with a decent spread of shove and an very well set up turbocharger installation with little lag, and good throttle response (for a diesel). There's none of the "nothing, wallop, nothing" delivery of a lot of turbodiesels, just a steady surge from 1500 RPM upwards, which is quelled only by the limiter at about 4,750 RPM. However, you find yourself turning up the CD player to drown out the din. Economy is good at about 45-50 mpg in day to day driving depending on driving conditions. I have never been below 40 mpg even thrashing it mercilessly.
I actually like the interior of the car. Yes the dash plastics could be of better quality, but at least it's not another bland German coal-hole design like the Golf's and even the new Focus's. Instead you have light colours, well co-ordinated trim, and a dash which achieves a striking design with clever use of geometric shapes. Build quality is actually superb. Nothing creaks or squeaks after 71k, it all works properly, and even things like the column stalks still operate crisply and without any slack.
The seats however are a joke, and should not have made it into a modern production car. Flat, hard, and bench-like, they provide no lateral support when cornering, and no upper back or thigh support whatsoever, meaning that aches and pains are part and parcel of any journey that exceeds around two hours. Oh, and Ford's idea of lumbar support is akin to sticking a slightly padded scaffold bar into your lower back. It's a shame because the basic driving position is first class. The seats in my wife's 2000 Mondeo are by comparison like my favourite armchair.
Dealers are what I expected really. Competent enough, but indifferent. Spending my own money, I wouldn't give them my business, especially on a car which is relatively easy to work on. It's not like a modern BMW with a dozen ECU's that need specialist attention. Ford ECU reading tools are readily available, and the mechanical bits are simple (read ancient).
So, the car goes back in a couple of weeks, and what have I chosen to replace it? A new Megane. Not as fun to drive hard, but the new dCi engines are a revelation, and the comfort and refinement of the car is beyond criticism at this price point. The new Focus was up there, but to me it felt dulled, heavy, bloated and still not as refined as the Renault. It's also terminally boring to look at. Time will tell if I regret my choice.