Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Focus is (still) the best family all rounder

THE OTHER day I stayed in a hotel room with the world’s most sophisticated shower as its top trump.

I was briefly amazed by the way it had mood lighting, an inbuilt radio to allow you to tune in to The Archers mid-rinse, and an in-shower telephone so you could ring your mum to counter those horrendous I’ve-forgotten-my-towel scenarios you only ever encounter once you’re truly ensconsed in the wash. However, the hotel itself didn’t have a bar, so it failed immediately in my imaginary Tripadvisor review.

Another suite I tried had – get this, Life On Cars readers fortunate enough to own an S-Class – electrically-operated curtains. Again, this hugely impressed me, right up until the point I wanted to show off this marvellous invention to the rest of the world and promptly found out I’d be charged a small fortune to access Facebook. Given that WiFi these days is about as important as water, you’d expect to be included in the (already hefty) hotel bill.

My point is that all hotels seem to offer a perfect blend of things you’d want for a night away – but never at the same time. In much the same way that nobody yet offers the perfect family hatchback.
For years, I’ve argued to anyone who’d care to listen that Ford’s Focus offers the best compromise of a decidedly mixed bunch – and a few hours blasting across Britain’s countryside in a 1.6 diesel version confirmed that it’s still one of the best contenders out there. You’ll love it because it’s a hoot to drive when it’s off the motorway, your other half will love it because it’s quiet and refined when it is, and the kids in the back are unlikely to complain about the generous helpings of space.

But – not unlike most of the hotels I’ve been putting my head down in lately – you get the feeling it’d be improved immeasurably if it borrowed a few more ingredients from elsewhere.

The 2.2 litre diesel Honda uses to such wonderful effect, for starters. That it manages to move something as hefty as the CR-V around with such aplomb is a miracle in itself, but mate it with the Civic and you have a powerhouse that manages to be startling quick and eerily quiet while refusing to do less than 45 to the gallon. Imagine how much better all family hatches would be if they had one under the bonnet?

The Italians should be put in charge of styling, if the Alfa Giulietta is anything to go by, while Volkswagen’s best engineers must be kidnapped from Wolfsburg and set to work on the interior for the perfect family hatchback. Nissan would take the lead on marketing, judging by the sales phenomenon it has created with the Qashqai, and the French would be in charge of all those tempting cashback deals.

Blending the Focus’ talents as an all-rounder with the shiniest gems from the opposition would create one heck of a family hatchback. Which you’d all ignore, because you’d still want a 1-Series instead.

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