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Batchelor on: Ford Focus Zetec S

Time 11 years ago

dsc_0128Over the past few weeks in the Car Dealer Mag office, I have been treated to a large dose of ‘leg pulling’.

It turns out that my recently acquired HTC Legend mobile phone is ‘rubbish’ and that its unique feature of  a windscreen wiper sweeping the screen when its raining is also ‘rubbish’. To understand why I chose the HTC Legend, you have to enter my psyche.

You see I like things that are a little different. I could have easily bought an iPhone 4 but that is a little too obvious.


Which brings me onto the Ford Focus – a car that I have always had a problem with.

Ever since it was launched in 1998 it has been the class-leader in looks, or specification, or value for money. Naturally, being the mad person I am, I didn’t like it.  It was the obvious choice if you wanted a hatchback, but I would gladly have put up with dodgy reliability and terrible resale values of a Megane or a C4 just because it wasn’t a Focus.

But that was the case until I had driven one. I recently drove the £18,345 2.0 TDCi Zetec S and, my word, it was a hoot.

If you can get past the cheap feeling dashboard and the seats that look as though they’ve come from a 1997 Hyundai Accent, the Zetec S is one of the very best hatchbacks on sale today – if not the best. With its 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, and natty body-kit you would be forgiven for thinking this is an ST, and the 134bhp diesel unit is rather sporty too as it gets to 60 in 9.5secs thanks to 320Nm of torque. When it’s linked up to Ford’s Powershift (automatic – to you and I) transmission, the car gets even better.

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Although it’s the way the Focus handles is the really impressive bit. The Focus has always been described as having one of the best chassis in the business.. bla..bla…blaaa, but when you take it on a country lane you realise that it really is a masterclass in how to make a car handle.

Not only does the steering have a delightful weight to it, but the grip that the car generates is astonishing. It also rides well – comfortable with a whiff of stiffness to remind you this Focus has a red ‘S’ in its name.

So, do I eat my words and admit that I was wrong all along? Yes, I do. I even think the Zetec S is the perfect Focus for me, because it has always been overlooked in the range. It’s not the obvious choice amongst Focus buyers, and it has a rarity value that you just can’t buy.

Can I say the same thing about the iPhone 4 though? Do I bow down and admit that I am wrong? No, one admission is quite enough today thank you.

Pictures by James Batchelor

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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