Ford’s new Focus is an accomplished car – at least at the upper trim levels – but does the high-end Vignale model justify the hefty price tag?
When Vignale was launched to capitalise on a growing trend for buyers to opt for highly specified models, it was initially billed as a stand-alone sub-brand and only available on the Mondeo.
Fast forward and it’s been relegated to an ultra-luxurious trim level but pushed out across most of the carmaker’s most popular models, usurping Titanium X at the top of the tree.
Ford Focus Vignale 1.5 Ecoboost
Price: £28,500 (£31,270 as driven)
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 135mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
C02 emissions: 137g/km
Exactly what you get for your money depends on which model in the line-up you buy, but all Vignale models carry premium alloy wheels, tweaked bodystyling, a redesigned chrome grille plus lots and lots of leather.
The Focus gets a stitched leather dashboard, leather seats, a premium B&O sound system, power-folding wing mirrors with ‘puddle lights’ and a host of high-tech convenience and safety features (The new Focus was awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP).
Everything inside the cabin has a premium feel to it; tasteful trim round the dash, high-gloss centre console, metallic dials and solid-feeling switchgear. With the rotary gear selector equipped in our eight-speed automatic test model I’m reminded very much of a Jaguar XE – only with more toys.
The 182bhp Ecoboost engine is the pick of the line-up in terms of performance (unless you’re of a mind to go for the sporty Focus ST) and it’s a smooth drive, with plenty of power on demand if you decide to put your foot down.
If you do that you’re rewarded with a pleasingly throaty sound from the exhaust – but it’s classy, not loutish like a hot hatch might be.
The automatic shift is very good by Ford standards, but I found it slightly over-eager pulling away and it felt clumsy during low-speed maneuvering until I’d spent a couple of days getting used to the car.
Ford put the mpg somewhere between 38.7 and 39.8 and through the course of our test the trip computer stayed close to those numbers pretty consistently.
The suspension is a little on the firm side but refinement is otherwise very impressive. Apart from the aforementioned exhaust note just when you’d want it, it’s very quiet at cruise and there’s very little discernible road or wind noise on the motorway.
The Focus has been lauded for its handling (at least the models with fully-independent rear suspension have) and during this test I was reminded just how good it is. That slightly firm suspension comes into its own in the corners and the body control in tight turns is something else. The electric power steering is precise and light but stiffens up nicely at speed.
The Focus Vignale is the highest specified Ford Focus I’ve ever driven and – putting the totally mad Mk3 Focus RS to one side – it’s the best. I’ve driven a number of other Vignale-badged Ford models for review but this is the first time I’ve driven one that’s genuinely as good, if not better than similarly specified offerings from the premium German car makers.
Whether the market is ready to pay premium German car money for a C-segment family hatch with a blue oval on the front is another matter.