Steering Column


The next generation Ford Focus has just had the covers whipped off it at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

You won’t be able to buy it in Europe and America till the end of the year, and you won’t be able to buy it in the UK till the start of next year, but soon after that you’ll be seeing it everywhere.

Built in America, Germany and China, they will all be virtually identical across the world. Eighty per cent of their parts will be shared. And while we’re talking about sharing, the platform the car is built on will be shared with nine other Ford cars in the future in an effort to cut costs.

The first pictures suggest the new Focus will be a stunningly good-looking car in either hatchback or saloon versions. Sleek lights, subtle muscular bulges in the flanks, triangular air intakes at the front, strong and flowing lines everywhere make it a car you should be able to be proud of.

Engines, we’re told, will give “spirited performance” along with “outstanding levels of fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions”.

Details will emerge in time but we’re also told the cars will be strong and rigid, have easy-to-use technology and be extremely safe. They are hardly likely to say otherwise are they, but Ford has a growing reputation for cars that go well and last, so I have little reason at this stage to doubt it.

Hold the VAT

While we’re talking about Ford, you might be interested to know it’s decided to absorb the latest increase in VAT and hold its new car prices to what they were at the end of last year.

VAT went back up to 17.5 per cent from 15 per cent at the turn of the year, and while a 2.5 per cent increase may not make much difference to the price of a tin of beans, it’s a significant £500 difference on a £20,000 car.

The deal will only be held until the end of February, which coincidentally is the same time as the government’s scrappage scheme comes to a final close. Ford is hoping the combination will lead to an “extra busy winter trading”.

High on a low

Toyota says its new Yaris hatchback leads the field for power and torque combined with low emissions and a low thirst for fuel.

According to its own figures, the versions with the 1.33 petrol engine with stop and start technology are claimed to beat the competition from Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall into the ground on all three counts.

With 100bhp on tap, an average fuel consumption of 55.4mpg, annual road tax of just £35 and carbon dioxide emissions of 120g/km, it certainly does appear to lead the pack … but the motor industry promotes its goods in clever ways so expect another announcement from one of the others next week to prove its own product is better.

New-look pug

And finally, Peugeot is updating its image for the new decade. The company itself is celebrating its 200th anniversary – in 1810 the brothers Peugeot turned their dad’s cereal mill into a steel foundry and took the family into the industrial age.

Now it is revamping its rampant lion badge to look a bit sleeker and we’re promised cars that will look stronger and more extreme. The theme will be along the lines of the look of a concept sports car known as the SR1 which will be revealed in the cold, hard metal at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

We can only hope that turns out to be the case in real life. The first pictures look fabulous. If so we can look forward to narrow, streamlined lights, elegantly sculpted panel work and a purposeful stance on the road.

Mike Grundon


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