Comparisons always tend to be unfair. Unless it's a Big Test, a car deserves to be reviewed on its own merit, to stand on its own four wheels and be judged accordingly. If this were the case, it's easy to give a thumbs-up to the Ford Focus Ghia sedan.
The Euro styling has always been good, although we and most everyone else still prefer the hatchback version. It's certainly a contrast to the Japanese designs that dominate this segment. It arrives with the confidence of a mini-executive sedan. The interior is a bit too cozy for my six-foot-tall frame. But it's not necessarily a negative in this case. The snug interior envelops you, allowing controls to be within easy reach and letting you feel a lot more connected to the car.
We were pleasantly surprised at how well-spec'd the Ghia is. First off, there is an auxiliary jack for iPods and MP3 players, which always earns high points in Top Gear reviews. The air-conditioner is dual-zone and there are rear vents, something even the new Mazda6 doesn't have. The side mirrors are power-folding, the leather seats are supportive, and all the windows are one-touch up and down. They may not seem like phenomenal advances in automo-tive engineering, but these little touches create a sensation of luxury and convenience that add to the overall ownership experience. If not for the lack of cubbyholes and storage spaces inside, the interior would have been an example of how to build the ideal cockpit.
On the road, the 123hp gasoline engine has enough grunt to keep road trips entertaining as well as keep highway driving from being an anemic exercise in being overtaken. Ford is mightily proud of the Control Blade suspension designed to enhance the car's handling. After a few quick cuts in traffic situations and highway maneuvers, we're happy to report Ford succeeded. Control is definitely a check mark on the Focus Ghia's assessment form.
The Focus sedan is a solid car with above-average equipment levels and looks that can elicit an approving nod from your fellow motorists. This brings us back to the subject of comparison. During the past three months alone, two very formidable compact sedans have been launched: the Toyota Altis and the Mitsubishi Lancer, both bread-and-butter vehicles for their brands. They join the runaway bestseller, the Honda Civic, in a segment that's suddenly rife with fresh, enticing choices.
The Focus Ghia is still a great car. It has won several awards in Europe and enjoys massive success in that market. Has that success been replicated here? So far, no. In fact, even the more appealing Focus hatchback is experiencing a little market resistance. Which is probably just the sad result of the Filipino car buyer not getting the styling of hatchbacks.
With more, er, focused marketing, the Focus can still succeed. It's still different enough in style and comfort from the Japanese compacts to offer something truly different. It just needs to hurdle its underrated reputation, the same obstacle that doomed the Lynx before it.