Just returned from the first drive of the Focus TDCi with Powershift twin-clutch transmission.
Set off from Ford in Campbellfield, quick run through Little River to the Ford Proving Grounds, and back. Not a long run, but enough to come away more than a little sure that Ford has found a near perfect marriage in cobbling the 2.0 litre Duratorq TDCi Focus engine to its new Powershift six-speed twin clutch transmission.
Sure, a longer test will tell the story, but the 100kW donk is a well-known commodity. It offers a hat-full of torque (320Nm), will happily spin its head off, and, at the wheel, hides all of its oil-burning characteristics except that important one at the pump.
But the box, that?s new. And it?s as sweet as your Mum.
Developed under a 50:50 joint venture with Getrag, it feels just right, gets those 320 Newton-metres to ground as efficiently as a manual, changes in the blink of an eye, and, for drivers who don?t much like swapping the cogs (and there are lots who don?t), offers the convenience of an automatic.
So it?s a box for all seasons.
With the diesel, for performance driving, it?s best left in auto mode getting away from the line and then taking things in hand from third through to sixth (you too quickly run out of revs using first and second gears manually).
With lightning shifts and nicely spaced ratios, you can readily exploit the performance of the willing diesel under the bonnet when overtaking or cornering.
Another thing that appeals is that the shift-paddle works the ?right? way: tag it back to change up, tap forward to change down. (Why can?t manufacturers agree on a convention here?)
There is another nifty feature we didn?t get to trial. In urban driving conditions the Powershift allows slow speed 'creep' ? presumably to help you avoid bolting up the clacker of the car in front in stop-start crawling.
Fuel consumption for the TDCi turbodiesel with PowerShift is, as you might expect, among the leaders of the pack, using just 5.9 l/100km over the combined urban and highway average.
But the real revelation is in the pricing. The Powershift twin-clutch adds just $2000 to the $28,290rrp of the TDCi Focus. That?s packing a lot of technology into not-a-lot of dollars (is it the cheapest twin-clutch around?).
The rest of the package is typical Focus. Nicely laid-out interior, a robust vault-like feel at the wheel, comfortable-enough seats but not class-leading, and more charcoal-grey surfaces than the inside walls of a coke furnace. Yep, too black to these eyes, but I?m obviously in a minority here.
On the road, it?s smooth and comfortable and nicely connected to the road, sensible damping (not too hard, not too soft) and superior chassis balance. (After all, it?s a Focus; each model in the range will appeal to keen drivers.)
It?s quiet enough too, with very little wind noise at speed and the workings of the diesel just a distant hum.
There?s some tyre roar over coarse surfaces, but not so much as to intrude or nag uncomfortably. (A tyre change to some Aussie Bridgestones will do the trick here according to my learned colleague, Joe Kenwright.)
With USB/iPod connectivity standard on all Focus models, and nanny stuff like dynamic stability control (DSC) and traction control (to stop you inadvertently taking an excursion among the Friesians and Santa Gertrudis one assumes), the Focus TDCi is a versatile and very appealing contender.
And, at the price, is looking like a winner.
As Ford Australia boss Marin Burela said, ?All we have to do is get Australian customers to realise we?ve got the full suite of world class products.?
He?s right of course ? from the class-leading Fiesta to the G6E Turbo, there?s not a dud in the Ford Australia line-up. The new Focus TDCi with Powershift adds another compelling facet to the argument.
We?ll run a full road test and review soon after it goes on sale (expected later this month).