Saturday, 21 March 2015


The poverty pack Ambiente. Awful colour ("Midnight Sky")

Yes, I know, comparisons can be odious, but I write this for myself, gentle reader, and if you aren’t interested, it makes no difference to me.

The slightly up market Trend

I’m referring to a motoring comparison, that of the poverty pack ford Focus (rejoicing in the title of “Ambiente”), and the mid-range model, that Ford calls the “Trend”.

I have no idea where Ford derives their nomenclature. If there is a living human being responsible, I would apply for his/her job, because I reckon I could do it better.

The comparison became possible because she who must be obeyed (the fleet manager) allotted me a Focus Ambiente (the most basic version of the breed) to take West this week. I was able to drive this thing about 1000kms across three days.

It was instructive to climb behind the wheel of one version, whilst living with another (our Focus “Trend”) since last year when we bought it new.

The mechanical differences are substantial (different motor and gearing) and the trim differences significant. When we bought our Trend, cruise control, which I consider essential, wasn’t available on the Ambiente. It is now.

This was one of the main reasons for shelling out the extra. The Trend is still pretty basic with lots of hard plastic inside. In the Ambiente, it’s much the same, but lacks the silver highlights which are a feature of the Trend. Whatever……

Of greater significance are the mechanical differences. The Trend has a 2000cc motor, whereas the Ambiente gets away with 1600cc. Gearing is slightly taller in the Trend (2200rpm at 100kph as compared with 2750 in the Ambiente).

Whilst I’m not completely sure, I suspect that the Trend has a different power steering setup – electric/hydraulic as opposed to straight hydraulic in the cheaper version.

There are minor differences in the upholstery quality and the Trend has driving lights. That’s about it.

Translated to the driving experience, you’ll notice the more generous torque of the Trend, which becomes quite apparent when overtaking. On the other hand, the old-fashioned power steering setup in the Ambiente, to my way of thinking, retains more road feel. Both versions handle excellently well, something that has been a feature of small Fords for a while.

The six speed auto compensates well for the shortcomings of the smaller motor, although both versions feature lurchy transitions in the lower gears. Every now and then, the tranny dithers before selecting the appropriate gear. It’s a minor irritation.

The Ambiente seemed to exhibit slightly more road noise, although tyre fit and profile (Michelin - 205/60 R16) is identical.

In summary, it’s debatable whether the Trend is worth the extra two grand, although both versions are reliable and fun to drive. The Ambiente is slightly more economical on a long run – low sevens as compared to seven/eights.

Perhaps this is the car that Ford should have been building locally. At one point they planned to….

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...