What is it?
A new version of the Ford Focus that's designed to rival Volkswagen's Bluemotion offerings. The 1.6-litre Duratorq diesel engine aboard the Econetic-branded models is not a new unit, but it has now been heavily fettled by the Blue Oval’s engineers to offer the lowest emissions yet seen on the Focus.
The common-rail fuel injection, variable geometry turbocharger, cooling system and final drive ratio have all been revised with efficiency in mind. Total output is down by around 10bhp compared to other Duratorq-driven Focus models, but the 199lb ft of peak torque remains the same.
In Zetec drag - tested here – the emissions drop just below the taxable threshold and the combined tally rises to 76.4mpg. However, if you’re prepared to put up with the lowly Edge trim, Ford will fit an aerodynamic package (including an active grille shutter, underbody shielding and ultra-low rolling resistance tyres) which results in a hybrid-rivalling 88g/km and 83.1mpg.
What is it like?
A quiet, supple and practical way of sticking to the speed limit. The ultra-frugal Duratorq is much the same as we found it in previous versions of the Focus: lumpy and grouchy at start up, a bit obstinate to get going from a standstill and then rather detached in its slow-revving, long-geared set-up.
The obvious question is does it continue to offer the same congenial flexibility in diluted eco-mode? The obvious answer, broadly speaking, is yes. The Focus continues to benefit from its decent twist and the extra gear ratio denied to most of its rivals (including, specifically, the Volkswagen Golf).
As before, first and second tend to be overworked to negotiate an apparent reticence below 2500rpm, but beyond that the remaining four ratios can be juggled effectively to prevent the Focus bogging down in a manner characteristic of an overburdened engine.
Like its rivals, impulse overtaking is out. The accelerator pedal’s short, mushy travel is divided into dead slow and flat out, and there’s not a colossal difference between them. The Focus’s rangy sixth ratio is a predictable godsend on the motorway, although elsewhere, specifically in 30mph in fourth or 40mph in fifth, the Duratorq diesel engine will very gently massage your hands with untamed vibrations through the steering wheel.
The rewards though are readily apparent. Over a 50-mile test route, some of it spent ignoring that lack of refinement at 1100rpm, some of it spent on the motorway and some pushing on, the Focus returned 62.6mpg. Inevitably short of its lab results, but seriously impressive for a 1350kg hatchback going about its business in the real world.
Should I buy one?
There’s an obvious temptation to conclude that if you like your cars with a bit vim and vigour (and you probably do) then the Econetic is not for you. It’s a single-cell organism – designed and built to munch through miles in blinkered, benign fashion.
Far better to lavish your thrifty impulses on the three-pot 1.0-litre Ecoboost, an engine with more character, lower mass and cheaper running costs. But that’s just us – if it has to be a five-door diesel hatchback, then the Focus Econetic, with its familiar comfort and extended range, might just be the most agreeable way to go.
Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Econetic Zetec
Price £19,145; 0-62mph 11.8sec; Top speed 116mph; Economy 76.4mpg (combined); CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight 1350kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1560cc diesel; Power 103bhp; Torque 199lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd manual.