What is it?
Ford’s first-ever all-electric, series-production car, a five-door Focus hatchback powered solely by a lithum-ion battery pack and AC electric motor. On sale now for delivery towards the end of the year, the Focus Electric seats five and is claimed to have a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 85mph, although not both at the same time.
The 23kWhr liquid–cooled battery is said to be capable of being charged in 10-11 hours from a standard 240volt/10amp UK domestic socket, while a fast charger operating at 32amp can fill-up the empty battery in ‘three to four hours’.
Priced from £33,500, which drops to £28,580 when the government’s plug-in car grant is deducted, the Focus Electric is considerably more expensive than a Renault Fluence ZE, which lists at £21,495, reduced to £17,495 by the grant and a Nissan Leaf, which starts from £16k.
Although drivers of the Renault also have to factor in the cost of leasing the battery, which can add up to £138 a month on a 15k mile/year, 12-month contract, likewise battery rental on the Nissan works out to £113 a month if you do 12k miles a year.
What is it like?
The Focus is one of our favourite hatchbacks and the Electric version packs all the dynamic appeal of the conventionally powered versions, which means beautifully weighted steering and a composed chassis with a fine balance between ride and agility.
The ride is most likely aided by the hefty kerb weight of 1700kg, 415kg more than a 2.0 TDCi, which gives the suspension springs a solid base from which to absorb bumps.
What we couldn’t evaluate was the effect on cornering power and braking stability of much of that weight being concentrated over the rear axle, where the battery pack is located. Although a drive last year suggests that the on-limit characteristics might be a little less predictable than the mainstream Focus.
Like its rivals the Focus Electric’s powerpack is smooth and refined. In fact in conventionally powered cars you’d have to pay north of £100k and step into luxury limo territory to experience cabin serenity like this.
At speed the dominant cabin noise is tyre rumble and a little wind noise from the wing mirrors, but both are limited to an unobtrusive background hum.
At some speeds there’s also a faint but pleasing whistle from the engine bay that, in quality if not volume, is akin to a Cold War jet fighter taxiing.
The powertrain also delivers a surprising turn of speed at lower speeds, broadly comparable to a 2.0-litre diesel, but it runs out of shove around 60mph and starts to feel lethargic in the high speed cruise.
The steering wheel also squirms a little on acceleration, a trait we reported on when we first tasted the Focus Electric about a year ago.
But the undeniable truth about electric cars is that their instantaneous power delivery is fun to experience, even if the limitations of the battery pack curb the opportunity to exploit it often.
The battery of course occupies a significant chunk of the luggage area, which reduces everyday carrying capacity to 237 litres, 126 litres fewer than a conventional Focus, but still a usable volume for everyday use.
Should I buy one?
Thanks to its excellent driving dynamics, the Focus Electric takes its place as the most sophisticated driver’s car in the segment.
But given the rather optimistic pricing, it would be a very, very keen driver who ignored the vastly cheaper opposition, particularly since the role of an EV is urban pottering about.
Ford isn’t too bothered about pricing, because the bulk of deliveries will be absorbed into fleet contracts where the list price is only part of the deal equation.
If you’re lucky enough to get behind the wheel of a Focus Electric as part of one of those deals, then it’s a great new electric car to be enjoyed and savoured.
Ford Focus Electric
Price £33,500; 0-62mph 11.7secs; Top speed 85mph; Kerbweight 1700kg; Motor and battery 143bhp AC motor and 23kwh lithium-ion battery pack; Power 143bhp; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox Reduction box with ratio of 10:1