Family Size Ford with Focus on Value

Time was when enthusiastic drivers shunned cars with automatic gearboxes - such cars were too uninteresting to have real appeal, they said.

Now Ford can prove how mistaken this approach is by inviting anyone sceptical about cars with self-shifting gearboxes to take a look at any car fitted with its Powershift transmission.

This double clutch automated manual gearbox can be driven in fully automatic mode or by using manual gear changes thanks to the special Powershift controls on the centre console.

It could hardly be better suited to today's traffic conditions, when slow moving snakes of cars and trucks on main roads or motorways, or constant stop start queues in town, would mean frequent dipping of the clutch and switching between the lower gears.

Those are the traffic scenarios where even the most enthusiastic driver longs for the convenience of an automatic gearbox, and it's here that Powershift delivers real convenience.

But hit the open road and the lever can be nudged forward and backward to give instant ratio swaps under the constant control of drivers who prefer to select the gear they are in.

It seems like the best of both worlds, and it is. Even better, though, is that this modern take on the manual gearbox delivers better fuel consumption and performance than a conventional automatic because there is no torque converter to soak up vital power.

Unlike many auto boxes, it also works well on smaller cars, as the Focus Powershift clearly demonstrates. The gear changes are seamless despite not having a heavy car to help suppress any jerk as the gearbox works. The fact is that there is no jerk to suppress.

When coupled with the 2.0 litre TDCi engine in the Focus, Powershift creates the perfect combination for a family car. There's easy driving characteristics allied to good fuel economy - the combined cycle figure of 48.6 mpg will be an easily achieved target for most drivers.

However, there's also the temptation to resist of enjoying the performance the engine delivers - a 9.6 second 0-62 mph time and top speed of 124 mph (only for use on the right Continental roads, of course).

Naturally, in the top flight Titanium trim we tried, this Focus has all you could want in the way of features and luxuries and there's little anyone could genuinely think they would want to add to it.

The current Focus is also a well-proportioned car with space for a family of five, including a boot that's large enough to swallow all that most people would want to put in it. If you need more, the Focus estate delivers up to 1,525 litres of load capacity within a very practical, yet stylish, body.