Volkswagen has BlueMotion, Skoda has Greenline and BMW has EfficientDynamics. These days most of the big manufacturers are promoting an eco sub-brand that they apply either to specific economy-oriented versions of their cars or a programme of fuel-saving tweaks which they apply more generally across their model ranges.
With its ECOnetic-badged versions of its mainstream models, Ford was one of the first into the game, so it's not surprising that it is now also among the first manufacturers to introduce a second round of eco modifications designed to secure a further edge over its competitors. Ford's first ECOnetic cars achieved significant CO2 and fuel saving with some effective but fairly low-tech modifications- for example, slightly lowered suspension, special Michelin tyres offering lowered rolling resistance and low viscosity transmission oil. Equipment levels tended towards the basic - for example, the first-generation Focus ECOnetic had steel wheels with plastic trims, rather than alloy wheels.
Now Ford is changing its ECOnetic recipe slightly in the light of experience. The first thing it did was to see that motorists who wanted to save fuel and reduce their CO2 emissions didn't necessarily want their cars to provide hair-shirt equipment levels. A month or two back Ford made the Mondeo ECOnetic available with its luxurious Titanium trim and now the trend continues with this latest, second generation version of the Focus ECOnetic, which has equipment levels that are now broadly aligned with those of the popular and generously-specified mid-range ZETEC variant.
But the big changes take place under the skin, where Ford has now introduced some much more sophisticated fuel-saving and emission-reduction measures. One feature doesn't directly reduce fuel consumption itself – rather it is designed to help drivers modify their behaviour in order to drive more economically. "Ford Eco Mode" is an information system that provides advice and encouragement via a display in the central instrument cluster; it concentrates on assessing how often the driver has engaged the correct gear, his or her skills of anticipation (avoiding avoidable slowing down and speeding up) and the choice of the correct speed when cruising.
Under-the-bonnet features include Smart Regenerative Charging – that charges the car's battery under braking or deceleration, providing "free" electric current - and a low-tension FEAD (Front End Accessory Drive); lower tension in the accessory drive belt involves less friction and reduces fuel consumption. These changes allow the revised Focus ECOnetic to boost its fuel consumption according to the official combined cycle test to 70.6mpg and lower its CO2 emissions to 104g/km.
The biggest change, though, is the availability of a stop-start mechanism that automatically switches the engine off as the car is put into neutral when it comes to a rest, and automatically restarts it when first gear is engaged. This feature improves fuel consumption on the official combined cycle test to 74.2mpg, and CO2 emissions to 99g/km – making this version of the Focus one of the few cars on the market to crack the 100g/km barrier; an achievement that is all the more impressive given that it is a full five-seater, rather than a small runabout.
Apart from the additional fuel-saving measures, the revised ECOnetic is a completely known quantity that shares all the strengths and weaknesses of the standard Focus range. Although the current model is well into the second half of its current product cycle, it remains a strong product that still matches or beats most competitors in the Golf bracket, especially as a driving machine.
But that all comes at a price; at almost £20,000, the five-door Focus fitted with the full ECOnetic package, including stop-start, is far more expensive than just about any remotely comparable car, at least in terms of list prices, although it's worth remembering that as a fleet favourite, the Focus is often sold at a heavy discount. Perhaps the greatest contrast is with the recently revamped Hyundai i30; that's available with a 1.6 litre diesel engine from just £12,950, with stop-start being available for just an extra £200. That only gets the i30's CO2 emissions down to 110g/km compared with 99g/km for the Ford – so the Focus is your best choice if you want to save the planet but not if you want to spare your wallet.
Ford Focus ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi with Auto-Stop-Start
Engine: 1.6 litre turbodiesel with five-speed manual transmission and automatic stop-start system
Top speed: 119 mph
Fuel consumption: 74.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Rivals: Hyundai i30 with ISG, Skoda Octavia Greenline Volkswagen Golf BlueMotionReuse content