Friday, December 18, 2009

Ford Focus vs Vauxhall Astra - Revisited

Slightly over a year has passed since my previous article on this topic, so time for an update. (see HERE - and now HERE too)

Just to set the scene, I'm comparing a 5 year old Astra with a similar spec 1 year old Focus. However, I've driven both from new, so I think my thoughts are pretty relevant in a head to head contest as I'm sure the Astra hasn't changed much in the intervening period.

The Astra has now reached 92,000 miles, and the Focus is catching up, currently at 23,000 miles. In the last year neither has broken down, both have maintained their fuel consumption figures remarkably consistently, at about 53 mpg. In fact neither car has suffered any form of mechanical or electrical malfunction recently, a testament to how well they build these things these days.

I've just re-read my previous article, and to be honest, not much to say here in fact. Initial impressions turned out to be about right for the Focus. A year on, and many miles under its belt, it remains the same. The comparative lack of 'go' has not gone away as the engine loosened up, and frequently I get caught out trying to accelerate from low revs, as would be easy in the Astra, and the Focus just bogs down. However, on the other side of the coin, the engine is a lot quieter than the Astra, which seems to be getting noisier by the day, now very 'clacky'. Which is normal, says my local Vauxhall dealer. Hmmm.

Despite the sporty feel of the Focus, the ride remains harsh and noisy. It is more fun to drive on a blast down windy roads, it is not so much fun on a dull motorway slog, the quiet engine is fine, but the tyre roar is worse by far.

The Focus continues to niggle me with small things. For example, the Astra's electric windows still work for a minute or so after you've switched it off. So, if you forget to raise one of the windows, you still can. The Focus, no, you'll have to rummage for your keys and switch it back on. The Focus Radio/CD player does not pick up the time from the radio, and the clock runs slow. Every time you set the time right, the date goes wrong. It drives you nuts. The Astra does it for you. Small things I know...

So, not really a lot to choose, but on the whole we now regret choosing the Focus as a replacement for the Astra last year. We did it (well, okay, I did it... I'll take the blame) just to avoid being boring. But in fact a replacement Astra would have been better, we feel. Not that the Focus is bad, but it's disappointingly not as good as other road tests seem to imply.

The next version of the Astra is due out soon I think, and to me looks really nice. If my lucky old partner gets a chance to choose her next company car in three years time, I can quite imagine a new Astra will be returning to our driveway. Question is, in three years time, would I relinquish my Astra and buy the (by then) old Focus? I'm guessing not.

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