The Ford Focus versus Volkswagen Golf battle has gone down to the wire more than once since the Tow Car Awards started in 2007. In fact, these two have shared the honours in the lightest weight class with no other models getting a look-in.
As a driver’s car, the new Focus is hard to beat. The steering is smooth and accurate, the suspension keeps body movements in check, and the 2.0-litre diesel has more than enough muscle for any suitable match. The 30-60mph sprint took just 15.4 seconds, making the Focus one of the quickest cars in this class. The Ford stops well, too, needing just 10.8 metres to halt the outfit from 30mph.
Unlike many of the smaller cars on test, the handbrake held with no need to pull the handle clear of its mountings. The Focus took a fuss-free approach to steep slopes, both going forwards and in reverse.
Compared with the Golf, the ride is rather firm. The same applies with or without a caravan in tow. There isn’t quite as much passenger space as in the VW, either. These are small differences, but with two such good cars, small differences add up.
Our practicality judge was less impressed by the Focus, bemoaning the inadequate handbook and lack of a Trailer Stability Programme.