Driving 100 laps of the M25 in the 1999 COTY-winning Ford Focus

But he then discovered a fresh and unexpected challenge: “The major problem is resisting driving too quickly.” Thanks to the car’s tall gearing equating to just 3750rpm at 85mph in fifth, plus its 1.6-litre Zetec engine’s supreme refinement, particular care was needed to avoid setting off the speed cameras that even then were part of M25 life.

Goodwin’s drive was also accompanied by a hint of frustration: “I’m driving a car with one of the smoothest gear changes in the business and I hardly need to touch it.”

But we had already dealt with the more dynamic properties of the Focus at that point. In fact, it had become one of only two cars in 1998 that had achieved a five-star road test rating, with its trick multi-link suspension, excellent packaging and Ford’s ‘New Edge’ design all conspiring to put it front and centre in what was then the UK’s biggest-selling car class.

driving ford focus

Still more plaudits came in as the hours and miles rolled by, with then special correspondent Andrew Frankel admiring the test car’s ergonomics: “Focus controls allow me to get my position absolutely spot on… Even the mirror adjustment knob on the A-pillar is mounted just high enough that you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to know where it is.”

The Focus was flawed at times during this mighty schlep, though, as editor-in-chief Steve Cropley noted in his second drive of the car: “The ride seems a little bony on the M25’s concrete sections… [and] the engine is more audible above 5000rpm than I remember.”

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