Double Take

Mondeo in Focus. 

Separated by a decade, this pair of blue oval offerings made for an interesting contrast as I walked past on my way into town the other day. Neither the second generation Mondeo nor the saloon version of the third generation Focus[1] are uncommon sights in this part of our moist and verdant isle, but seeing them together, parked tail to tail in this manner lent an element of fascination which might otherwise have eluded them.

The Mondeo, a tidy-looking pre-facelift car is a local fixture, clearly well looked after and is a saloon; a bodystyle which this writer would unscientifically suggest proved more popular than the five-door hatch, which was favoured on the other side of the Irish Sea. I would also posit the view that the three volume Mondeo of this ilk was a very nicely resolved design, and a measure more pleasing to that of the (still handsome) hatch.

The Focus may also be a local for I know; these cars simply do not elicit much attention or regard from me. What can be said in its favour is that in saloon form, it presents a less ill-resolved face (well, tail actually) to the world, although rear treatment apart, it suffers alongside its siblings with all of the manifold stylistic and design failings that characterised Focus Mark 3 (or 4 if you wish to be a pedant).

Appearances can be deceptive. To the casual glance and indeed from the vantage point where this image was quickly taken, the striking impression is how similar the two cars appear in overall size. Obviously, with a generation between them, one would expect the Focus to have grown, but the eye, just like the camera lens can deceive. Some dimensions to clarify:

Focus Saloon.

Length: 4,534 mm (178.5 in)
Wheelbase: 2,648 mm (104.3 in)
Height: 1,484 mm (58.4 in)

Mondeo Saloon.

Length: 4,731 mm (186.3 in)
Wheelbase: 2,754 mm (108.4 in)
Height: 1,429 mm (56.3 in)

A striking point of difference however lies in the relative shape of the canopies; that of the Mondeo being more upright with a larger, deeper glass area. The Focus lacks the larger car’s broader C-pillar, yet thanks to its rising beltline and more raked screens, outward vision is probably inferior.

Another notable divergence lies in the angle of the A-pillar in relation to the front axle line. On the Mondeo, this axis runs directly through the wheel centre, whereas that of the Focus lies ahead of the front wheel. This faster roofline probably looked good on the initial sketches, and might perhaps (standing on one leg on a Tuesday) aid aerodynamics, but better? Not to these eyes.

The decade that began in 2010; the year this generation of Focus made its debut, probably marked the point where the saloon finally lost its relevance. Attempting to lend that most traditional of silhouettes a more rakish, more dynamic mien was an attempt to stave off the inevitable, but some things are simply irreversible. There are no more Focus saloons.

The one pictured here is probably a perfectly decent car; they were I’m reliably informed, quite pleasant to drive, with finely judged control weightings and a well honed chassis. However, there is little doubt in my mind which of these two would be the more satisfying car to own and operate.

Progress does not always take place in a linear fashion. Sometimes there isn’t any.

[1] Depending upon one’s viewpoint, the 2000 Mondeo was either the second or third iteration. Similarly, the 2010 Focus was viewed by some as the third generation, but by others as the fourth. Argue amongst yourselves.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

18 thoughts on “Double Take”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Well spotted on that pairing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Focus Mk3 saloon in the metal and suspect they were never sold in the UK.

    The current Mk4 Focus does exist in saloon form, but European sales are, according to Wikipedia, limited to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Turkey and Cyprus. I thought Ireland had been excluded because it is the only RHD market, but Cyprus is also RHD. Has the Irish love for small saloons faded and can it really be worth producing a RHD saloon version just for Cyprus? In any event, here it is:

    The (officially) third generation Mondeo looked better in saloon form because the C-pillar was a bit narrower than that on the hatchback. Here are comparative photos of the saloon and hatch in rather nice ST220 guise:

    1. Busy-ness aside – sign of the times and all that – that Focus looks pretty decent. Those creases probably hide the less than perfect proportions, though (it looks a little too tall, just like its predecessor). Smaller saloons have been dying for some time now, only the premium bunch (and stubborn Mazda – ah… the 3 saloon…) get away with it. Merc even builds two A class saloons. It even seems that regular C-segment cars are falling victim to the same trends as D-segment cars before them: only “premium” is good enough.

      The Mondeo is a handsome beast, if a little austere for my tastes, like many of its contemporaries. For my money it has a little less flair than the B5 Passat which – as you mentioned in your article about this Mondeo – was its inspiration. That Focus isn’t particularly pretty, although I can stomach the hatch and station wagon.

  2. The five door version of that Mondeo (I’m going to sidestep the whole mark number thing!) definitely didn’t sell as well as the four door in Ireland. I went looking for a five year old one in 2006 and found a suitable one quite hard to find: eventually a dealer explained to me that fewer five doors were finding buyers, and most of those were companies in any case. So the second hand pool mostly contained high mileage cars that had been worked hard. I said thank you, and bought a four door…
    Daniel, that Focus actually looks pretty good in profile. It’s still a bit busy, but I think it’s better balanced than the five door. Reminds me a little of the Mazda 6. I think you’re right in saying that Ireland’s preference for four doors has faded, but I suspect the real issue is that Ford Ireland was taken over by Ford UK, who has little interest in accommodating the Irish Market…

  3. I love that Focus Mk4 photo – such a pity there aren’t any around. The Mk3 saloon was such an ugly beast!

  4. That article is well-titled; I had to go back and start reading it again when I realised that it wasn’t two generations of Mondeo that were being compared. I much prefer the Mondeo for its lighter form, although I think that the colour of the car pictured is particularly attractive, too. I would have sworn that the Focus was the bigger car, and just look at the length of its windscreen.

    I’m ashamed to say that I can’t recall when we stopped having Focus saloons in the UK.

    Michael, re your point about Ford Ireland, I found this article from The Irish Times interesting. It states that the company was slow to capitalise on changes in the market.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/motors/taking-ford-ireland-out-of-the-pitlane-1.4184378

    1. Thanks, Charles, I had missed that piece. It’s certainly the case that Ford were badly damaged by failing to move with the market towards SUVs. I suspect a lot of their customers (even the Gardaí!) in Ireland migrated straight to Hyundai, whose rise here has paralleled Ford’s decline. That said, the Puma seems to be going well in the year since that interview: I’m beginning to see them around.
      It’s probably true too that Ford Ireland might have been a bit larger than it needed to be: a legacy of the factory in Cork. It might have expressed a bit more tactfully, though! All things considered, it’s a bit of a pity we’re left stuck driving on the same side of the road as the UK now, given that regulatory requirements may deviate further in the future.
      On a totally separate note, some time ago you pointed me towards a couple of places I might get a Fiat Palio die-cast. I’ve now managed to buy one, in a fetching gold orange, so thank you very much!

    2. Hello Michael, yes – both the Puma and Kuga seem to be doing pretty well, along with the Focus, so that should help Ford. I don’t know what they have planned for the future, beyond the Mach-E, though, which strikes me as a bit odd.

      Given Ireland’s population of around 5m people and 2m cars, it would be relatively easy to switch driving on the right, as Sweden did in the ‘60s. That said, and without going near the Brexit issue, I doubt much regulatory divergence from the EU by the UK will be possible, at least in terms of products.

      On a less controversial note, I’m pleased you got the model.

    3. Hi Charles. The very large elephant in the room regarding any move to harmonise the Republic of Ireland with the rest of the EU (excluding Cyprus) as regards driving on the right is, of course, Northern Ireland. It would be practically impossible, given the hundreds of minor roads crossing the border, unless Northern Ireland also made the switch simultaneously, a highly unlikely scenario.

      Ignoring that issue for a moment, I wonder if there was an increase in the number of road accidents in Sweden after the switch, caused by the vast majority of vehicles on the road having the driver on the ‘wrong’ side? It must have taken quite a number of years for older RHD vehicles to be replaced by LHD examples.

    4. I just took a look online and, apparently, 90% of private vehicles on the road in Sweden were already LHD, so the switch was done to improve road safety.

      Every day’s a school day!

      The Irish situation is further complicated by the fact that the Republic of Ireland’s speed limits are in km/h and the primary markings on analogue speedometers have to reflect this, meaning that RHD vehicles sold in Ireland aren’t identical to those sold in the UK. (I appreciate that digital instrumentation is eliminating this issue.)

    5. It should be remembered that mainland Europe drives on the wrong side for no other reason than that Bonaparte wanted change for the sake of change.

    6. Thanks, Daniel – I had assumed that the switch would include Northern Ireland; before I posted I was trying to work out how many vehicles from the Republic and the Province travel to the UK and vice versa to gauge how feasible it would be to make the change, but I couldn’t find the figures easily.

      Re the Swedish case, road accidents fell immediately after the change, as people were more careful; they reverted to normal levels after a couple of months. I would guess it would have taken 10 years or so for older models to leave the roads – I wonder if the switch hastened their demise.

    7. Edit – no, it wouldn’t hasten their demise – the majority of cars were already left-hand drive, as you said, Daniel. This topic’s making my brain cell hurt.

    8. Pre-war, when you bought a Tatra , you could choose which side you wanted the steering wheel. Many drivers liked to get out on the pavement side. High-end European sports cars were also RHD usually.

    9. Lancia made RHD cars for the European market with only the option of LHD from 1954 on. The full changeover to European normality didn’t happen till ’57/58. Now that was an unusual approach to marketing and dominant market share.

      Of course, as old photos show, most cars in North America were RHD at the beginning and up to WW1. Then they came to their senses for the most part!

  5. That Focus just looks loads bulkier than the Mondeo, doesn’t it? And yet, less substantial too. I had not seen the Mk3 or Mk4 Focus saloons before – the later car is a nicer looking alternative to the hatch and actually reminds me quite a bit of my old Mazda 3 Fastback.

  6. Has the Dacia Logan saloon never been offered in Ireland? Opel has joined Ford and no longer sells an Astra saloon.

    The Mazda 3 is not alone in the only non-premium saloon market: Honda offers the Civic (Ireland only: it was available in the UK for about 18months!) and Toyota will sell you a 4-door Corolla on both sides of the Irish sea. Perhaps the outsider is Fiat, who present their Aegea saloon, albeit renamed Tipo to match the hatchback and estate versions.
    https://www.fiat.ie/tipo/tipo-sedan

    The Tipo is an uncommon car anyway in the UK, how does it sell in Ireland?A neighbour has a Tipo estate and has never encountered issues with it, as with his previous 500s, Puntos and Marea Weekend, as far as I know.

    1. The Tipo is a rare beast in Ireland – I think the rental companies bought a few, but then covid came along and car-rental went into hibernation.
      The 4-door Corolla is lovely, and sells well. Civics not so much, but saloons are reasonably common.
      Opel sell Insignias to company fleets and crossovers to private buyers. Renault shift a few Megane saloons, but I don’t think they actually call it a saloon…

  7. The Focus sedan was/is a common sight in America, they were the norm in the class and for the Focus was the cheapskate model, the base LX trim was available only on it and you had to go up to an SE to get a hatch (which cost extra on top of that). Conversely the ST and RS were hatchback only.

    Both body styles sold quite well to rave press reviews, but Ford managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by putting dry-plate clutches in the PowerShift DCT which proved to be a disastrously bad setup in a market that’s bought automatics by default for decades and is accustomed to creeping in traffic. The warranty costs wiped out any profit they may have made on it and the Fiesta, and had a hand in Ford going to an all-truck and crossover line apart from the Mustang. Ironically, the previous twice-warmed-over-MkI American Focus developed a “Good Used Car” reputation as this was happening.

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