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2011 Ford Focus Driver Assistance Pack test

We head to Scotland for an in-depth test of the Ford Focus' Driver Assistance Pack.

If you’re looking for a new family hatchback, there’s a good chance you’re considering buying a Ford Focus. With its fantastic safety record and excellent value for money, the Focus has always been the benchmark that other manufacturers aim to beat. There’s no surprise that it’s currently the best-selling car in the UK, but Ford is keen to push the class-leader even further ahead of the pack with a new hi-tech version for 2011. The Focus is packed with technology, providing owners with a range of gadgets that should keep them safe on the roads, as well as entertained and pointing in the right direction.

Back in February, we were one of the first people to drive a 2011 model on UK soil. During our brief hands-on session we tried the Active Park Assist feature, but the cars weren’t fitted with the £750 Driver Assistance Pack. However, an extended drive in Scotland this week gave us an opportunity to put the tech toys to the test. As road safety is such a burning issue, anything that can make a driver’s job easier has to be a good thing.

Traffic sign recognition

One of the first things we noticed when driving the 1.6 EcoBoost Titanium was the Traffic sign recognition. This highlights changes in road speed on the dashboard by using an in-built camera that scans the roadside in front of the car for specific symbols, displaying changes in speed limit and overtaking restrictions on the dashboard. The system was very responsive, with signs appearing the instant we passed a sign. It did sometimes confuse signs on side-roads as changes in the speed limit, but the system was otherwise extremely useful.

Traffic sign recognition

On our test route through an unfamiliar town in the heart of Scotland, we were always aware of the speed limit even when we hadn’t seen the signs themselves. In its default view, the notifications appear large on the dashboard screen, but they can be shown in the top right corner should you want to look at another part of the trip computer. In order for you to notice new signs appear, the symbols appear in colour then slowly fade to grey, so when the speed limit changes it’s immediately obvious.

Active City Stop

Possibly the stand-out safety feature of the pack is Active City Stop. Designed to prevent low-speed collisions that can occur with urban driving, the system uses the forward facing infra-red laser mounted next to the rear view mirror to scan the distance to an approaching reflective object. The brakes are pre-charged if a potential crash is detected, which will help the driver stop quickly should they react in time. If they fail to notice the hazard, the brakes will engage automatically to prevent an accident. We found it slightly unnerving keeping our foot on the accelerator when approaching a set of bollards, but the system worked well. At 10MPH, it completely stopped the car without any intervention from the driver. It isn’t fool-proof; at speeds between 10 and 20MPH, the system is unlikely to completely stop the car before a collision, but it will significantly reduce its speed. Because of the working distance of the sensor, it won’t work above 20MPH.

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