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Article and Photography: Martin Hall

Before the advent of the car, travelling around the country was difficult, not impossible, but time consuming and dangerous. Early cart sharing schemes were a disaster whilst maps were rare and warned of mysterious beasts around every corner. Highwaymen and women lurked at the sides of the road ready to relieve you of your valuables and not all had a social conscience like that of Nottinghams Robin Hood. Times changed, travelling longer distances in a day has become commonplace as cars have improved beyond recognition from the uncomfortable and unreliable vehicles of the past.

The question then is this, as vehicles and therefore travel in general has become faster, safer and more reliable can a used 1.6 Zetec from 2004 still keep the driver’s attention?

The pretty Essex town of Chipping Ongar was where I found myself after a reasonable four and a half hours travelling. The Focus has so far taken everything in its stride and proved itself to be a comfortable mile eater. The engine is fuss free at a steady 65-70mph, which is around 3000rpm, and would appear to be happiest at this speed whilst giving a decent return on fuel. Steering input is rewarded with good levels of feedback from the front tyres and the Focus is a delight. The driver feels far more involved in the process of steering the car through the bends with the weighted steering contributing towards that feeling.

Turning right at the Four-Wantz roundabout takes you towards the top of Ongar High Street where you begin to get a real sense as to the antiquity of this special town. On the left as you arrive and hidden from the road is the site of Ongars Castle, a 12th Century motte and bailey construction occupied until the 16th century, its overgrown motte standing over 50 feet high. A sense of history pervades as you travel through the town, the imposing Grade II listed Budworth Hall passes by on your right followed by a row of ancient cottages converted many years ago into shops.

Chipping Ongar would appear to be an ideal staging post for an adventure. That was certainly the case for the famous explorer and adventurer Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873) who lived and preached in the area. The United Reformed Church should be your first stop. It has stones and plaques inside commemorating its connection to Dr Livingstone and to Jane Taylor (1793-1824) who wrote the world-famous nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. She is buried in the church with her parents.

Returning to Yorkshire I marvel at how well this used 1.6 Zetec has performed today. The interior was well-equipped back in the day and remains a pleasant place to be, the CD radio is perfectly acceptable, the temperature controls easy to use whilst the suspension is still more than up to the job of cosseting the driver from the worst that British roads can throw at it. Once the M62 appears, the Ford Focus continues to perform consistently. The confidence that the car exudes gives us a vehicle that provides good handling and fun in equal measures whilst including a practical and large boot as well as room for five adults in relative comfort.

Was it fair to expect an 85000 mile, 04, 1.6 Ford Focus Zetec to behave like a much more expensive car? Im not going to suggest that a used MK1.5 Focus is better for everyday motoring as well as longer journeys than a far newer car but there are a lot of things that this Focus still does very well.