Road Trippin’: Cavan in a weekend with the Ford Focus

The Car: Ford Focus 5 door hatch Titanium, 1.0L EcoBoost (125PS)

The Trip: Bunclody, Co. Wexford to Mountnugent, Co. Cavan

The Reason: Friend’s wedding

Distance: 216km

Journey Time: 3 hours including 15 minute break time

While I am still very much enamoured by my 14 year old Volkswagen Golf, I was very happy to have a press car to travel to Cavan at the weekend for a wedding. Mainly because my car does not have cruise control and thank goodness the Focus does.

Cruise control is a fabulous invention, the perfect tool for easy road trips. Once you get on the motorway you just flick it on to say 100km/h or 120km/h and the car does the rest. Ok, so you have to steer, watch out for what’s going on, overtake and take control sometimes, but largely your right foot gets a break, it saves fuel, you maintain a steady speed and you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed.

I was lucky to have the Focus last week for wedding duty. A city car would not have been so great for the motorway. The Ford Focus is a more modern version of my five door hatch so I’m quite comfortable driving it. It’s also a petrol like my Golf so I adapt very quickly to the character of the engine.

The sheer bulk of the Focus does remind me of how cars have grown in size in a relatively short space of time. My Volkswagen looks tiny beside the Focus though fourteen years ago this was what a family hatchback looked like. Now it looks like more of a rival for a Fiesta.

I give the car a quick wash in preparation for my road trip because I want it to look its best.  I wonder briefly about the futility of washing the car as from previous experience, after a few kilometres driving in rural Cavan, the car will be filthy. Yet I prevail hoping that this time things will be different.

I pack up the car on Friday afternoon with all my gear: a small suitcase, a few other bags containing the present and spare shoes, my laptop, my tripod and filming equipment (because you never know when the opportunity will arise to take some shots of the car).

The Focus has a smaller boot than rivals at 316 litres but it easily accommodates all my gear with room to spare. I lay my dress out on the back seat because I find hanging it from the hook above the rear passenger window obscures my vision when I’m changing lanes on the motorway.

There is ample room in the cabin to put a bottle of water, a few CDs (I’m old fashioned like that) and a handy shelf for my phone below the centre console . It’s a warm afternoon so I put the air con on.

I stop in Camolin to top the Focus up with some fuel. Ford quotes an official economy of 60mpg for this engine but I have been getting about 46mpg this week. A bit off the mark but still not bad for a petrol-powered Focus. This is a big car.

I get on the M11 just after Camolin and pop the cruise control on. I set it to 100km/h though the speed limit is 120km/h because I really don’t feel like belting it along today and I have lots of time.

It’s time to take in the ambience of the Focus. I am really impressed with the improvements Ford has made to the cabin. It feels positively premium from behind the wheel. The seats are comfy and the driving position is just excellent, as it was in the previous car. Things like that really matter.

I stop for a break about an hour into the drive. I scout out a parking spot in a less busy area of the service station. I’m careful about where I park my car and the same goes for press cars. I hate the idea of bringing back the car with dings and scrapes from clumsy folk in car parks.

Walking back to the car, it’s a chance to admire the Focus from afar. It’s one very handsome car. In Titanium trim and in metallic “Magnetic” paint it looks rather flash. This one has the chrome belt line finisher, 17” alloys, chrome grille and rear privacy glass. And of course the Aston Martin lookalike grille is standard.

The sun is starting to break through the clouds now as I get closer to Dublin. It’s M50 time. It’s busy here now as it’s around 3 o’clock on a Friday evening.

You really need your wits about you driving on this road. I knock off the cruise control as it’s too busy to get a clean sweep at the tarmac. I can feel my senses heighten as I dodge the middle lane hoggers, looking from the rear view mirror, to the right wing mirror, then indicate, move out, rear view mirror glance, look in left wing mirror, indicate, brief look over the shoulder, move into left lane…and relax, breathe.

Finally, I reach the exit for the M3 and soon there is empty tarmac in front so I pop on the cruise control again. I’m being overtaken rapidly now but I’m in no hurry as I cruise along at a steady 100km/h. It’s not often I drive in this part of the country so I look at all the signs for the exits off the motorway: Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Navan, Kells. There are lots of brown “places of interest” signs too: Trim Castle, Brú na Bóinne, Boyne Drive and…Tayto Park. I admire how flat the landscape is.

The journey is only punctuated by a few brief slowdowns for the tolls on the M3. It crosses my mind how these people have to pay for using this road but I can travel on the M11 as much as I want without having to pay for a toll.

Then the motorway ends in a series of roundabouts. Google Maps is guiding me through Oldcastle, Co. Meath, to get to my destination near Mountnugent in Cavan.

The road is a bit narrower now and there are long bends and tight turns. Great! A chance to check out the much lauded handling prowess of the Focus.

It’s not a myth. The Focus feels so elastic going around a bend and it grips the road so squarely. The best thing is all this feel is being transferred to the steering wheel.

I drive through Oldcastle and turn towards Mountnugent. The road gets narrower again and there are parts where there is only room for one car to pass. I wonder to myself if I should have listened to Google Maps. I slow down and drive cautiously until the road finally opens up again as I drive into Mountnugent. Up to this point I have put my trust in Google but now I know where I am. I recognise the village as my friend drove me through here on a visit a few years ago.

The hotel is a few miles away on the shore of Lough Sheelin so I scoot along the road, my inner GPS guiding me now. I turn into the entrance for the hotel, do a few laps of the car park to find the best possible parking space for the Focus, before settling on a space in a quiet corner. It’s a gorgeous evening, the sky is blue and the water of the lake is glistening. Life is good!

Read part 2 of my road trip for more on the Ford Focus.

Caroline Kidd