Fifty years ago you could have bought a Mk1 Escort, just like this:

It came with a four speed manual gearbox, but if you were disabled or posh you could have got a BW 35 automatic, just like this:

Power went in on the left, never to be seen again. Consequently your automatic Escort, just like any other automatic back then, drank fuel at a rate that was 10 or 15% greater than that of a manual one and went in a manner akin to that of an arthritic snail.

Fast forward fifty years. We’ve gone through several Escorts and have moved on to the Focus. The Mk4 has just arrived, although most of you won’t be getting it.

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The six speed DCT of the outgoing model, a thing of much wailing and gnashing of teeth in North America but not so much elsewhere because there are two different units and most Focuseses elsewhere are manual, has been replaced by a fancy new Aisin eight speed torque converter unit just like the one that was in the Mini before it began to transition to a DCT. It’s controlled by one of those fancy rotary knobs because of the need to fix what didn’t seem to be broken.

You can have this as quite an expensive extra only on the more powerful engines and with the more upmarket trim levels so you’d need to really want it.

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So, it should do much better than the old BW 35 shouldn’t it? Eight gears, lock up torque converter, reduced friction and so on. Let’s take a look at the brochure.

To start, the 125 bhp 1.0. As per the official “combined” cycle which is a blend of urban and non-urban figures the six speed manual will do between 56.5 and 58.9 imperial mpg. Sounds good. The fancy new automatic will do 48.7 to 50.4. Oh dear. It’s much worse. The 0 to 60 time goes from 10 to 11 sec. Oh dear again.

Let’s carry on to the 150 bhp 1.5. Manual does 53.3 mpg combined, the automatic 46.3 to 47.9. Oh dear.

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So we keep going to the 120 bhp 1.5 diesel. Manual does 76.3 to 80.7 (they claim!), the automatic 64.2 to 67.3. Oh dear, oh dear.

Finally, the 2.0 diesel. Manual is 62.8 to 64.2, automatic is a surprising 61.4 to 64.2. The 0 to 60 time goes from 8.5 sec to 9.3 sec though.

So, there we have it. In most cases if you buy your shiny new Focus without the third pedal you’ll be paying quite dearly at the pumps. Who’d have thought that fifty years brought no progress?