The Ford Focus has always been known as a rewarding drivers car, and this is something the engineering team behind the latest one has been determined to maintain. Thatâ€™s why it has two different suspension types, several different setups and even the option of adaptive dampers.
It also now offers more variation; alongside the normal five-door hatchback is an estate, a posh version called Vignale, and an SUV-styled one called Active. The ST-Line is a sporty one and, later a new ST version will be even sportier.
Weâ€™re starting here with the base car though, priced from Â£17,930. You can get it with fuel-saving 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engines, a more powerful 1.5-litre turbo, and there are some new 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre diesels too. We focused on the petrols.
First impressions are of a much larger car inside. Itâ€™s more practical, with a larger boot, and the dashboard is both easier to use and better quality. The button-overload of the old car is no more.
How it drives is our focus though â€“ because, well, itâ€™s a Focus. The more powerful 179bhp 1.5-litre petrol has, like all previous models, a type of independent rear suspension, which helps it feel very much like a Focus. Thatâ€™s a good thing; the steering is precise, itâ€™s controlled in corners and, notably, the ride has improved a lot.
Engine: 3 cyls, 1497cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 179bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 177lb ft at 1600rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1369kg
Top speed: 138mph
Fuel economy: 51.4mpg
The 1.5-litre engine is smooth and quiet, and although it has fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, youâ€™ll never notice it. More good news is how Fordâ€™s retailed the slick-shifting gearbox.
What about the cheaper 124bhp 1.0-litre petrol? That has a more basic torsion beam rear suspension â€“ and this is a less well-rounded proposition. Itâ€™s still comfortable, but it bounces round a bit more and it doesnâ€™t have the precise control of the more expensive car. Ford says thatâ€™s partly down to the raised, comfort-oriented suspension height, but it still feels like a poor relation.
But the improvements elsewhere mean the Focus is still pretty compelling, with big steps on for active safety tech and overall usability. Lots of people, it adds, donâ€™t worry too much about on-the-limit handling, so long as itâ€™s competent and capable, which the new car is. Those who do want that added edge can pay extra to get the higher-end car.
Rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and the impressive new Kia Ceed are able rivals, but the latest Focus has upped its game to compete. This is still the best car in its class to drive, and benefits from much-needed improvement in other ways to secure a front-running spot in its class. The new Focus is a good car. The new Focus in high-end spec is an even better one.