The Ford Focus has evolved, this MK4 version offering slicker looks, higher interior quality and extra technology. There's also greater efficiency beneath the bonnet thanks to the addition of a hi-tech range of petrol and diesel engines. The best part though, is that this car should still remain as rewarding to drive as it's always been. The Focus might have grown up but it certainly hasn't lost its spark.
Our test of this fourth generation Focus confirmed that the sharp driving dynamics that marked out previous models have been retained. That's aided by the standard inclusion of a driving modes system this time round with settings that can alter steering feel, throttle response and, if you've an auto variant, transmission response times. Talking of autos, there's a new 8-speed self-shifter on offer. Otherwise, you'll be swapping cogs with a 6-speed manual.
The engine range initially looks familiar, but closer inspection reveals that it's been heavily revised. As before, the range primarily hinges around Ford's familiar three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, which gets a new turbocharger and cylinder head and is available in 85, 100 and 125PS guises. There's also a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 150 or 182PS. Plus a fresh 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with 95 and 120PS. And a 2.0-litre EcoBlue unit with 150PS. As for the suspension, well a little disappointingly, Ford has followed Volkswagen's lead in equipping lower-powered 1.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel variants with a cruder twist-beam set-up. If you want the more sophisticated independent rear double wishbone suspension system that's supposed to improve ride comfort, you'll need an estate, the 'Active' crossover version, top-spec 'Vignale' trim or a hatch with 1.5-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel power. The 'ST-Line' version gets stiffer, lowered suspension.
There's nothing particularly striking about the way this fourth generation Focus looks but the lines are crisp and pleasing, whether you opt for the five-door hatch body style or the alternative small estate. The overall length is 18mm longer than before and the car rides 15mm lower. Or at least it does in standard guise. The SUV-style 'Active' variant has a slightly higher ride height; the sporty 'ST-Line' model rides slightly lower than normal versions. As ever though, what's more important is the stuff you can't see: this Focus rides on the brand's latest 'C2' platform, which enables the wheelbase to be 53mm longer, freeing up extra cabin space.
You should certainly feel that inside. Rear knee room has increased by 56mm and, thanks to a re-profiling of the rear doors, the rear passengers' heads are now adjacent to glass rather than metal, so they'll be able to see out more easily. Up-front, as you'd expect, it all feels of much higher quality - the fascia now has half the number of buttons that were there before. And shoulder room is class-leading. The extra body length has freed up more boot space too. In the estate version, there's now a class-leading 1.14m of width between the wheel arches and overall load length with the rear seats folded (1,700mm) is up by 134mm. That means 1,650-litres of carriage capacity.
Has any car had more of an impact on modern era motoring than the Ford Focus? With over 16 million global sales on the board, it's hard to argue the point. Other manufacturers can better this car in some regards, but they still can't make their family hatchback contenders drive like a Focus.
True, this car is still far from perfect. There are cheaper rivals - and there are certainly more spacious ones. As an overall package though, it remains hard to beat. This car no longer depends solely on handling supremacy to justify its position at the top of the sales charts. Smarter and more sensible, it is, more than ever, number one for a reason.Click here to find out more about our Ford Focus range