The Focus has been a feature on UK roads for two decades now. The original generation was launched back in 1998 as the replacement for the unloved Escort, and it set new standards in the class for ride and handling.
Broadly speaking, the subsequent versions of the car have also been benchmarks for driving dynamics, but it’s fair to say that the Mk3 Focus was feeling increasingly squeezed by everything from the Vauxhall Astra to, in particular, the VW Golf.
The Mk4 Focus has a clear goal, therefore: to be the best family hatchback to drive, while also offering cabin space and quality that at least match what you can get in a VW, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Hyundai or Kia.
To do this, the car has been developed on an all-new chassis architecture, called C2, and with a much longer wheelbase that’s designed to address one of the Mk3’s weakest areas: rear cabin space.
The Focus is offered in a number of body styles, too; there’s the regular five-door and an estate, but each of those versions is also available as an Active, with a raised body height to give a pseudo-SUV look.
The engine line-up comprises 1.0 and 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol motors, and 1.5 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels. There’s a 48-volt ‘mild hybrid’ on the way in 2020, but there are no immediate plans for a pure-electric version of the car.
All manual-gearbox cars get a six-speed transmission, while a new torque-converter eight-speed automatic is available on the EcoBoost 125 and 150 petrols, and the EcoBlue 120 and 150 diesels.
The range has a number of trim levels. The most affordable, Style, is cheaper than the Mk3 Focus’s entry point. Then there’s Zetec, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale. Almost all versions get at least a 6.5-inch display with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Style editions make do with just a DAB radio, although the rest of the spec isn’t too stingy. There are 16in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights, electric windows all round, remote central locking and manual air conditioning.
Zetec brings Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen – a boon on cold winter mornings – along with cruise control, and leather trim on the steering wheel and armrest. Plus it’s the cheapest way to get SYNC 3.
ST-Line moves up to 17in alloys and gets a sportier front and rear bumpers, a keyless start button, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy pedals. ST-Line X takes this formula but boosts the SYNC 3 screen size to eight inches and also rolls in 18in wheels, rain-sensing wipers, electric adjustment on the driver’s seat, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Titanium is aimed at those who want non-sports-focused equipment, so it includes many of the ST-Line X’s features, such as the rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors and larger screen, but it stays on 16in alloys. It also gets dual-zone climate control and powered folding door mirrors with puddle lights.
Titanium X moves the wheel size up to 17 inches and brings the electric adjustment on the driver’s seat, plus part-leather upholstery.
The range-topping Vignale features 18in wheels, LED headlights, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, full leather seat trim and a B&O stereo set-up that also brings active noise cancellation. The Focus Vignale will offer the same ‘special Ford relationship’ as the other models with that trim level, including free washdowns for the your car as and when you’re able to pop into the dealer.
There’s no mistaking the Focus’s key rivals; there’s the VW Golf, the Vauxhall Astra and the Peugeot 308, plus the latest Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30. But Ford is also trying to see off ever-increasing competition from premium brands: the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.