FORD has habitually updated its hugely popular family hatch by grafting on a new nose to freshen its design.
And with 10 million sales logged since it was launched in 1998, the conservative approach has clearly paid dividends.
But this time the revamp is rather more radical. In fact, this third generation Focus is all-new from the ground up and, although it builds on the model’s traditional strengths, its ambition is more far-reaching - not just to better its quality rivals at the things they do best, but also to shift the very perception of the family hatch up market.
The Ford Focus has always been regarded as a sensible set of wheels with the added bonus of being rather good to drive.
But while that may once have been enough to ensure its continued success, expectations in the family hatch sector have risen sharply in recent years with plenty to distract us from the Ford’s practical attributes.
Better looking and equipped rivals with higher tech engines that deliver stronger economy with lower emissions have dampened the appeal the Focus’s solid baseline virtues. Little wonder, then, that Ford decided to dust off the drawing board and ring the changes.
They’re more far reaching than they may at first seem. Where the previous Focus was built to cater mainly for European tastes, the new car, according to Ford, is a truly global product. Up to 80% of its components will be common to cars in all 120 markets it will be sold in globally, and it will be build in six factories.
Its platform will eventually be used for 10 different variants, of which the Ford C-Max and Grand C-Max are already on sale.
An understandable fear is that with the same Focus being sold in markets as different as America and China it will necessarily be a blander, catch-all product.
But Ford says this isn’t the case and argues that the economies of scale involved enable the Focus to arrive better equipped and with a range of new technologies, including ultra low emission engines, Auto-Start-Stop and options such as Active Park Assist.
It lends weight to Ford’s claim that this is a classier, safer, higher quality and more desirable Focus than its predecessor.
A car with lower emissions, better economy, greater comfort and an unprecedented level of technology for its sector.
First impressions form around the bold, driver-centric facia design and the immediate aura of quality the cabin exudes.
A Golf may just have the edge on finish but, in design terms, looks rather dull and conservative by comparison.
The elevated seating position of the previous Focus has been lowered and feels the better for it, especially as the seat itself is so cosseting and supportive.
The dash layout is impressively free from clutter and the instrument binnacle’s major dials are clear and easy to read, though the steering wheel is somewhat overburdened with its 23 functions.
To access some you need to delve into the sub-basement menus in the control systems.
The diesel offerings in the Focus’s extensive new engine line-up are based around the 1.6 and 2.0 litre Duratorq TDCI units.
The smaller diesel comes in 95 and, as tested here, 115PS guises, with a revamped combustion system, smarter fuel injection and a turbocharger.
The 115PS diesel features a handy overboost, taking peak torque from 270 to 285Nm for effective overtaking and harder acceleration.
The 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCI comes in three variants, offering 115, 140 and 163PS and there’s the option on these engines of a clever dual-clutch automatic.
Performance is sprightly across the range of engines as, rather impressively, the weight of this new Focus is almost identical to that of the outgoing model.
Real life is about traffic, motorways, potholes and service stations and there’s no doubt the new Focus is brilliantly adapted to the cut and thrust of daily life.
More comfortable, quiet and classy than ever, it will provide capable transport for many millions of owners the world over.