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All-new Ford Focus still one to beat 20 years on

As an overall package, the fourth-generation Ford Focus is still the car to beat in its class. Picture: Ford

As an overall package, the fourth-generation Ford Focus is still the car to beat in its class. Picture: Ford

Ford

An all-new Ford Focus is with us, and it’s packing plenty of tech and equipment to ensure it remains the leader of the pack as Jon Reay finds out.

New Ford Focus promises to be even better to drive. Picture: FordNew Ford Focus promises to be even better to drive. Picture: Ford

Twenty years after the first Focus was launched, there’s no underestimating how important it still is to the brand and to buyers in the UK. So this fourth-generation car is entirely new, filled with even more technology, and promises to be even better to drive thanks to a stiffer chassis and some clever suspension tweaks.

There are also new or improved engines including new 1.5-litre petrols with fuel-sipping cylinder deactivation technology.

Also new is the eight-speed automatic gearbox, complete here with a Jaguar-style rotary dial for selecting park, reverse and drive.

The driving position is spot on, dials are clear and easy to read. Picture: FordThe driving position is spot on, dials are clear and easy to read. Picture: Ford

Under the bonnet?

On the petrol front there are 85, 100 and 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost and new 150 and 182PS 1.5-litre petrol while the diesels are new 95 and 120PS 1.5-litre and 150PS 2.0-litre.

The 150PS 1.5-litre petrol is torquey throughout the rev range, with enough power to be fun. It’s refined too – virtually silent most of the time, only generating that typical three-cylinder thrum with heavy use of the throttle.

Information about gradient, cornering speed and driving style is fed to the automatic gearbox’s computer, which does a surprisingly good job of working out when to shift down or up on its own, meaning you’re rarely left waiting for the right gear.

Six-speed manual gearbox's shift is slicker. Picture: FordSix-speed manual gearbox's shift is slicker. Picture: Ford

The manual options – two six-speed ’boxes – have been tweaked for improved shift quality and efficiency.

How it drives

Aside from its bold design, it was driving dynamics where the original 1998 Focus really stood out from the crowd. The fourth generation is still great fun to drive, even more enjoyable than the car it replaces.

Even in comparatively unsporty Vignale trim, it steers with an accuracy and fluidity that many rivals haven’t quite matched, and has a ride that manages to soak up road imperfections while remaining composed around the twisty stuff.

ST-Line gets firmer, 10mm-lower suspension for neater handling.

The 1.0-litre models don’t get the Focus’s trademark fully independent rear suspension but their twist-beam set-up is good enough for the new Fiesta ST.

There’s now the option of adaptive dampers too.

Space and comfort

The driving position is spot on, dials are clear and easy to read and most trim levels come with plenty of seat adjustability – for the driver at least.

The Focus is easy enough to park without electronic aids but parking sensors are included on Titanium and above. And newly-improved Active Park Assist is even easier to use – with the eight-speed automatic, it’ll now accelerate and brake as well as steer into a space.

A longer wheelbase creates extra rear legroom, but taller passengers could feel the squeeze on headroom, and the dashboard is now less deep and sculpted in such a way that the interior feels more spacious.

If practicality is a priority, the estate with the rear seats in place will now take loads 43mm higher and 25mm longer than before while folding them flat – at the pull of a switch – gives a load capacity of 1,650 litres.

Final say

There are rivals with posher interiors, cheaper price tags or longer warranties, but as an overall package the new Focus is still the one to beat.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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