Ford’s aim was not only to bring the Focus’s interior up to date with this revision but also to simplify it significantly. Its success is best judged on acquaintance with the dashboard’s centre stack. Where formerly were found two banks of fussy, 1990s mobile phone-like systems buttons, there is now mostly grey plastic and a much smaller and more discreet nest of audio controls.
Underneath, there are likewise smaller and more modern-looking heating and ventilation controls, while above is the star of Ford’s interior makeover: the 8.0in Sync2 touchscreen multimedia set-up fitted as standard to Titanium and Titanium X-specification cars and as a £500 option to our Zetec-spec test car. The system is a massive improvement over what was included before. It's not the most responsive system on sale, nor the best laid-out, but it's big and bold.
All models get air conditioning and a USB socket as standard, while the Zetec trim level adds a 4.2in colour screen, Bluetooth, DAB radio, heated windscreen and alloy wheels. For 2016 Ford introduced a new trim level known as ST-Line, which as you can imagine included a sporty look and feel inside and out, and including a ST-style honeycomb mesh grille and sports suspension. Titanium models received dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and auto headlights and wipers to the mix, while the range-topping Titanium X trim comes loaded with plenty of kit, including a rear-view camera, cruise control, keyless start and bi-xenon headlights.
Opt for the ST models and expect to find an aggressive bodykit, bigger alloys, sportier suspension, rear spoiler ans Recaro front seats, all of which can be had in estate form. The ST-2 gets Ford's SYNC3 8in touchscreen infotainment system and dual-zone climate control, while the range-topping ST-3 receives bi-xenons, sculpted rear Recaro seats, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition and entey and electrically adjustable front seats.
The fascia looks neater, cleaner and more contemporary as a result of the decluttering but not unquestionably classier. The tactile quality of the dashboard plastics isn’t outstanding, so populating less of their surface area with switchgear, without upgrading the canvas behind, doesn’t do a great deal for cabin ambience. Some of the systems are easier to operate now, while others are slightly harder via the touchscreen.
The four-spoke steering wheel has been replaced by a smaller three-spoke item with more attractive switchgear and the option of shift paddles if you go for a Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The new wheel looks smart, but somehow the old one struck us as a better fit for the car’s sporty character.
Credit to Ford is due for freeing up extra cabin storage midway through a full model generation. Immediately ahead of the gearlever there’s a cubby sized to accept a smartphone or iPod, while further aft on the centre console the cupholders have been made larger and the centre-cubby deeper.
Boot space with seats up remains at 316 litres which, compared with key rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf's and Kia Cee'd's 380 litres, is lagging behind. An estate version of the Focus is also offered, with boot space being a respectable 490 litres with the seats up and 1502 litres with the seats folded flat. The area is wider than the estate versions of the Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but not as long.
Overall, though, you’d say the Focus’s cockpit has taken two steps forward, only to take one step back. Progress has been made here, but this remains a roomy, functional driving environment rather than a particularly pleasant or inviting one.