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.

Rory White

The touchscreen system is a massive improvement over what was included in previous versions

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. 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.

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The four-spoke steering wheel has been replaced by a smaller three-spoke item with more attractive switchgear and the option of shift paddles if you go for a Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox.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.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

  • The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

  • Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308


Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 November 2015
    We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel
  • 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45
    First Drive
    27 November 2015
    Mercedes couldn't let the Audi RS3 get away with having more power than its AMG A45. As part of a wholesale A-Class facelift, it now has 376bhp and a host of other revisions
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?