The Ford Focus Mk1 rewrote the class rulebook when it was launched, and huge sales mean that used examples are now a potential bargain.
Decent early examples can now be snapped up for as little as £1000, and enjoy what was then one of the best handling, best damped cars of its time.
Faisal Mahmood, owner of FM Motors in Wembley, is your guide to getting a bargain.
"They're an affordable and reliable car and have built up a good reputation for being a good secondhand buy," he says. "They now go for similar money to Golf Mk4s."
Wheels and tyres
It’s tempting to overlook kerbed wheels and missing or incorrect hubcaps, but there are a lot of Focuses out there. Scuffed rims and badly scratched bodywork can also point to general neglect, including under the bonnet.
Ignition coils can go and should be replaced immediately. If you don’t you could blow the ECU, warns Anthony Rees of Ford specialist Mercury Motors, and that can be pricey to repair. A new ignition coil costs £120 including fitting.
Focuses are easy on cambelts. The official policy is a change every 100,000 miles, but most experts recommend 60– 80,000. It will cost between £150 and £200, so if you are buying a cheap Focus make sure a change is not imminent.
Focuses usually refuse to rust, so if you find corrosion, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. Check around the door mirror housings and the bottom of the rear screen for bubbling. Watch out for cheap cosmetic mods, too.
Everything inside is hard-wearing, if not the last word in quality. Water in the passenger footwell could be down to a poorly fitted pollen filter, which needs to be changed every year. Speedo faults mean a corroded printed circuit board.
Focuses are known to have problems with the central locking system. As it will cost around £130 to supply and fit a new latch, walk away unless the car is perfect in every other area.
The buying guide is available in this week's Autocar magazine, on sale now.