The facelifted Ford Focus will cost from £13,995, the same as the current model, when it goes on sale in November.
Ford's biggest-selling global car has undergone a significant refresh that adds more technology, improved cabin quality, new powertrains, some cosmetic revisions and a raft of chassis and handling tweaks.
The range retains a six-level line-up of Studio (from £13,995), Style (£16,795), Zetec (£18,295), Zetec S (£20,045), Titanium (£19,795) and Titanium X (£21,795). The prices of the high-level Titanium and Titanium X versions are £100 less than the current equivalents.
The entry-level model will continue to be a 1.6-litre TI-VCT petrol in Studio trim equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox. The cheapest diesel variant will cost £17,895 for a 1.6 TDCi in Style trim with a six-speed manual transmission. The entry-level estate-bodied car is the 1.6-litre petrol at £17,880.
Stung by the handling prowess of the latest Volkswagen Golf, which ousted the Focus as the best-handling car in the class, Ford has engineered a raft of detailed chassis changes as part of a deep-facelift that also includes four re-tooled body panels, revised front and rear bumpers, new front and rear lights, a new dashboard and new cleaner engines.
"We want our handling crown back, that's why our engineers put a lot of effort into revamping the Focus chassis," said a determined Bakaj at a launch event for the new Focus earlier this year.
Many of the detailed chassis components are replaced or retuned, starting with new, more expensive front dampers, which now offer more subtle body control thanks to two extra steps in the damper valving.
The springing stays the same, but there are new, stiffer bushes both front and rear, aimed at firming the chassis in a lateral direction with the benefit of more stability.
"The turn-in was already pretty good," says Bakaj, "but the new Focus has less delay on turn-in and that extra edge of bite in cornering."
Also retuned is the electric power steering, which Bakaj says now offers better 'on-centre' feel. "The steering wheel weighting is now much more progressive, too," he adds.
More handling improvements come from a reprogrammed ESC system, which is said to operate more smoothly with more gentle intervention.
As a result, Bakaj says the new Focus is now more stable in extreme lane-change manoeuvres and can tackle slalom-type courses at higher speed. "It gives you more confidence," he adds.
The roll centres have also been adjusted by subtle geometry changes, which reduce cornering body roll.
The facelift program – the Focus was all-new only in 2010 – is the deepest-ever mid-cycle re-fresh applied to Ford’s best-seller since the Focus nameplate was launched in 1998 and follows on from similarly significant revisions applied to the new Fiesta last year.
Indeed Ford's European chief Stephen Odell said: "The changes are so substantial I prefer to call it an all-new car. It's not just the bodywork and interior, but the technology, the suspension and so on. The focus on ride and handling is crucial - it's long been referred to as part of Ford's DNA and we think the changes keep us right there."
Ford has also freshened the Focus visually, with new metalwork, bumpers, grille and lights, created under Ford Europe design director Steffan Lamm. The centrepiece of the new look is a hallmark, trapezoidal grille, now positioned higher up on the Focus nose in what Lamm describes as a 'prouder' position.