Ford's Escort nameplate returns on this only-for-China saloon. Does it continue Ford's tradition of building sharp-handling cars?

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No, you haven't travelled back to 2002 - this is a China-only saloon-bodied version of the Ford Focus.

Based on the previous-generation Focus hatch, which is still sold in China as the Focus Classic, it has lines that are vaguely reminiscent of the original Mark 1 Escort

The name is a surprising choice as none of the original Escorts were ever officially sold in China, and so unlike in Europe there is no heritage on which to generate sales.  

Externally it is quite obviously derived from the old Ford Focus saloon, but there's just enough uniqueness to give it a separate identity while incorporating the latest Ford DNA with features like the latest Ford family grille. 

Inside, the major feature on the dashboard is a control panel for the infotainment system. This is similar in style to the current UK Ford Fiesta's, but has slightly larger buttons than the fiddly mobile phone-derived keypad in that car. 

No touchscreen system is available, even on the top-of-the range Trend trim, which seems an amazing oversight in tech-addicted China when such systems are available aftermarket for as little as £20.

Instead, as standard, there's a removable cradle to mount a smartphone on the dash with a USB charger hidden underneath. This might be an acceptable solution on the base model but for the money the range-topper demands, you expect more.

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Materials are of good quality, with plenty of soft plastics, while the build - as you'd expect from Ford - also feels strong. Leather upholstery is standard, with both light and dark finishes available.

There's just enough head room for passengers of around 1.8m tall in the back, and leg room is adequate. While the boot is a decent size, the floor covering does not fully extend to the lip, leaving part of the spare wheel exposed. Furthermore, cost saving means the rear seats are not split-folding.

Safety is an area that hasn’t been scrimped on, though. This Trend trim comes with six airbags and Isofix child seat attachments. 

The Escort is available with only a 1.5-litre petrol engine, which is used to power the Ford Fiesta in China, and is coupled to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. While the engine is adequate for the car’s size and weight, it does nothing to excite.

Sports mode on the automatic allows gear changes via buttons mounted on the drive selector. However, this seems to add little if anything to the driving experience. There is a lot of engine noise when accelerating, particularly in Sports mode, but never much actual acceleration. At least the gear changes themselves are seamless enough.

With its dynamics based on the old Focus, traction is good and handling is adept. The steering is well weighted and precise, although suspension settings are on the soft side to compensate for China's poor road conditions. Road noise is well insulated. 

You can't, and you probably wouldn't want to. The Escort name is from another age and in many ways this car reflects that. Essentially it is a cheap car cobbled together from Ford’s parts bin.

The other problem is its price - at £12,583 it just doesn’t seem cheap enough. While it was designed specifically with Chinese consumers in mind, it feels more like a car aimed at emerging markets, like its closest rival the Peugeot 301.