The power output of 180bhp at 6000rpm and torque peak of 177lb ft at 1600rpm are both decent without pulling up any trees, or attracting the undue attention of insurance companies. The powerband is wide; I did see some criticism of the fact that it doesn’t truly get into its acceleration stride until the early 2000s, but it’s smooth and flexible well below that.
This car’s effortless progress is helped by an easy-changing and good-looking gearlever that offers a well-defined gate and satisfying movements between slots. It has taken Ford years longer than most rivals to truly get this right, but now it’s good. The top two gears of the six-ratio array are high (top is geared for something like 160mph against the 6750rpm redline) but that makes for long-legged cruising while still leaving a decent top-gear acceleration capability on the open road. Stroke the car about and you’ll get close to the official combined fuel consumption of 51mpg.
The electric power steering is direct and fairly firm at the rim, which helps give the car a dependable feeling of directional stability, only made better by the ideal way the effort builds up away from the straight-ahead, a characteristic Ford feeling that smacks of painstaking development and plenty of prior experience.
This ST-Line model gets Ford’s improved fully independent rear suspension system (lesser models have a cheaper torsion beam system, also effective but not quite such a good ally of the steering in hard driving). The ride is firm and controls the body well, but you’re never bothered by its crashing into ruts, as happens with the sportiest, hard-suspended Ford hatches.
Interior space? The Focus is a family car these days – and this one has a generous overall length for the class and weighs a meaty 1370kg at the kerb – so it’s decent without being amazing. Enough room for four adults with five a squeeze. The semi-sporting front bucket seats (deep cushions, well-bolstered backrests) adjust to nearly any occupant’s ideal. And while the fascia design isn’t exactly spectacular (in this era of far-out electric car displays), its control layout is neater and more functional than the previous model’s, as well as being easy to operate.