Fears about the torsion beam back end lacking dynamism are soon dispelled. In this mid-spec version, the new hardware is a non-issue; over a 570-mile drive that included some of the most demanding roads in Scotland, England and Wales, the new Focus proved to be both refined and agile, handling corners with vim and verve and rough surfaces with assurance. Springs and dampers feel soft in slower turns, but the relationship between them is always collaborative.
The electric power steering is short on feel, but yields immediate and precise responses from the front end, with the rear axle helping out under higher loadings. This Focus can carry speed along a flowing road as well as any of its antecedents.
Refinement is generally good, although our test car had some wind whistle from the top of the driver's door at motorway speeds; the lack of any from the passenger side suggests an ill-fitting seal. The suspension copes well with higher speeds, but even on smooth surfaces there's a very slight busyness to it, a not-quite settling down that is reported by the backside and lower back. Like a dripping tap, it's hard to ignore once noticed, although the independent rear axle might not suffer from it.
The Ecoboost engine remains a characterful powerplant, pulling with a determination that belies its lack of size once on boost and with a pleasing offbeat soundtrack that's evident when worked hard. But it's a slugger rather than a puncher, with the turbo taking time to spool if lots of acceleration is requested at short notice — for instance, to take advantage of an overtaking opportunity.
The shift action for the six-speed manual gearbox seems to have grown slightly longer than that of the last car, and the selector itself doesn't have the same hand-filling mass of the last one, but the 'box itself remains one of the sweetest-shifting in the business. Driven respectfully, it's impressively economical, with fuel economy of the mid-to-high 40s seemingly achievable under everyday use.
Of course, there was never much wrong with the way the last Focus drove, and more effort has been expended to give this one more of an upmarket feel. Hard-feeling plastics in the cabin have been relegated far from where fingers are likely to regularly patrol. The new Sync 3 infotainment system covers all the basics well and is addressed through a crisply rendered 8.0in touchscreen; a mild irritation is that, when a device is connected through Android Auto, it prioritises the phone's navigation system over the car's native set-up; a problem if you're in an area with no signal.
There's impressive space for both front and rear occupants, although during our mammoth drive the front occupants noticed a lack of under-thigh support during longer stints.