Europe's best-driving family hatchback is now more upmarket-looking and more refined

What is it?

It looks like an entirely new Focus because every single exterior panel save the roof and side glass is new. In fact this is simply a major overhaul for Britain’s favourite car which brings its styling in line with the new ‘kinetic’ design language espoused by Ford design chief Martin Smith and seen already on the Mondeo.

Ford has thrown the bulk of its budget at this radical cosmetic overhaul because it knows as well as us that, dynamically the Focus still leads the field and Ford felt disinclined to spend money fixing things that were already far from broken.

The chassis is therefore untouched and while there will be some technological treats coming next year – like a twin-clutch DSG-style transmission and a low emissions small diesel engine – for now the mechanical line-up is very familiar.

What money was left after the outside was renewed and the interior titivated (there are smart new dials, some new soft plastics on the dash and a restyled centre stack), was spend on improving refinement.

What’s it like?

If this 2.0-litre TDCi version is representative of the range as a whole, its position as the favourite car in the land should be safe for a while yet. There are no surprises in the way it drives, it is as brilliantly fluent and fun as ever, but the whole car now feels substantially more mature and sophisticated.

While the car is undoubtedly better looking than before, the real trick of the new lines is to make it seem more substantial and sophisticated, something you’d could even see wearing an Audi badge. Then again, we should not be too surprised by that; before he joined Ford, Smith did spend 20 years designing Audis.

The improvements are less noticeable on the inside and the cabin still lacks the timeless quality Volkswagen seems able to inject into generation after generation of Golf, but the new instruments and dash materials have done much to remove the slightly cheap feel of the old interior.

Without having an old Focus to run side-by-side, it’s impossible to tell how much quieter this new version is, but I can say that it will cruise for as long as you like at anything up to licence-losing speeds without engine, road or wind noise ever becoming an irritant, something I would not say about the disappointingly vocal 2.0-litre petrol version.

Should I buy one?

If you want the most enjoyable family hatchback on the road, the answer is yes, without question. Others, notably the VW Golf and Hyundai’s impressive and cheap new i30, run it close in many areas, but if you care about driving, the Focus is as clearly ahead of the pack today as it was when it first came out nearly a decade ago.

It’s also taken a large step towards curing the only real problems it ever had: its dull looks and image. Now that it has been smartened up so successfully, it presents a terrifying range of abilities for its rivals to contemplate.

Of course the 1.6-litre petrol model that will be the bestseller of the range was nowhere to be seen at the launch, but so far as the 2.0-litre diesel version is concerned, its claim to the number one spot in the class seems beyond a credible challenge.

Giles Newton

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sierra 30 November 2007

Re: Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium

Ghia (and dodgy wood-effect) R.I.P.?