What is it?
An all new version of our favourite hatchback. What's more, it's a global car, designed to sell in barely changed form all over the world and much of Ford's hopes for the continuing recovery of the company rests on its shoulders.
This version is especially interesting because it's Ford's first entry into the high powered diesel end of the class, allowing it to take on not only established rivals like the VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but also up and coming opponents like the Alfa Giulietta, all of which are available with similarly powerful engines under the bonnet.
Using a revised combustion process, increased pressure in the common rail delivery system and a low inertia, variable geometry turbo, the 2.0-litre TDCi now develops 161bhp, enough to power the Focus to 62mph in 8.6sec.
What's it like?
In many parts it's outstanding. Think what you like about the exterior, inside the new Focus is a world removed from the old. The ergonomics are nowhere near as good as you'll find in a Golf but the quality of the materials used is at least on a par, while the design of the switchgear, dash and instrument has a distinctive and pleasing style. It's not a particularly spacious car, especially in the back where you'll be far more comfortable in as Astra, but by class standards its packaging is at least acceptable.
The next surprise comes when you turn the key or, more accurately, push the poorly sited and entirely unnecessary engine start button. This Focus is extremely quiet, extraordinarily so for one powered by a high output, four cylinder diesel engine.
Performance is good too: impressively, the weight of this Focus is almost identical to the outgoing model and while the engine's performance band is a little narrow, with peak power coming it low at 3750rpm, the six closely stacked ratios in the clean shifting box means you'll never have trouble keeping it on the boil.
Less impressive is the double clutch auto option, which can be unresponsive in auto mode and downright infuriating if you try to use it manually, thanks to the small and fiddly rocker switch on its side you need to use to change up and down.
Ford has retained its game-changing 'control blade' independent rear suspension architecture but has retuned it to provide what appears to be class-leading ride quality, setting a standard that would worry many an allegedly far more luxurious car. Nor has this been achieved by softening the springs and dampers and sacrificing body control as a result. Even on the most difficult roads, the Focus stays poised and supple.
The only pity is that it seems rather less fun to drive than we're used to from a Focus. Electric power steering has robbed the feel that so distinguished both previous generations, while the chassis engineers appear to have decided, perhaps mindful of the car's new worldwide remit, to sacrifice some agility for stability. Despite a form of torque vectoring that makes the Focus able to brake and inside front wheel if slip is detected, there is more understeer and less of the old, instinctive balance than we’d hoped for.
Should I buy one?
For most people most of the time the Focus should prove an excellent choice. Though we'd love to spend our time driving over mountain passes, real life is about traffic, motorways, potholes and service stations and there's no doubt the new Focus is brilliantly adapted to the cut and thrust of daily life. More comfortable, quiet and classy than ever, it will provide capable transport for many millions of owners the world over.