* Price from 16,500-21,000 * 'Better' all round says Ford * On sale March 2011...
During the cars lifetime therell be a battery electric model (in 2012), and its highly likely a hybrid or plug-in hybrid will be added in 2013-14. Ford is also working on three-cylinder 1.0 Ecoboost engines which may find their way into the new Focus. At the other end of the scale, it has 200 and 236bhp 2.0 Ecoboost units that could power the high-performance ST or RS versions that have been hinted at.
The Focus will use a revised version of the control blade independent rear suspension that helped make the original 1998 car such a breakthrough in terms of ride and handling, but with a greater emphasis on refinement and comfort.
The biggest improvements are to agility and NVH [noise, vibration and harshness], says Ludmann, but there are also enhancements to comfort and steering precision. We have made significant steps forward in driving dynamics.
The five-door version on sale in March 2011 will be followed by an estate in June or July, but the saloon shown for the cars public debut at Detroit in January 2010 wont be coming to the UK. Ford says that a three-door isnt in the plan, but wont be drawn on a replacement coup-cabriolet. We wouldnt bet against one.
Our thoughts on the new Focus. Click here to enlargeNever stand still
All versions adopt the kinetic design the appearance of moving even when standing still of other recent Fords, but European design chief Martin Smith describes the Focus as the companys star turn.
This is the new face of Ford, he says. It is more sporty and sleeker [than the old model], with a lowered silhouette, but the roominess and the package have not been compromised.
The Focus has a modern, cockpit-like interior designed around the driver, with highly stylised instrument cowls, dials, graphics and switchgear, and a walking cane-style handbrake lever. Theres been a big effort to emphasise craftsmanship in the interior, with rigorous analysis of everything you touch, see, hear and even smell, and great attention to colour-matching and fit and finish.
The new Focus will have a tough time raising the bar in the way the 1998 model did. The competition is a lot better now, in part because other manufacturers have borrowed from Ford to add to their own strengths. Having driven the latest Fiesta and Mondeo, we dont doubt Fords ability to once again produce a class-leading car for driver appeal. The rest will come down to pricing, specification, running costs and whether Ford can convince you a Focus is as sound a place to put your money as a Volkswagen Golf.
The Ford Focus
Here's the story so far...
The Focus replaces the Escort and becomes the yardstick for driving brilliance. Its roomier, more refined, safer and cheaper to run than the Escort, too.
An improved version of the first Focus is introduced. There are some engine changes, and the cabin is roomier and has a more convenient control layout.
The third Focus is almost all new. It still aims to be benchmark for driving, but with emphasis also on design, economy and emissions.