What's the story?

* First test of new Focus * On sale from March * Prices start from 16k...

What's the story?

The Ford Focus's name is more appropriate than you might imagine, because ever since the original ground-breaking model was launched in 1998 it has been the focus of Ford's most up-to-date engineering solutions and technological advancements.

That's why there's an awful lot of expectancy, not to mention investment, riding on the new 2011 Focus.

The basic underpinnings are carried over from the previous-generation car, but much burning of the midnight oil has gone into tuning and beefing up various suspension components to improve ride comfort, refinement and roadholding.

Additionally, the presence of a new torque-vectoring system is a significant performance and safety advancement. This clever gizmo uses the stability control and the brakes to dole out power to the driven front wheel with the most traction. It's a subtle and brilliant piece of kit, which elevates the Focus's cornering agility and stability to that of much more expensive sports cars.

For the first time the Focus also gets electrically assisted power steering, which puts less drain on the engine to help boost fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions. Such systems have traditionally failed to deliver the feel and accuracy of hydraulic set-ups, with even esteemed manufacturers such as Porsche struggling to make them suitably responsive.

The Focus is way ahead of the game. Its steering is light at low speeds and delivers a progressive increase in weight as momentum builds. It's smooth, super-accurate and the pronounced kickback that the previous model suffered when encountering big mid-corner bumps has all but been eliminated.

Along with the steering, strong, progressive brakes and an accurate gearshift make the Focus feel full of life.

When you just want to sit back and enjoy the journey, the excellent isolation of road- and wind noise makes the Focus an accomplished high-mileage tourer.

Next: What's it like inside?