The Focus has topped the SMMT's monthly registration figures for 39 consecutive months and to date this year a total of 54,308 units have been sold, some way ahead of its nearest rival the Vauxhall Astra with a tally of 42,686 and streets ahead of the Renault Megane (26,899 units) and Volkswagen Golf (18,670 units).
The car went straight to the top-seller's spot from launch and while it has a long way to go to reach the dizzy heights in sales terms of the Escort which ruled UK car market for an incredible eight years, the Focus has shown it has the pedigree to match or even beat it – as long as Ford doesn't muck up the new model, set to appear at the end of next year.
Some would claim the sales success is built on fleet discounts and other cunning pricing policies, but if you've ever driven a Focus you'll realise quickly this isn't a fair accusation.
The ride and handling are superb. The 115bhp common rail diesel engine is a feisty number that provides impressive acceleration (0-62mph in 10.7 seconds) and maximum torque of 185lb-ft at 1,750rpm.
The 1.8 TDCi Ghia normally retails at £15,950 on-the-road. Standard specification includes electronic automatic climate control, power/heated door mirrors and Quickclear heated windscreen.
Our test model has a number of additional extras: 17-inch alloys (which make a considerable difference to the visual appeal of the car), side airbags, interior versatility pack, interior sensing and perimeter alarm, parking assist, satellite navigation, six-CD autochanger and xenon headlamps. These extras bring the total cost to £19,965.
A 22% taxpayer's annual company car tax bill would be £632 now, rising to £702 in 2006 on the standard model.
That's the upside. Now the downside. Our Focus has covered 1,800-plus miles, or 3% of a 60,000 mile fleet contract and it has niggling faults already.
The radio on the Blaupunkt TravelPilot stereo plays for about 20 seconds before it displays a 'Checking TMS – No TMS' message and then goes silent.
A quick look in the manual hasn't revealed what is going on. Also the driver's side air vent is not working, possibly because a connector pipe has come loose. Whatever the reason it was depressing during the recent heatwave.
The Focus is a car I would be happy to drive for three or four years if I was a company car driver, as long as the present faults are ironed out.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer): £78 per month