Since the original Focus was launched in 1998, the first two guises of the hatchback have widely been regarded as the benchmarks for handling in the lower-medium class.
Now, having spent around 2,000 miles behind the wheel of the latest-generation Focus, I think it should be equally highly regarded for its refinement.
In fact, so impressive is its comfort and build quality, that - apart from badge snobbery - I found myself wondering why anyone would need to choose a premium brand car over the Focus.
It’s true that there is something timelessly classy about the interior of most premium cars, but if you’re happy to swap this for an altogether more modern design, then the Focus doesn’t seem a downward step at all.
Its entertainment/sat-nav centre console is a perfect example of this. At first glance it looks slightly intimidating with its myriad of buttons which have more than a passing resemblance to some of Nokia’s finest mobile phones.
But the design hides what is a straightforward and logical operating system. It’s easy to programme, whether you want to pair your Bluetooth phone to it or programme the built-in sat-nav with a new destination, while - for a Radio Five listener like me – its DAB radio means a crystal clear reception every time.
I did have some initial misgivings that its sat-nav screen would be too small to be practical, but it did an admirable job in presenting all the relevant information in a clear and easy-to-understand way.
My time with the car included a fairly intensive week-long 1,000-mile golf trip to Ireland, and the hatchback proved to be a near-faultless performer.
Although we were asking a lot from it, there proved to be ample room for two people, golf bags, trolleys, and a few other bags too.
The Focus’s ride and refinement were particularly impressive, especially over some particularly ropey roads in Ireland, while the 1.6 TDCi engine delivered its adequate power smoothly.
The only disappointment was the fuel economy. Before the Ireland jaunt began, the Focus’s trip computer was reporting 53.5mpg and rising – a long way short of the official combined economy of 67.3mpg, but given the newness of the engine it was a respectable showing.
However, hundreds of miles of motorway driving saw this fall to 50.3mpg.
The end of the holiday saw the Focus return to normal duties, which saw the economy quickly rise to 52.1mpg, and I’d expect this to increase significantly by the time of the next long-term report.
Author: Andrew Ryan