BRITAIN'S best selling family car moves up several gears with the new Ford Focus in September.
Building on its reputation for good handling from its launch 20 years ago, the newest generation is brimming with the latest technology under the all-new stronger bodies, including the latest Ecoboost 1.5 petrol engines from Bridgend.
The new Focus represents a â¬600 million investment at Ford's Saarlouis assembly plant in Germany where new laser welding and hot metal forming produces a 20 per cent stronger body for improved refinement and safety.
Sitting on the company's new C2 platform it will be launched in five-door hatchback and estate styles with carry over or sharper prices for its seven trim levels.
It's about the same size as outgoing versions, and has a longer wheelbase, with rear seat passengers in particular gaining knee and shoulder room, while the driver and front passenger have greater width with a narrower console as more functions move to the touchscreen on the fascia.
Estate versions now hold up to 1.650 litres and have a longer floor than currently and more headspace.
Powertrain choices include a further optimised version of Ford's multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost in 85, 100 and 125ps outputs and a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine delivering 150 or 182ps, enhanced with Ford's industry-first cylinder deactivation application for three-cylinder engines.
All comply with the forthcoming WLTP economy regulations and lowest emissions for the smaller engine are 107g/km while the larger unit will go down to 122g/km.
New 95 or 120ps 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesels emit 91gkm and 150ps 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel delivers ultimate fuel-efficiency with 112gkm.
All have been engineered for use in hybrid electric models in the near future.
Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard but a new intelligent eight-speed automatic transmission adapts shift patterns to driving style, and is controlled using an ergonomic Rotary Gear Shift Dial similar to JLR models.
The Focus also sees the latest Ford technology incorporated. Continuously Controlled Damping technology for the independent front and rear suspension systems can instantly adjust for potholes, there are new Drive Modes, an isolated rear subframe for greater refinement and Ford-patented spring technology.
Driver and passengers have comfort and convenience features including FordPass Connect embedded modem for connectivity on the move and a new Wireless charging pad for compatible smartphone devices.
Also available is adaptive cruise control, lighting, automatic parking, head-up display and emergency steering assistance. Parents can even control a young person driving the car with a dedicated key to limit speed, music and other features without affecting their safety at any time.
Two decades after it redefined the dynamics of what we accepted in a family car, the latest generation Focus brings a new level of sophistication to the sector.
Whether you go for the ultra economical new low emission diesel, the thrifty 1.0 triple or the all-round practical 1.5 Ecoboost you'll not be disappointed. Each has its merits.
Whichever is chosen for a road test, they ooze comfort and composure from the seats, suspension and high end equipment, to the driver's delight with steering, gearchange, power delivery, brakes, handling, controls and instruments.
The new Focus also gets the company's latest eight-speed automatic transmission option with selectable settings to suit style and conditions as well as paddle levers and a manual mode.
It is one of the best automatics on the market for smoothness, responses and ability.
A standard six-speed manual gearbox is fitted across the range and it's a light and direct unit as well which makes the most of the available power from the engines.
Over very demanding steep roads through the foothills behind Nice every engine distinguished itself if they did not return the typical fuel economy you'd expect on less inclined roads.
Even so the 125ps 1.0 returned 41mpg, the 182ps 1.5 about 24mpg and the 150ps 2.0 diesel auto between 22 and 35mpg. Cylinder deactivation and restart was imperceptible.
Probably the most surprising of the trio was the beefy diesel automatic with its wide power band and snappy responses to throttle, seamless gearchanges or eagerness to perform through the paddles, particularly in the full manual mode.
This could be the dark stallion in Ford's Focus stable and this transmission may rise above the 15 per cent anticipated orders.
From launch the hatchback and estate models will be available with the most popular engines while the Active will come later this year with the automatic transmission as well.