THE updated Ford Focus may have retained much of its exterior face but underneath it is a much-improved unit, with changes to the engine, transmission, suspension and styling.
The entry-level Ambiente has disappeared, as has the diesel offering, and the three variants that remain sport a new turbo-charged unit much like that which powers the Kuga.
It has much work to do in this aggressively competitive small car segment but improvements to the interior and on-trend technology combine with driving smarts to make for an appealing package.
The Sync2 infotainment system with 8.0-inch colour touchscreen is the most effective change to the interior of the Focus.
Divided into quadrants for music, navigation, climate control and phone, the multimedia unit is intuitive and easy to use with quick Bluetooth connectivity and excellent sound quality.
This central system makes for a simplified dash and the absence of those fiddly dials and buttons that cluttered previous models.
There is a reasonable amount of cabin storage including adjustable front cup holders and deep useful door pocket.
There is obvious intent to use good quality plastics and trims and while they are nice to the touch, the build quality is not flawless.
The seats in our top-specced Titanium were comfortable and supportive - the driver's chair is easy to adjust for the optimum position - but taller, broader occupants may struggle a bit.
Head room is decent despite the sloping roof of the hatch but legroom - yes, I know this is a small car - could be better than it is.
On the road
Sharp driving dynamics has generally been the Focus's strong point and this edition, thankfully, is no different. Fleet-footed and assured with excellent steering feedback and a genuine desire to deliver a fun ride.
There is smooth, quick, power delivery from standstill and the legs to last the distance, with a grunty response when pushed the only sign the new engine is working hard.
Talking of which, Ford has replaced its old 2.0-litre engine with a 1.5-litre turbo-boost petrol that, incidentally, loses nothing in power and makes good use of a wide torque band (1600-5000rpm). The ride itself feels balanced and the car seems to soak up most bumps - not all mind you but that's a fair trade-off for steering feel.
The brakes are super sharp, power out of corners surprising with enough verve for more spirited drivers. Pity that the up-down buttons are slow to act when you slip the gear lever into Sport mode, paddles may be a better option here.
In traffic, the Focus is easy to manoeuvre with the stop-start system unobtrusive and effective. The turning circle though - 11m in a small car - is far from useful in tight spots.
What do you get?
The top-of-the-range Titanium is not short of the bells and whistles featuring amongst its delights 18-inch alloys, leather trim, power-adjustable driver's seat, reverse camera with front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push button start and 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with sat nav and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Titanium is also equipped with the latest in safety features and aside from six airbags and the usual traction and stability control, you also get blind-spot monitoring, emergency city braking, rear cross traffic warning and an advanced active park assist system.
The Titanium is the least fuel efficient of the Focus range but official figures are still a respectable 6.4l/100km. We were closer to 6.8l/100km during our week but were happy with that.
There is a three-year/100,000km warranty, 12-month free roadside assist and capped-price servicing for life with a free loan car.
There are almost 20 cars of varying luxury levels doing battle in this small-car segment but for the Focus the main rivals still shape up as the Mazda 3 SP25 (from $35,040), Hyundai i30 SR Premium (from $32,890), Toyota Corolla ZR (from $28,990), Holden Cruze SRi-V (from $30,490), Peugeot 308 (from $31,842) and Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Highline (from $32,990).
The Focus doesn't feel as small as some cars, yet the rear legroom is quite evidently on the short side. Aside from the fun drive, the suite of safety gear is impressive, as is the automatic parking system.
Active Park Assist actually works in the real world and even though you still have to press the accelerator and brake, it will guide you into a perpendicular and parallel parking space and out of one too.
Very little has changed on the outside of the Focus apart from a few tweaks to accommodate Ford's new trapezoidal grille, new bumpers and slimmer lights and some work on the tailgate but it looks a sharp package.
This Ford Focus is an interesting one, it does everything right but nothing in spectacular fashion. It is not cheap but you do get bang for your buck - a dynamic drive, excellent features and top-notch safety.
What matters most
What we liked: Updated interior, excellent safety suite, on-road dynamics.
What we'd like to see: Longer warranty, ventilation in second row.
Warranty and Servicing: 3 year/100,000km warranty with capped-price servicing.
Model: Ford Focus Titanium.
Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive small hatch.
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 240Nm @ 1600 - 5000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.4 litres/100km combined.
Bottom line plus on roads: From $32,690.