As an all-round family car, the Ford Focus is hard to beat in the compact hatchback segment.

By virtue of its outstanding handling and a remarkably compliant ride, the fourth-generation model oozes driver appeal.

The Focus was launched in 1998 and the latest version has been designed from a clean sheet of paper, with a completely revised exterior giving it a fresh look and subsequent new lease of life.

Inside, the cabin is spacious and comfortable, but arguably lacking the overall fit-and-finish of some of its rivals.

And when it comes to tech, Ford says this Focus is its most connected and most intelligent car yet.

The latest model is available with both petrol and diesel engines.

The 118bhp version of the 1.5-litre diesel, tested here, is the mid-range of the three diesels, with a 94bhp 1.5 sitting below and a 148bhp 2.0-litre above it.

Buyers can have it with either a six-speed manual or a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, with the latter fitted to this test car.

It may not provide scintillating performance, but the diesel unit does produce adequate grunt to keep drivers interested. While there may be a trend towards ‘down-sized’ sub-litre engines, there’s still a lot to be said for ‘right-sized’ engines - and there’s no question that this 1.5-litre diesel unit is a great match for a car of this size.

That fact is borne out by the stats, with Ford striking a nice balance between acceptable performance (0-62 in 10.2 sec) and respectable economy (64.2mpg on average).

One area where there has been no compromise is the car’s set-up, which offers class-leading handling capabilities.

The chassis is a real beauty, with fine body control in evidence when cornering briskly. Sharp steering and high levels of grip instil further confidence in the driver.

And the more sporty set-up of the ST-Line X includes a 10mm reduction in ride height when compared with the standard Focus, as well as tweaked suspension settings.

The combination of fairly high-walled tyres and perfectly judged springs and dampers guarantees that the ride quality remains composed.

In terms of looks, the ST-Line X has a more aggressive-looking bodykit than the standard Focus, which itself boasts crisp and pleasing lines.

And it does a nice job of looking sleek and dynamic without being brash enough to stray into boy racer territory.

In many respects, it’s unusual for such a sporty trim to be available with a lower-powered engine, as many manufacturers reserve such flourishes for higher-powered variants.

The changes to the interior aren’t as extensive as those made to the exterior.

The material quality hasn’t improved significantly over the previous model and there are still a few too many scratchy plastics to be found.

That said, there are some nice touches, such as the red stitching on the seats and in other parts of the cabin.

The stylish flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy pedals bring a further dash of panache.

With a wheelbase that’s 53mm longer than its predecessor, extra cabin space has been freed up - something you appreciate most in the roomy rear seats.

As for boot space, the Focus is pretty much on a par with rivals in this class.

In conclusion, the Focus leads the way in its class thanks to a blend of pin-sharp handling, a ride that’s supple yet athletic, handsome looks and a large dollop of family-friendly practicality.

When the first Focus arrived around two decades ago, it was a game changer for families looking to eat up the miles while balancing style with economy.

The second and third generations maintained the model’s appeal without setting the world alight, but this fourth generation has again got rivals scratching their heads and wondering how to compete.

Ford Focus 1.5TDCI (EcoBlue) ST-LINE X 120PS

PRICE: £26,700 on the road

ENGINE: 1.5-litre diesel

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed auto, front wheel drive

EMISSIONS: 122g/km


PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 120mph, 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds


Will's Ratings




SPACE: ****



VALUE: *****

OVERALL: *****