This is the new Ford Focus, and it’s basically an automotive Tardis. There’s a longer load bay for the boot (it can “comfortably accommodate a dog crate,” apparently), knee clearance for the rear passengers has improved by 50mm, and there’s 60mm more shoulder room. And yet the width is about the same, while the length has increased by only 18mm.
Sounds like sorcery, but it’s all down to clever packaging. The wheelbase has increased by 53mm - nearly three times the overall length increase - effectively stuffing the wheels to the corners of the car. The centre console is slimmer to make life more pleasant for those up front, and Ford has even repositioned the rear dampers of the estate model to improve the load bay. We wouldn’t normally get so excited about packaging, but hot damn, this is some brilliantly fastidious engineering geekery.
It’s also lighter than before. The new Focus has dropped 88kg compared “like-for-like” with the old one, which contributes to a 10 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. The improved aero of the new car also plays a part here (the five-door hatchback’s 0.273 Cd drag coefficient is class-leading, Ford says), as do the engines.
On that front, there’s a 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine available with either 84bhp, 99bhp or 124bhp, plus the option of the fancy new 1.5-litre inline-three found in the incoming Fiesta ST. You can spec that with 148bhp or 179bhp, or if you fancy a diesel, there’s a 1.5-litre oil-burner in 94bhp and 118bhp states of tune, plus a 2.0-litre with a useful 148bhp. An ST will undoubtedly join the range at some point, as will - rumour has it - a 400bhp RS version.
As for the launch range, it’s not quite as simple as just choosing an engine. Trend, Titanium and ST-Line trims are on offer, as well as the posho Focus Vignale and the Focus Active - a slightly jacked up crossover version for people who like to do lifestyle things. We’ll take the ST-Line, please.
It’s now pretty much impossible for a manufacturer to launch a mainstream car without including a bunch of clever driver assistance systems, and sure enough, the new Focus is stuffed full of them. We have adaptive cruise control with lane-centring and speed limit recognition, adaptive lighting with a “camera-based predictive curve light,” a system that’ll park the car at the touch of the button, and the first head-up display Ford has ever fitted to a car for the European market.
In terms of looks, the new Focus is perhaps more conservative than you’d like (remember how radical the first one looked compared to its contemporaries?), despite that big mouth. But it’s neater and more purposeful-looking than the outgoing model, we reckon - particularly in semi-sporty ST-Line trim. Whether or not the boggo, rental-spec versions with tiny wheels look anywhere near as good, we’ll have to wait and see.