Paul Horrell15 April 2011

A first drive of the new Ford Focus 

Has the globalisation of one of our favourite cars blunted its edge? Paul Horrell finds out

New Ford Focus

If you don’t buy one of these, you might be given one as a company car. Or a close friend or someone in your family will have one, or you’ll thrash a renter on holiday. So what are you in for?

It’s a seriously good car. Start with the engine. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the EcoBoost petrol engine, a 1.6-litre with the power of a two-litre and the gutsy torque of a diesel. It’s smooth and quiet and economical when you’re in no hurry, but at the drop of your right foot it puts on the Batcape.

See more pics of the new Ford Focus

Down the road, it feels a lot like a Golf. Quiet, refined, very grown up. In fact, the ride is really excellent, a lot more cushy than the old one, and that wasn’t grim by any means.

It also corners like a Golf. Grips well, reacts with a gentle shrug to your every attempt to be a madman.

But that’s the thing. The old one had a bit more. There was magic in the steering, a stream of feedback information through the wheel as the tyres got to the limit. And you could play a little dance with the throttle, sneakily adjusting the cornering angle. It was a car that liked to get intimate with you. The new one is more stand-offish.

Then there’s the body design. The proportions are fine, and it’s distinctive. Even on a foggy night wearing shades you’d never look at a Focus across a car park and confuse it with anything else. But an awful lot of unnecessary detail is going on round the nose. Most of those grilles are blind, and the bonnet looks like it’s agape.

The other more recently unveiled Focus versions, the hot ST and stone-cold Electric, have both facial tidy-ups. So maybe the designers are thinking the same way I am.

The old Focus was built mainly for Europe. The new one goes to America and China. Are those the people who want more ornamental design, and duller steering? Maybe.

But you can hardly blame Ford. There are a colossal number of potential new buyers out there, and maybe a Focus like our old Euro one was just a bit, well, Focused for them. The new one is, as I said, a seriously good car and covers more bases. But sadly, one we really care about, the handling, isn’t quite so well taken care of.

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.