Latest European Focus Better Than Ever

By Andy Bannister
02.12.2008
Ford is powering ahead in Europe with the launch of the latest version of its best-selling Focus, newly-facelifted to create a family resemblance to the extremely well-received third-generation Mondeo.
The European Focus is now unrelated to its North American cousin. The American version, re-bodied for 2008, is still based on the first-generation Focus, replaced on this side of the Atlantic in 2005. The European model is both costlier and positioned differently in the market, fighting lower-medium hatchback rivals like VW’s Golf (Rabbit), the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane.
Ford’s name for the new family styling is the “kinetic look”, and while it is not dramatically head-turning, it gives the Focus a freshened look at the front, with a much lower grille and swept-back headlights closely resembling the bigger Mondeo.
Most Europeans prefer more adaptable family cars, so the big sellers will remain the three-door and five-door hatchbacks.
After a dismal time with the Escort in the 1990s, Ford has had a dramatic success with the Focus over ten years, and it is still a class-leading product despite some pretty tough competition.
Some 1.1 million have been sold in the UK and it accounts for 1 in 20 of the cars on British roads. The current model sells not just for its looks and space but because of a reputation for handling and ride which is way above the norm. I’ve had a couple of examples of the second-generation Focus as hire cars and they have been genuinely fun to drive.
The current range-toppers are the 2.0 litre duratorque diesel and duratec petrol variants, both of which provide a plenty of performance. A 2.5 litre hot ST version will follow shortly.
Inside, it is a classy place to be, a world away from the low-rent interiors of Fords a few years ago which caused them to be nicknamed “Dagenham dustbins” in honour of the company’s long-established Dagenham plant in England, which no longer builds cars.
One notable absentee from the 2008 line-up is the company’s time-honoured Ghia badge, used since the 1970s to denote a top-of-the-range model. Personally I think that’s a bit of a shame, as the Ghia name and badge is almost as instantly recognisable as the Ford blue oval itself, but the company thinks it has had its day. The luxury Focus is now called Titanium.

As well as the hatchbacks, a full line-up of other Focus bodystyles remain available in Europe. The notchback saloon is almost invisible in the UK but sells better in some central European markets. There is a very useful estate car, plus an MPV – the C-Max – which technically is no longer sold as part of the Focus family.
The most elegant Focus – the latest version of which will debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, is the stylish Coupé-Cabriolet with its retractable hardtop. This is built for Ford in Italy by coachbuilder Pininfarina.
There is more to come in 2009. Ford has recently released a “teaser” picture of the new Focus RS, which is set to revive the famous Rally Sport badge appended to the very fastest Ford specials. No details are available yet but this sporting flagship will sit above the already impressive ST model.
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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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5 Comments

  1. For a small-car fan like myself in the United States, this is like waving a bottle in front of an alcoholic and telling him he can’t have a drink. I can only wish that Ford will soon offer their great small cars here in America.

  2. Ford did a nice job on the updated Euro Focus; the new front clip looks integrated with the rest of the car rather than as if it’s just a new clip on an old car. As the above commentor said, it’s a shame they don’t offer them here. I’d love to take one for a spin (particularly an RS or an ST).

  3. My father was very impressed with the Focus that he rented in Germany last summer. I also really like the front end on the new European Focus, although the large lower black space looks distinctly odd to American eyes. This looks much better than the ugly “three bar” grill design Ford is using in the US.

    The rear end looks just awfull though. The tail lamps need to come down to the waistline where they belong.

    The Euro Focus fits a market segment that does not exist in the US though. Very few Americans would be willing to buy a subcompact at the equivelent pricepoint.

  4. It’s like Ford wants us to keep driving Explorers and pickup trucks. Heaven forbid we should have a good choice of great little cars to pick from.

  5. i thought that the mazda 3 is based on the euro focus…
    (as well as volvo s40)…

    I imagine that mazda 3 will be on this new platform soon enough (well in a year or so…)
    too bad we probably won’t get a diesel or anything like that…

    plus, it’s not like the mazda 3 is an expensive car….

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