Back in the day hatchbacks were a thing — a real thing. It all began in 1974 with the VW Golf — a spacious front-wheel drive replacement for the mighty Beetle.
pel quickly followed with their new Kadett, but it would take almost two decades for the next biggest player to enter the fray.
With the demise of the Escort, Ford — then in make or break mode — were betting the house on their new offering called the Focus.
Launched in 1998, the initial three-door German-designed machine took the motoring world by storm and in its first 12 months of production scooped European Car of The Year.
The designers and boffins at the Blue Oval badge hit the jackpot with a sweet mixture of drive dynamic, practicality and build quality, and that carried over into the five-door and saloon versions.
I had both, a petrol hatch and a diesel with a boot. My only complaint being the 40-litre tank in the oil burner meant more stops at the pump, but I absolutely loved it and enjoyed many years of trouble-free class-leading driving.
Now in its fourth generation, the Focus gets a mid-life refresh. The most noticeable change is the front, where it gets a more prominent grille and the Ford name takes pride of place in the upper centre.
Honeycomb styling is further enhanced by slimmer LED headlights and almost corresponding aluminium coloured air vents in the lower apron.
At the rear it’s a similar affair, with new light clusters highlighting the crisp lines in the tailgate. Snazzy new 16-inch alloys add to its kerb appeal, as does the sporty ST line trim. Inside is where the magic begins to unfold, with quilted leather sports seats (option), chunky three-spoke steering wheel (both heated) and piano black inserts in the upper doors and dash.
The pièce de résistance though is the gargantuan 13.5-inch high definition display, which is home to the infotainment system and powered by Ford’s SYNC 4 software.
The graphics are crystal clear and the menus easy to navigate and user friendly. The screen can be split in three so you can use sat nav, phone and stream music all at once.
The instrument cluster is fully digital too. If that wasn’t enough, our test car came with a colour head up display — a piece of kit you’d normally only get in executive saloons.
There is a choice of one petrol, one diesel and a mild hybrid linked to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. We were treated to the 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol that generates 125bhp. On paper those figures look a little underpowered, but I can assure you they are not.
The peppy little three cylinder has the grunt of a 1.6 and the fun factor of a 2.0 litre. The driving experience is so engaging you’ll always opt for the long way home — especially if that involves more challenging country roads.
The agility, handling and unflappable composure of the Focus is further enhanced by the lowered suspension (drops 10mm in ST line spec) while the grip and pinpoint precision in tight corners is boosted by the larger 18 inch rims and low profile tyres.
Even cruising on the motorway you could hardly hear the motor running, the only slight giveaway was the higher than usual rev count, which was tipping 2,800rpm at 120kmh.
Even then it was returning around 50mph (5.6 litres/100kms).
They say you can’t improve on perfection, but I think Ford have done just that with the latest Focus. It has all the magic of the past and more.
Who says the hatchback is dead? The new Ford Focus starts at €32,541.