There's a lot to like about the latest Ford Focus, but will critical acclaim finally turn into plenty of sales?
In photos, black really doesn't do the new Focus quite enough justice. Unlike previous generations, the Focus is a genuinely pretty car.
The top-of-the-range Titanium comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, which help no end, too.
Aside from the five-door hatch we reviewed, Australians can also elect the sedan version.
We do miss out on the wagon Focus that's available in Europe.
Part of the Sports Executive pack, the xenon headlights don't swivel in sympathy with steering inputs.
The fog lights on our car also double as cornering lights.
Gone are the high-mounted vertical tail lights from previous Focus hatchbacks.
The Focus does without a fuel cap. Convenient, but we did end up dribbling diesel down the side of the car.
The 2-litre turbo-diesel engine is smooth, quiet and laid back. Petrol options include a 2-litre turbo and 1.6 litre.
The outer third of the wing mirror is highly convex.
The sound system's 4.3-inch screen (top) can be controlled via the dashboard.
Or by the five-way controller on this spoke of the steering wheel. Some functions, though, can't be accessed unless you reach over to the dash.
The trip computer (above) is accessed via the controls on the right spoke.
Dual-zone climate control is a standard fixture on all Titanium-grade Focuses.
So, too, are heated, but not cooled, seats.
It's rather difficult to find, at first, hidden behind the steering wheel, but the Power button is actually for the keyless start system.
Dusk-sensing headlights, as well as front and rear fog lights, are standard on the Titanium.
The audio system shortcuts for track/tune, volume and voice command system take a bit of memory or guess work.
So, too, do the shortcuts for the active cruise control and speed limiter.
The 4.3-inch audio display is high resolution, and features pleasing animations that aren't too time consuming. There's no track name database for the CD drive, though.
The analog-only radio does display names for FM stations.
Via the standard USB port, the sound system will happily read the contents of your iPod/iPhone, but unless you have a Ford-specific cable, you won't hear any music.
In the previous-generation Focus, the auxiliary jack and the USB port lived in the centre console bin along with an MP3 player holder. No more, alas.
A six-speed automated dual-clutch transmission is the only option for diesel Focus buyers. Manual and dual-clutch transmissions are offered to petrol owners.
To change gears, just flick this up/down switch on the gear knob. It's neither as intuitive as shift paddles on the steering wheel or tapping the gear lever up and down.
The rain sensitive wipers work in a clapping formation.
The interior is almost up there with the Golf in terms of presentation and quality, but has significantly more personality.
The dashboard itself is a Golf-level of soft and spongey.
The seats are comfortable and sufficiently grippy. They're only partially clad in leather, though.
There should be enough leg room for most, even with the front passenger's seat pushed all the way back.
We found it interesting that the main interior lights are off to the side. Maybe we should go out more.
The interior's full of neat little features, such as the L-shaped hand brake.
The ridges on the instrument panel cover made us feel like we were piloting a jet fighter.
Don't turn the collision-alert system up to high sensitivity, unless you like being warned endlessly (and loudly) every time you brake even a nanosecond too late.
A tilt-and-slide sunroof is part of the optional Sports Executive pack.
It's not cavernous, but there's a decent amount of space in the boot.
Under the boot floor, there's a space-saver spare tyre and storage cubbies.
To accomodate the spare tyre, the boot floor is quite a bit higher than the seat backs when they're folded down.
Interior handles make light work of closing the boot.
The leather-clad steering wheel is rather nice to hold and use. It adjusts for both reach and angle.
The rear seat's folding armrest features cupholders.
Rearward vision is somewhat compromised, but at least the head rests are unobtrusive.
Puddle lights hide out on the underside of the wing mirrors.
The black paint sparkles in the sunlight.
Front and rear parking sensors are nice, but there's no reversing camera, at any price.
Only the driver benefits from electric seats.
The speed limiter is perfect for speed camera zones.
As is the active cruise control system, which maintains either your desired speed or a safe (configurable) distance from the car in front.
The interior lights bathe the Focus' cabin in a wonderfully pleasing glow. No camera flashes were used in this photo.
Red ambient lights contrast with the electric-blue buttons.
The aforementioned blue button lighting.
Active Park Assist misses quite a few obvious parking spots.
The system also often mounts the curb when parking behind vans or hatchbacks.
Without a reversing camera to add an extra level of reassurance, a certain leap of faith (and caution) is required.
In the end, we preferred the system used in the Toyota Prius.
The matte chrome bits and bobs look convincing, but aren't as nice to touch as real metal parts.
Not only does the trip computer feature nice swooshy animations, but its warnings are more informative than the norm.