Now that Volkswagen has made the latest Golf so much harder to love, and at least until I drive the new and attractive Vauxhall Astra, it is once more the lot of the Ford Focus to be the family hatch to beat. And as if to note the occasion, it’s received a relatively minor facelift, with some nip/tuck styling at the front, and some much-needed improvements to the quality of the interior, notably a larger, more attractive and functional infotainment system.
I drove a 1-litre model, now fitted with a mild hybrid drive which, unlike most cars so equipped, you can really feel working, particularly when you lift off the throttle and car slows considerably long before you foot has found the brake pedal.
A single litre of capacity seems wholly inadequate for a family car, until you drive it and discover it has 153bhp, a wide torque band and solid acceleration, which you’d be impressed to find in a naturally aspirated engine of double the capacity. And the Focus is still fun. It’s grown up a little over the last quarter century, but if you need a spacious hatch but still enjoy a car with fine handling balance, you really need look no further than this. Steer clear of the ritzy Vignale specification I drove and get yourself a more affordable but no less able model from further down the equipment range and for those who like to drive, it remains the clear choice from its competitor set.
Ford Focus 1-litre mHEV ST-Line
• Price £29,160
• Engine 1.0-litres, 3 cylinders, petrol, turbocharged, 48V mild hybrid
• Power 153bhp
• Torque 177lb ft
• Weight 1349kg
• Power to weight 113bhp per tonne
• Transmission Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
• 0-60mph 9.0sec
• Top speed 131mph
• Economy 52.3mpg
• CO2 121g/km
• Verdict Top of the class… as usual