At the European press launch for the new global Ford Focus held in Spain, where I can tell you the rain in Spain did fall mainly on the plain - in the Jerez region, the all new Focus was put through its paces in left hand drive five door hatchback form.
Our test cars came fitted with the choice of two engines. First was the new 1.6-litre EcoBoost 180PS direct injection turbocharged petrol engine which the UK gets in June only in Zetec S specification and at a price yet to be announced but expect it to be around £20K.
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Second driving option was the 2.0-litre TDCi 163PS turbodiesel unit. Neither engine is likely to be main sellers in Britain but both these high power output units were likely to give us the best opportunity to test the credentials of the new global C-segment Focus.
Prices for the new Focus five door hatchback start at £15,995 and rise to £23,995. The estates arriving in June will be priced from £17,095 to £25,095.
Ford Focus technology
These range between three and five per cent more than the comparable outgoing versions but are far better equipped, have more technology in them, cleaner and better performing engines, carry higher VAT and also have some high-tech technologies either as standard or as options.
These include such things as automatic low speed braking and stop system, active park assist, lane keeping aid, blind-spot information, distance control and torque vectoring control. There are also automatic dipping headlights, DAB radio, auto lights and wipers and much, much more.
So in theory this is a car that could drive itself if legislation allowed - that's how much integrated technology is in the new Focus.
This is the first time this high and sophisticated technology has appeared in the family sized car C-segment even from so-called premium brands.
Normally driving aids such as these come in the luxury/executive sectors with the likes of the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes S-Class, and Audi A8.
It is inevitable that many of today's motorists will go on downsizing due to the cost of motoring. People have moved from C-segment cars to B-segment superminis and D segment to C-Segment and so on.
The new Ford Focus first drive
Ford's aim with the Focus is to satisfy existing Focus owners but also to capture those moving down from larger cars. These people will still expect the room, comfort and the refinement of their past larger cars. The new Focus neatly does allow this.
There will be a few moans and groans that the Focus has perhaps lost its outright superiority in the sharp handling department but it is decidedly more comfortable and roomy and much improved for overall driving refinement and travelling comfort.
The suspension now irons out potholes with ease and any noise intrusion from the wheels or engine is now very low.
The electronic power steering implemented to reduce energy consumption, whilst accurate, is not as sharp and doesn't offer enough feel or feed-back for spirited driving but for most people it will not be a consideration.
There was a high degree of cornering grip even on wet and muddy winding roads and the car felt really well balanced. I just wanted a bit more communication with steering responses.
On the plus side the sophisticated traction control and torque vectoring differential systems operating in conjunction with the ABS braking performed really well.
I know there is plenty of front end grip - I just wished I could have felt it a bit more through the 'woolly' steering.
Ford Focus interior
The interior quality is hugely improved with soft-feel finishes for the dashboard, centre console and steering wheel. Inside the new Focus feels 'crafted' rather than just assembled well in tune with its potential to be classed as a 'premium' car.
All the instrumentation appeared to be logical once I had become acquainted with it and our test cars had much of the very advanced technology options fitted to them which took some understanding and getting used to but they certainly work to make driving safer.
Ford Focus exterior and dimensions
As for the styling well the Ford Kinetic design programme has been continued from the Fiesta and new C-Max and Grand C-Max models.
Indeed the Focus looks like a larger version of the Fiesta. Its sharp angular lines blend well with its muscular stance on the road and the coupe side profile.
At 1,484mm high, 4,358mm long and 1,823mm wide (without mirrors), the new 5-Door model is 16mm lower, 21mm longer and 16mm narrower than the current European Focus.
Its wheelbase is 8mm longer at 2,648mm so the rear seat legroom is better. The rear seats are still better suited for two rather than three adults but three children will feel comfortable.
The thick front A-pillars, just like the Fiesta, and the large door mirrors do reduce front quarter visibility on bends and road junctions and the rear tailgate window is not the largest in this sector.
The aerodynamics of the new Focus seemed to drag all the road dirt onto the rear tailgate so the rear wash/wipe system was in full time use during my test driving exercise.
Ford Focus EcoBoost
The two engines on offer at the European media launch were clearly chosen to prove the vehicle's dynamic capabilities. They will not be the main sellers but they certainly showed what the new Focus is capable off.
The EcoBoost 182PS 1.6-litre, four cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol engine with 240Nm of torque from 1,600rpm and 270Nm in 'overboost' from 1,900rpm, is a very good example of the development in downsizing in modern engines.
To get this much performance from a 1.6-litre unit is remarkable, just as BMW/MINI/PSA have done with their similar technology 1.6-litre petrol engine.
The Ford EcoBoost unit revs freely and thrives on being driven enthusiastically and it is not sluggish to respond from low speeds thanks to the torque.
Top speed is 138mph, 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds, 47.1mpg is the official Combined Cycle fuel economy and my test car returned 31mpg over a 90 miles test route of winding roads. The CO2 emissions of 139g/km will mean a road tax bill of just £110 a year.
Ford Focus diesel
The second unit on offer was the 2.0-litre TDCi four cylinder turbodiesel - like all Focus diesel units further developed and improved.
Power output is 163PS with 340Nm of torque from 2,000rpm. Top speed is 135mph, 0-62mph takes 8.6 seconds and the Combined Cycle fuel consumption is officially 56.5mpg.
My test drive over the same route as the petrol model was 46.6mpg. CO2 emissions are 129g/km so VED road tax for the First Year rate is £0 and then £90 per annum after that.
This unit pulled more readily from lower speeds but it lacked the willingness of the petrol unit at higher rpm speeds.
Both engines tested were mated with six speed manual gearboxes. The one used with the petrol engine is the latest generation and was slick in operation and light to use.
The unit used with the diesel engine is older technology and can accommodate more torque but the gearchange action was not as smooth.
I look forward to getting to grips in the near future with other and likely best selling engines in the new global Focus range.
But initially I am impressed, mostly by the vastly improved travelling comfort and refinement the new model brings to market and the quality of the crafted interior. It looks good as well.
Ford Focus MILESTONES
Ford Focus 5-Door 1.6 EcoBoost 182PS.
Prices: Range from £15,995 to £23,995. (182PS Zetec S model for the UK in June estimated to be around £20,000).
Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 182PS (180bhp), 240-270Nm (177-199lb ft) from 1,600rpm and 1,900rpm in overboost mode, 6-speed manual.
Performance: 138mph, 0-62mph 7.9 seconds, 47.1mpg Combined Cycle (31mpg on test), CO2 139g/km, VED road tax £110.
BIK company car tax/insurance ratings: TBA.
Dimensions: : L 4,522mm, W 2,022mm, H 1,457mm, load space 417-1,307-litres, braked towing weight 1,300kg.
For: Better looking, better built, crafted high quality interior, masses of driving support technologies, very comfortable.
Against: Dull steering, for some people the superb ride comfort has been obtained at the expense of its former best in class sharp and agile handling.