It's improved, and packed with new gadgets butstill the finest thing about the Focus is driving it

How do you improve on the best?

For the fact is that as far as actually driving the car is concerned, there is no better medium-size hatchback than a Ford Focus. Other cars may offer more superficial interior quality or look more sophisticated but, for the 12 years and two generations of the Focus breed's lifespan to date, it has never been bettered as a driving machine.

Now there's a new one. There has to be, because consumerism demands new things. And it has to be better than the old one, otherwise it is doomed. It follows that in the Focus's case, the improvements will be in convenience, comfort, aesthetics, greenness, techno-compatibility with the modern world. The driving part was fine already.

You see the result here. The new Focus's frontal design, all triangles and trapezia, might look overly cluttered to some eyes, as might the styling lines embossed into the complicated-looking dashboard, but more than ever before this Focus has been created as a car for all world markets supplied by worldwide factories.

In your Ford dealer's showroom, it's the hi-tech features that will give the sales staff their ammunition in these gadget-obsessed times. Personally I wouldn't want any of them apart from the clever Torque Vectoring System that gently brakes the inside front wheel during vigorous cornering, ensuring that the wheel doesn't spin, that all power reaches the road and that the front wheels don't drift wide.

However, the options (the range starts at £15,995) include a system designed to apply the brakes automatically if you're about to bump into the car in front in slow traffic, devices to warn you if you're drifting out of your lane and ultimately to steer you back in, a cruise control able to maintain an optimum distance to the car in front, automatic traffic sign and speed limit recognition, a device to tell you if you're falling asleep, automatic steering into parking spaces, and finally automatic main beam for the headlights. Phew.

Much more important than any of this is how the Focus feels to drive. The signs are promising: it's a Focus, the new car's structure is rather stiffer but no heavier, one of the engines is Ford's impressive 1.6-litre Ecoboost turbo unit (others include the usual non-turbo 1.6 and a pair of turbodiesels, a 115bhp 1.6 and 2.0 with either 140 or 163bhp), and great attention has been paid to reducing road and wind noise. It also has electric power steering (EPS), which makes the parking and lane-keeping devices possible. EPS is hard to get right, too often feeling glutinous and anaesthetised. However, the Focus system is very good, sufficiently natural-feeling not to get in the way of the driving flow and pleasure expected in a Focus.

The mojo has not been lost: this new Focus feels as taut and alert as ever, steering crisply and enacting its driver's commands exactly. You feel properly connected to the road, yet the suspension smothers bumps more quietly and effectively than before. And that frugal, petrol-fuelled Ecoboost engine, rated at 150bhp for the UK market, pulls with the energy of a good turbodiesel from low speeds yet soars through the gears like the sporting unit it is.

I thought, even before I drove it, that the new Focus would probably keep the breed's position at the top of the pile. It seems that I was right.

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