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The all-new Ford Focus is here and that's seriously bad news for its rivals.
Remember 1998? You know, the year England were knocked out of the World Cup on penalties. Again.
More specifically, it was the year we first laid eyes on the Ford Focus, a car so far ahead of the field, it swept all before it.
Well, 20 years on and we could be witnessing another game-changing Focus.
If this is the case, it will be all the more impressive, given the standard of opposition it faces these days. Thankfully, the essential dynamic DNA that made the original and all subsequent Focus models so engaging to drive hasn't just been preserved; it has been substantially improved upon.
So much so that even the lower-powered models that are fitted with rather basic suspension components deliver sweet steering and pin-sharp handling.
As impressive as the all-new Focus's handling is, it's the comfort and overall refinement that really wow.
While the combination of relatively high-walled tyres and beautifully judged springs and dampers ensures the ride quality remains dreamlike on all but the most battered surfaces, road and wind-noise decibels are notable by their near absence.
Ford's latest 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine also communicates in impressively hushed tones.
Although it's not entirely perfect, as it suffers from a wee bit of lag when moving off the mark and lacks a smidgen of mid-range overtaking grunt, in terms of refinement, it's pretty much unrivalled.
Because it produces so little vibration and such trifling amounts of top-end combustion rattle, we can imagine a scenario where the first time you pull into a fuel station, you'll need to double-check the fuel-cap sticker, just to ensure you've not been sent a petrol car by mistake.
Clearly, Ford's new engine is infinitely superior to the 1.6-litre diesel found in many Volkswagen Group products, and it's also considerably lighter on fuel and CO2, with a combined economy figure of 78.5mpg and emissions of 94g/km.
Ford is also introducing a new 1.5 three-cylinder petrol engine to the Focus, which is effectively a detuned version of the engine that powers the hot-shot Fiesta ST.
Although it's quite a bit smoother and quieter than the entry model 1.0-litre engines and delivers a fair bit more clout, it is a wee bit disappointing, as it never feels quite as potent as its claimed 182hp output would suggest.
While the standard six-speed manual ghosts through the ratios with typical Ford precision, those more inclined to two pedal motors can specify an all-new eight-speed auto.
This gearbox is controlled by a Jaguar-like rotary selector, but the best bit is, it offers infinitely smoother shifts and is much easier to modulate at parking speeds than previous Focus autos.
You'll be able to buy the Focus either as a five-door hatchback or as a more versatile estate car.
Either way, you won't feel short-changed by the amount of interior space.
The exterior dimensions are almost identical to the outgoing car but the distance between the axles has been stretched to eke out more cabin room, especially for those in the rear.
As a result, there's plenty of space for four and on those occasions when you need to carry an extra passenger, a relatively shallow transmission tunnel means those riding in the rear middle seat won't feel like they're straddling a runner in the 3:30 at Newmarket.
As for boot space, the Focus is pretty much on par with the class norm - with the notable exception of the enormous Skoda Octavia - so along with split-folding rear seats, which lie completely flat, you'll have no problem coping with most things family life will throw your way.
When it comes to quality, although the new Focus still can't quite match a Volkswagen Golf, it is far ahead of its predecessor.
Most of the materials are soft to the touch and there are plenty of dashes of chrome along with convincing looking fake wood or carbon-fibre highlights to mix things up.
There are no less than seven trims to choose from. The range starts at £17,930 for the Style model, which is quite a bit cheaper than an entry model Golf but this is effectively a loss-leader because Zetec will remain the bestselling trim.
If you're a bit underwhelmed by the rather unambitious styling and a tad disappointed that the interior still lacks the perceived quality that makes a Volkswagen Golf so irresistible, then join the club.
However, if you can look past these slight drawbacks you won't regret it, because at the risk of sounding like a ponytailed marketing man, to drive a Focus is to absolutely love it.
Ford Focus 5dr 1.5 EcoBlue 120hp Titanium
On sale Now
Residual value 32.7%
Service, maintenance and repair £1,880
Cost per mile 50.5p
Fuel consumption 78.5mpg
CO2 (BIK band)94g/km (23%)
BIK 20/40% a month £86/£171
Boot space375 litres
Engine size/power 1,500cc/120hp
Superb refinement, excellent diesel engine, wonderful ride and handling.