The problem with success is that it creates an expectation. Whether it's an author looking to repeat the storming sales of a bestselling debut novel or a rock group recording that tricky second album, prolonging success is just as hard as winning it in the first place. Just ask Ford. This improved third generation Focus model, launched in 2015, served as a case study in clinging onto hard-won gains.
To understand its significance, we'll need to press the rewind button for a moment and shuttle back to 1997. Ford's family hatch contender during this period was the fifth generation Escort, a car so all-encompassingly woeful that the brand was almost embarrassed to sell it. When the time came for a replacement, we all expected something better. What we got in the Focus model first launched in 1998 was something much, much more than that, a car that, at a stroke, offered arguably the biggest step forward in family car design the market has ever seen. Here at last was technology directed firmly at the man in the street who, in this apparently humble family hatchback, could experience a car more entertaining and rewarding to drive than almost anything this side of a sizeable lottery win.
It was asking a lot for the MK2 model we saw in 2005 to repeat such a seismic step forward but that second generation Focus was still quite good enough to remain acclaimed as the driver's choice against rival Astras and Golfs that made up for their dynamic failings with a better ride and a more luxurious big car feel. These were attributes the Focus needed too and when it came to developing the MK3 version, first launched early in 2011, Ford tried to provide them without compromising the car's class-leading handling. Here was a design with plenty to live up to, the brand's first truly global model, offered for sale in over 120 countries and aiming to offer family hatchback buyers the last word in comfort, convenience, eco-friendliness and hi-tech compatibility with the modern world.
Lofty ideals that looked credibly realised back in 2011. By 2014 though, the market landscape in the closely-fought family hatchback sector looked somewhat different, the intervening years having seen the launch of impressive new competitors like new generation versions of Peugeot's 308, SEAT's Leon and, most significantly, the Volkswagen Golf. In comparison, the Focus was starting to age a little. Hence the need for the far-reaching package of late-2014 updates that brought us the much improved third generation version of this Ford that we're going to look at here. It was cheaper to run, safer to drive and smarter both to look at and to sit in. It did, in short, promise the kind of significant step forward that was absolutely necessary in retaining Ford's UKs sales leadership in this segment. This car sold until the early Summer of 2018, when it was replaced by an all-new fourth generation model.