You’ll be glad to know that right off the back, the Focus is just as good to drive as ever in this latest model, but there is a caveat or two to consider. Underpinning the all-new Focus is an all-new ‘C2’ chassis, which is lower, wider and stiffer than the one it replaces. Overall rigidity is increased by 20 per cent, while the suspension mounting points are an impressive 50 per cent stiffer.
The suspension layout is similar to before, combining MacPherson struts on the front axle with a multi-link set-up on the rear. Adaptive dampers are also available, but we found the difference between normal and sport modes is subtle to say the least, and probably aren’t worth the extra outlay. On the standard passive dampers, the Focus treads a good balance between overall ride comfort and body control. Neither is particularly pronounced, but seems to find harmony with the Focus’s control weights in the steering and clutch, helping the Focus feel congruous and together. ST-Line models also pick up a firmer set-up, sitting 10mm lower than other models. The ride is still very good, however, and is our preference.
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Here lies the first caveat, though, as like no Focus before, the multi-link rear suspension system is not standard across the range, as some entry-level models with lower-powered engines make do with the torsion beam rear suspension set-up borrowed from the smaller Fiesta. Although it’s not an inherently bad set-up, cars on the basic suspension have the same issues as most cars on a torsion beam, namely a bouncier, less sophisticated ride quality and reduction of body control at higher speeds.
Start to lean on the chassis and there is an inherent softness to the suspension, too, but the chassis underneath remains completely in its element, feeling like there is plenty of travel in the suspension, with little you can do to push it out of its comfort zone. This type of limit handling might not be what the average Focus owner will explore, but for the rest of us is excellent news.
The steering is also well weighted, natural feeling and articulates the front end just enough to give you a sense of how much grip the front end has to give, and while not quite as sharp as the previous Focus, it is still better than most rivals. The estate version is nigh on identical to the hatch, perhaps feeling a passenger or so heavier when really pushed. The Estate’s compact multi-link set-up is slightly different to the hatch, liberating more boot space, but also has little overall effect on the handling unless you’re really pushing it, in which case the rear axle feels a little more wayward and remote.