Ford Focus

Third generation Focus turns on the sophistication in the Californian sun. Thankfully, it's still a great steer. By Wayne Batty

Focus, meet Frank. Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall portrays his fine understanding of curved sheet metal. New Ford's panels not overawed

JUST A FEW miles are all it takes to convince me that the hills north of Los Angeles in California are a great place to launch a car. The temperature's a balmy middle-of-winter 2ideg and the recently resurfaced roads are billiard table smooth, traffic free and reasonably challenging in topography - a million miles from L A's famously gridlocked concrete washboard highways.

The funny thing is, the all-new Ford Focus we're driving here in the US is the replacement for a top-selling European car. Consumers in the States weren'teven exposed to the acclaimed second-generation Focus, having to suffice with a frankly nauseating US-only reskin of the original C W170 platform one instead. They can thank Alan Mulally's cost-cutting One Ford strategy for the about face on so-called global cars. This new Focus will soon be on sale in 120 markets 011 five continents, with tweaked engine line-ups and spec levels the only differentiators. American blue oval fans either willing or forced to downsize to 'compacts' are in for a treat because Ford's new C-segment globalite is stylish, sophisticated, dynamically adept and reasonably roomy too.

We're bussed to a parking lot near the beach, where about 30 gleaming Focii await. Away from the internet and the show stand glare, it's a handsome car that's more than mere bloated Fiesta. From certain angles, the bulging headlights can jar, but the split front trapezoidal grille is its most distinctive feature, even if the two outer sections serve no other function than to give Bauhaus the stylistic finger.

Only one engine, a direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol with twin variable cam timing, in manual and auto, is on offer today. We gun for a cherry red four-door in top Titanium trim, complete with satnav and Ford's SelectShift dual clutch transmission and head for the hills.

First impressions of the new cabin - a weak»

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