[UPDATE: New photos from displays at Bangkok Motor Show added, and further notes expanded in the story.]

Ford is set to unveil its third-generation Focus for the ASEAN market later this morning at the 33rd Bangkok International Motor Show, and the C-segment offering will arrive in both sedan and five-door hatch forms when it makes its market debut in mid-year.

Ahead of its debut, the C346 Focus was previewed to the media yesterday in downtown Bangkok, with an Ingot Silver version of the sedan being showcased – the car looks good in the metal and has significant presence, to say the least.

From a design perspective, it looks cleaner and better integrated than the outgoing C307’s four-door form, from nose to tail. The tail end especially – shaped by Australian designer Todd Willing – hangs together more organically.

The car will go on sale in the region’s markets with two engine choices, and while there are no EcoBoost mills in sight just yet, the new normally-aspirated Duratec 2.0 litre Ti-VCT GDi engine should hold the line quite ably, Ford believes.

For starters, it’s not a slouch in terms of output – the lump offers almost 20% more power than the outgoing Focus’ 2.0 litre Duratec, with 170 PS and 200 Nm of torque for figures. It’ll be partnered to a six-speed, dual dry-clutch PowerShift transmission, replete with paddle shifters.

The second powertrain is the Duratec 1.6-litre Ti-VCT engine, no stranger to Fiesta owners, which serves up 125 PS and 159 Nm, matched with either the six-speed Ford PowerShift transmission or a five-speed iB5 manual gearbox. Malaysia is set to get only the 2.0 variant form, according to the SDAC people we spoke to at the launch.

Two trim levels abound for the new car, these being a high-series Titanium+ as well as a Sport+ variant – among the more notable distinguishing features between both the lines is the inclusion of a Safety Pack in the higher-specification model.

Plenty of features to be found in this one, starting with the Active Grille Shutter system – this one uses vents to automatically control airflow through the grille to the cooling system and engine, to significantly reduce drag and help reduce the car’s wind noise at speed, while contributing to improved fuel efficiency.

Elsewhere, the list also includes Active Park Assist, which offers totally hands-free parallel parking capability, an Active City Stop collision-mitigation system as well as Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which Volvo owners will find quite familiar.

There’s also Smart Keyless Entry, which locks or unlocks the door when the driver grabs the door handle, and push button start ignition, and Ford is also playing up the car’s SYNC connectivity package, which provides hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity. From voice calls and reading and replying SMS to music playback, it’s all here with this one.

You can access music via voice command, with search command functions for artist, album, track or genre. As for SMS, a message can be read out in voice to you, and you can select an appropriate quick reply from a toggle list of determined responses, or simply call the sender back via phone. There’s even conference call ability on this one, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The system is a progression of that found in the Fiesta’s (it’s not based on the same architecture), and a short sampling of its workings through a static display dashboard at the preview shows it to be a significant jump – it’s inherently smoother in operation, and the interface’s logic is superior.

For one, the phonebook access now reads names as is from the phone, at least from the Google Nexus One’s directory – the Fiesta system lists last names first, so John Doe becomes Doe John; the Focus interface stacks it right.

The kit list also includes dual-zone electronic air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, cruise control, powered sunroof and an auto-dimming rear view mirror, among other things.

Passive safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, side front airbags and segment-exclusive side curtain airbags for front- and rear-seat occupants. Meanwhile, the Electronic Stability Program incorporates Emergency Brake Assist, Hill Launch Assist and Anti-Lock Brake System, which includes Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.

In terms of ride and handling, NVH levels have been reduced and driving dynamics improved by the increased stiffness of the body structure, which is 30% more rigid than the C307. And the car will also feature Torque Vectoring Control fitted as standard equipment.

The system behaves like a limited-slip differential to constantly balance distribution of torque between the driven front wheels, which results in reduced understeer, improved traction and better turn-in. The company pointed out that in terms of agility, precision and – most noticeably – comfort, the new car strips the C307.

The Focus is set to begin scale production at the company’s new US$450 million manufacturing facility in Rayong in mid year, and the production will supply nine markets, in the ASEAN region as well as other countries. As for Malaysia, expect the car to arrive in the third-quarter, around September.