There are a few cars that one would look forward to getting into in order to experience something because it has a certain reputation surrounding it. You have the BMW 3-Series with the expectations of its fantastic 50:50 weight balance, or the Mercedes Benz S-Class because it is seen as the pinnacle of comfort at under a million ringgit. The Ford Focus is one of those cars that you approach with anticipation.

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The original Ford Focus had fantastic handling thanks to its Control Blade rear suspension. Its independent rear suspension offers a rare mix of passenger comfort and a lively drivers experience, something most cars could not do at that time.

Naturally you would expect the Mk2 Focus introduced in 2004 to carry on its predecessors values. The new Ford Focus is based on Fords Global C1 platform which is also used by the Volvo S40/V50/C30/C70, the Mazda3, and Focus C-MAX. The legendary suspension design has been carried over pretty much unchanged from the first generation Focus, and the body shell is stiffer by 10%.

The end result is a fantastic drive, though I do not really have the Focus Mk1 to compare to not having driven it before. The mixture of both comfort and sportiness that Ford achieved is really something to talk about. It feels very different from a Mazda3 as although that is a capable car it just does not inspire you with enough confidence to attack the corners like the Focus as the Mazda3 steering is rather dead. It makes a world of difference when it comes to the driving experience.

Like most modern inline-4 engines with variable valve timing, the 2.0 litre Duratec DOHC 16 valve engine offers some decent punch at low RPMs for you to inch your way through slow traffic. It produces 107kW of power at 6000rpm and 185Nm of torque at 4500rpm. Its no scorching straight line performer, but the 4-speed gearbox is one of them smart ones that keeps the revs up when you are driving aggressively – there is no irritating upshift on the slightest throttle lift-off that causes you to have to downshift again to keep up the pace later.

While its competitors have moved on to funkier interiors with self-illuminating meter faces, the Focus retains a utilitarian dash design with rather traditional green backlit meter faces and oval-shaped air conditioning vents which seem to mimic the outline of the Ford badge. Nevertheless, interior plastic quality was best in class, similar to the really soft plastics that flexed when you pushed into them. This was the stuff you got in cars 10 years ago. It was really quite surprising really, as I had thought no modern car save for the luxury sedans would use this type of soft touch material anymore.

The Focus has decent specs. It is the only car in the C-Segment with rear air conditioning vents, and all four power window buttons have auto up and auto down functions. As you would expect with the way the rear of the car slopes, the car has a rather big boot, something we are not really used to seeing in a hatchback. The side window flip feature is rather interesting, rather than the mirrors being fully open or fully closed, you can actually control how much they turn in and out gradually. So you can actually hold down the button until the mirror is flipped in half way and leave it in that position. I think this would be useful in situations where you need the variable view for parking.

If you dont need the larger interior space that its competitors offer, the Ford Focus is a rather decent buy for those who value driving dynamics in their daily ride. Other than the fact that it’s competitors have grown in size, it’s really hard to find much to complain about in the Ford Focus. Plus Ford is now offering a 5-year free service promotion for the Focus and Escape as part of a Merdeka promotion, so no worries for the next 5 years. But the promotion ends on the 31st of August 2007, so it’s kind of a last minute thing now.