Hatch­back mega-test Ford Fo­cus vs £22k ri­vals

An or­di­nary car with ex­tra­or­di­nary driver ap­peal, can the Ford Fo­cus re­claim its stran­gle­hold on the fam­ily hatch­back mar­ket? Matt Saun­ders pits the new one against eight ri­vals eager to thwart it

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - PHOTOGR APHY STU­ART PRICE

Ten years. That’s how long it’s been since the Ford Fo­cus was Bri­tain’s biggest­selling car over a full cal­en­dar year. That, to me at least, seems like ‘blink and you’ll miss a decade’ ter­ri­tory.

It seems like just a mo­ment ago that Ford so mem­o­rably im­posed such a re­as­sur­ing state of or­der on the UK car mar­ket, at least to road testers like me – one that lasted a full decade. The Blue Oval cre­ated a fam­ily hatch­back that was a much bet­ter drive than any­thing else like it: the orig­i­nal 1998 Fo­cus. Bri­tain had some of the best roads in Europe on which to demon­strate its qual­i­ties. And, sure enough, Bri­tons re­sponded. The Fo­cus be­came this coun­try’s big­gest-sell­ing car.

And still, even though for ev­ery cal­en­dar year since 2008 the car has been beaten by its lit­tle brother the Fi­esta (and in­creas­ingly by one or two other big-hit­ters) in the UK’S an­nual reg­is­tra­tion charts, the launch of a new-gen­er­a­tion Fo­cus – this the fourth of them – feels like a big oc­ca­sion.

So we’ve con­vened a wel­com­ing com­mit­tee: not quite ev­ery fam­ily hatch­back in the class – just the ones from well-known vol­ume brands that we be­lieve could give it some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion. We’ve left out the ‘com­pact pre­mium’ play­ers, on the ba­sis that do­ing so ought to make for a sim­pler, closer and more in­ter­est­ing con­test. But among the cars we have in­cluded is the re­cently in­tro­duced Kia Ceed, fresh from an en­cour­ag­ing en­dorse­ment in the Au­to­car road test, al­beit in diesel-en­gined form.

When gath­ered around a com­mon £22,000 price point, then, and pro­pelled by sim­i­larly pow­er­ful petrol en­gines, which is 2018’s best new fam­ily hatch­back?

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