What stands out?

The Ford Focus became the most powerful mainstream small car in history in October 2015, when even the least costly models gained turbocharged engines. Every Focus also steers very well, and comes with a reversing camera and satellite navigation. The Focus ST and RS sports hatches are absorbing and very quick. Auto braking is available.

What might bug me?

Using the fiddly shift-buttons on automatic versions – although paddle shifters are available as an option.

If you have chosen a Focus Sport, Titanium or ST, driving at 80km/h on the space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

If you choose a Focus RS Limited, wishing you had a space-saver spare wheel. The RS has only a tyre repair kit, and so a puncture means making that work or walking.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatch and four-door sedan.

Every Focus but one drives its front wheels. The Focus RS Limited drives all four wheels.

The Focus is classed as a small car, lower priced.

What features do all 2015-2018 Focuses have?

Cruise control, with a speed-limit function (which allows you to set an upper limit that avoids speeding fines). A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.

A leather-wrapped steering wheel that is adjustable for height and reach, which carries buttons for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

An 8.0-inch colour central screen. Satellite-navigation, with voice activation (that actually works).

A sound system with an AM/FM radio, CD player, USB and iPod inputs, Bluetooth connectivity and at least six speakers.

Voice controlled phone calls and music selection, via Ford’s excellent SYNC3 infotainment system. Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow you to display some smartphone apps on the touchscreen and control them from there.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which look nicer than steel wheels with plastic covers and usually are lighter (and hold the road better).

Hill launch assist, which controls the brakes automatically to help you start from rest on a slope.

Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.

On all but the Focus RS Limited, six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and side-curtain airbags that protect heads front and rear from side impacts – the Focus RS has only four airbags: frontal, and full-length side-curtain.

Autonomous emergency braking is available on every Focus except the very high performance Focus RS. Usually it comes in an extra-cost Technology Pack that adds other active safety aids also, and active cruise control. (For more on Focus safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Focus is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The turbocharged, 1.5-litre four-cylinder that powers the Focus Trend, Sport and Titanium models uses least petrol, consuming as little as 5.8 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).That’s with a manual gearbox – autos use slightly more.

In the real world, you can expect it to use quite a bit more than that, depending on how hard you drive it. The 3000km average for a manual Focus Sport on the long-term test fleet of Wheels magazine was 8.0 litres/100km. However, the figure for an auto Focus Trend driven in Wheels comparison testing was 10.5 litres/100km – making it the most thirsty of the 12 hatchbacks reviewed for the January 2017 issue. (The Trend was also among the quickest of them.)

This turbocharged engine arrived with the model update of October 2015. It’s smaller than the non-turbo engines it replaced, but it feels more powerful - and it is.

Two other engines are available in a Focus, both bigger and much more powerful again. They are restricted to the very sporty Focus ST and RS hatchbacks.

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol that drives the Focus ST produces about half again as much thrust as the 1.5 engine in the less costly cars, and uses about 25 per cent more fuel.

The 2.3-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol in the all-wheel drive Focus RS supplies you with roughly twice as much go as the 1.5 engine, while using about 40 per cent more fuel on the official test – and you have to run it on premium petrol.

All three Focus engines have stop-start systems that cut fuel use in the city. They switch off the engine when you come to a halt, and restart it when you press the accelerator to drive away.

Focus Trend and Sport models come with six-speed manual or (optionally) six-speed automatic gearboxes. The auto is now a conventional design that moves off fluidly from rest, shifts smoothly and makes city driving easy. The Focus Titanium is available only as an auto.

The Focus ST and RS Limited come only with six-speed manual gearboxes. Both are driver-focused performance models.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least expensive Focus is the Trend, which rolls on 16-inch wheels and has cloth seat trim.

Spend more for the Focus Sport and you get bigger and arguably more stylish 17-inch wheels, and firmer suspension for more stable handling. The Sport also has dual-zone climate control (which allows the driver and front passenger to choose different cabin temperatures), and a better sound system that receives digital radio. Headlamps switch on automatically when it’s getting dark, and the windscreen wipers also operate without you thinking about them. A smart key allows you to unlock and start the car without removing the key from your pocket or bag.

Spend more again on a Titanium and the wheels grow to 18 inches, and are fitted with significantly wider tyres of a lower profile, adding grip and sharpening steering response. The driver’s seat is power-adjustable, and all seats are trimmed partly in leather. You get front parking sensors, and a semi-automated parking system. And the Titanium comes with some of the active safety features that are optional on other cars: city-speed auto braking (Active City Stop), blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The sporty Focus ST loses some Titanium features – notably powered seat adjustment, leather, and auto braking – but comes with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, still grippier tyres, and firmer suspension again for more stable handling. Its front seats are made by Recaro, a specialist known for body-hugging racing seats. Headlamps are brighter, using HID bulbs, and swivel to illuminate corners.

The most expensive Focus is the very high performance Focus RS Limited, and the main things your money gets you over the Focus ST are all-wheel drive and even more grunt – from the 2.3-litre engine. On the chassis side there are also 19-inch wheels, driver-adjustable suspension and limited slip differential. Aside from distinguishing cosmetics, sweeteners include some leather on the Recaro front seats.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Only Focus Trends have a full-size spare wheel. Upgrade to a Sport, Titanium or ST and you get a narrower space-saver spare, with a recommended speed limit when fitted of 80km/h. Go for the high-performance, all-wheel drive Focus RS and you get no spare at all.

The lower profile tyres on cars with the bigger wheels ride more roughly than those on the smaller-wheeled variants, because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road. This is particularly noticeable on the 18-inch and 19-inch wheels.

Further reducing comfort is the firmer suspension on Focus Sport and Titanium models, and firmer again on the ST and – more so – the RS Limited.

The RS Limited is the most expensive Focus but it does not offer the auto braking that is standard on the Titanium, nor the active cruise control that is optional on every other Focus.

How comfortable is the Ford Focus?

The interior of the Focus is neat, with fewer buttons than its predecessor, an 8.0-inch high-resolution screen in all models, and SYNC3 connectivity. A great feature is the easy and effective voice control of the sat-nav.

The driving position is comfortable, with height and reach wheel adjustment, and vision out is good all round. A range of functions can be controlled from the steering wheel.

Two cupholders ahead of the covered centre console provide space for odds and ends in the Focus, as does a smaller binnacle alongside the driver’s left knee.

Seats on the Trends are flat but comfortable. Sports and Titaniums get seats with better side support, which improves long-distance comfort.

The Recaro seats on the ST and RS have large side bolsters, to hold you in place around corners. Such seats can be uncomfortable for some people, but these examples fit a broad spectrum of body sizes.

Around town, the Trend, Sport and Titanium are easy cars to drive, with light but responsive steering, an agile feel, and quiet, powerful engines. At freeway speeds, there is some roaring from the tyres.

Trend versions deliver the most supple ride. Among popular small cars, the ride in Sport and Titanium models is on the firm side of typical.

The sporty ST feels very stiff, and can jar you over small bumps.

The RS Limited is stiffer again. As reviewer David Morley observed of the original RS in the December 2016 issue of Motor magazine, over rough stuff the RS “feels like a prizefighter just before the bell for round one, bobbing up and down on the balls of its feet … And like a boxer, it seems pretty keen to beat you to a pulp if you don’t dodge the lumpy, knuckly bits.”

What about safety in a Ford Focus?

Six airbags, stability control, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors, provide a solid safety platform for every Focus. And on all but the very high performance Focus RS, you can add crash-avoidance features via an optional Technology Pack.

The Focus Titanium comes as standard with three driver aids from that pack, including arguably the chief of them: autonomous emergency braking, which Ford calls Active City Stop.

Active City Stop is a laser-based system that works at speeds up to 50km/h. It seeks to detect obstacles in your path – such as a car ahead that has slowed suddenly - and will stop or dramatically slow you, automatically, if it concludes a collision is imminent. (Auto braking is favoured by road-safety authorities and insurance companies, as it reduces the cost of slow-speed collisions.)

The Titanium also chimes and flashes a light to let you know when there is a vehicle alongside and behind, in a blind spot. And its rear cross-traffic alert helps you avoid driveway and carpark bingles, acting when you are reversing to warn of other vehicles crossing behind you.

When ordered as an option for other Focuses, the Technology Pack brings these three features and four others: Adaptive cruise control (which will maintain a safe distance from a slower car ahead); lane keeping assistance (which vibrates the steering wheel and applies a gentle correction if you are drifting into an adjacent lane without indicating); a driver impairment monitor (which checks you for sleepiness); and auto-dipping headlights.

On the Titanium, the Technology pack brings the remaining features. On the Focus ST, it does not bring Adaptive cruise control.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Focus its maximum five-star safety rating in June 2015. The rating applies to all versions except the Focus RS, which has not been rated.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Very likely you will. The Focus has a well-deserved reputation as a car that delights in the corners. Steering is accurate and communicative, and the body settles confidently after bumps.

Grip levels on the Sport, Titanium and ST models are high. That is helped by their suspension, which reduces leaning in bends compared with the softer Trend.

The 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine feels a tad coarse when you give it a prod, with a subtle induction rasp contributing to a note that’s more gruff than buff. Teamed with the new automatic, which can’t quite keep up with throttle inputs, it is not a rousing drivetrain but it delivers the goods.

A six-speed manual transmission is available, with a light, direct and smooth shift-action that makes a manual Focus more involving to drive than an auto.

The Focus ST is a genuine hot hatch, and very rewarding. It feels quick in all situations, with a big spread of power and a silky willingness to rev. The ST is limited mainly by its ability to apply all its power to the road through its front tyres. Clever electronics – fitted to all Focuses – help here in corners by directing more power to the tyre with more load.

The absence of an auto gearbox option on the ST is partially offset by the immense urge of its 2.0-litre turbo engine, which means that in highway use you rarely have to change gears.

The Focus RS Limited is significantly quicker again, with an engine that feels slightly grainy as you rev it. Its all-wheel drive chassis is tuned to oversteer at the limit. While it is an unusually entertaining drive when you’re playing, the uncompromising ride sometimes takes the edge off your fun when you’re cruising.

How is life in the rear seats?

Rear seats in the Focus are quite flat but still comfortable, even if you want to squeeze three across the rear.

For adults, the three adjustable head rests will need to be raised, to prevent them digging into upper backs.

Head room is marginal for tall adults, and there are no rear air-conditioning vents.

The rear wheel arch hinders entry slightly, but once inside leg room is good for the rear of a small car.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Rear seats that split-fold 60/40 help with loading bulky items, and they can create a completely flat floor – on both the sedan and the hatch – if you flip the seat bases up first.

The hatch is the better suited body style for carrying bikes or large boxes with the seats folded.

However, with all seats in place the sedan’s boot is bigger: 421 litres versus 316 for the hatch.

Where did Ford make this model Focus?

Ford makes the Focus ST and RS in Germany. All other Focuses are produced in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Seatbelt reminders for the rear seats (the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza have these, for example).

Perhaps the all-weather security of all-wheel drive – without having to cough up for a Focus RS to get it. The Subaru Impreza has this, for example.

Auto braking that works at higher speeds. The system standard on a Mazda3 operates at up to 80km/h, for example.

Other small cars you might consider include the Volkswagen Golf, Holden Astra, Peugeot 308, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30 and Elantra, and Kia Cerato.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The Focus ST is a very entertaining car if you want something that sporty.

Among the less costly cars it is the Focus Sport that makes the best case. It gets a sportier look and has arguably the best balance of ride and handling, making it both liveable and entertaining on a daily basis. Throw in features such as the smart key entry, push-button start and leather-wrapped steering wheel and it justifies the price premium.

Are there plans to update the Focus soon?

This generation Focus went on sale in 2011 and received a minor update in 2014. A bigger update began in May 2015 with the revised Focus ST. The remaining Focus models were refreshed in October 2015, gaining a restyled front end, a less cluttered interior, a conventional auto gearbox and the turbocharged engine among other enhancements.

The Ford Focus RS went into runout phase toward the end of 2017, with the RS Limited Edition being the only model available. It gained extras including a new limited slip differential and Michelin tyres on 19-inch alloy wheels as standard and is only available in Nitrous Blue. It is limited to 500 units, which once sold will signal the end of RS sales for the current generation Focus.

The new-generation Focus range is built in Germany and available in three spec grades; Trend, ST-Line and Titanium as well as an SUV-inspired Active wagon that is similarly equipped to the ST-Line.

The ST-Line is an new variant to Australia, and will have the sporty appearance you'd expect from a Focus ST hot hatch without the additional performance. The ST-Line is also the only spec grade offering a wagon version alongside the hatchback.