A Sports hatch manual starts at $26,490 and adds a firmer suspension tune with 17-inch alloys, folding side mirrors, side skirts and a rear spoiler, dual-zone aircon, push-button start, auto headlamps and wipers and digital audio.Active safety is the preserve of the top-spec Titanium model at $32,690 in auto-only guise. DRIVINGDynamics have never been a problem for the Focus, with the small car more than capable of mixing runabout duties with a quick trip down a back road. Ford has dropped the entry Ambiente model meaning the new range now starts at $23,390, or about $3000 more than a base Mazda3 or Hyundai i30.The new Focus adds improved interior styling and driving aids to its substantial on-road talents but the pricing means it won't be unseating the reigning heavyweights of the small car class. The reversing camera is supplemented by rear parking sensors and there's cruise control to help avoid inadvertent contributions to the government's coffers.The Trend rolls on 16-inch alloys and there's a full-size steel spare in the boot, though the larger-rimmed Sport and Titanium models make do with a space-saver. This model has improved that agility, though with a corresponding small dip in comfort.Powering over some serious road undulations proves the latest Focus is now a well-planted vehicle.

The interior updates bring it back on par with rivals in this class and the already good driving behaviour is better again.
And Ford needs the Focus to be a star — sales are down more than 50 per cent to date this year and it is being outsold five to one by the newer Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.CarsGuide has long praised the Focus for its ride and handling and this version improves on that experience with stiffer suspension and sharper steering. More mundane additions run to 18-inch alloy wheels, front parking sensors and sports seats with leather highlights.Dynamics have never been a problem for the FocusTwo sedans will be sold in Trend and Titanium specification and the auto-only duo are the same price as their hatch siblings. Traffic-pace obstacles, be they road joins or potholes, now have slightly more impact in the cabin. Those bits we didn't like — the cluttered infotainment switchgear dominating the centre stack — have been replaced by an eight-inch touchscreen and the cabin look is more consistent.

It's a trade-off I'd happily make — and isn't as evident in the Sport as it is in the lower-profiled Titanium.The steering has likewise been revised to be more responsive just off centre, making it quicker to turn in once the wheel has been tugged, but then more progressive to load up as the wheel is turned. Carry-over bugbears such as the lack of legroom and ventilation for back-seat passengers and the large turning circle aren't as easily fixed.The Trend is the entree to the Focus range and starts at $23,390 for the five-door hatch with a six-speed manual transmission. The six-speed auto is priced to please at just $1000 more but all paint colours other than white are considered "prestige" hues and attract a $450 whack.

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