2000: Ford Focus
“Ford designers have scrapped all the old paradigms about what small cars ought to be. In simple, but highly misleading, terms the Focus replaces the bestselling Escort in Ford’s worldwide lineup. Some mechanical elements are carried over, but there is far more interior space in the Focus, its handling and roadholding are vastly better, and its extreme styling, like it or not, moves well beyond the agreeable banality that characterized small Fords for decades. In fact, it outpoints its next-in-line siblings, the Mondeo/Contour/Mystque “world car,” to the extent that it virtually eliminates them, too. For our market, only V-6 Contours remain, the four-cylinder models being replaced by the Focus.
“If Focus styling is at once interesting and controversial, there is no argument about the car’s dynamics. This is where the Focus really pulls away from the competition. Not by much, you understand; it’s not a world away, as the Mini was forty years ago. We thought the Honda Civic in our test group was a pretty good drive, too, just not as good as the Ford. A huge team worked on the car, of course, but the main impetus for its on-road superiority came from two ostensibly very different men from radically different backgrounds: a California hot rodder and a German university professor. Bear in mind, though, that both are engineers with advanced degrees.
“The harmony the team developed into the Focus is clearly there: Our own evaluation team was in harmonious agreement that the goals set for the Focus were not just met, they were surpassed. By a very long way.”