... right from its release date in August.
At launch the critics raved about its Golf-equalling driving dynamics, while the exterior styling presented a car for the modern age with sharp styling.
Our analysis over two days of rigorous COTY testing in a variety of conditions proved those original assumptions spot-on. In fact, the chassis, steering and suspension are better than the all-round compound tyres fitted as standard. It is a spirited drive, yet with sensible ride for the urban streets and occasional spotty B roads outside the city limits.
Ford must be taking a bit of a hit on this one until it can get the car built a bit cheaper in Thailand next year because it is absolutely packed with hi-tech features, but costs no more than the previous model. The techno-geeks will love the self-parking feature, voice-activated controls and Bluetooth streaming.
However, one of the persistent criticisms of our judges was the busy and confusing interior. The steering wheel, in particular, would freak out a Qantas pilot. Not only are the controls busy and confusing, but the design is fussy and outdated. It's like living inside an '80s ghetto blaster.
Seats are accommodating and supportive and there is genuine room in the back bench for three well-fed motoring journalists. Boot space is also ample and there is a full-size spare under the floor carpet.
While the judges loved the spirited drive, they criticised the dual-clutch 'Powershift' automatic transmission's toggle switch. It is used for manually selecting gears in sport mode. But most found it too awkward to use and just gave up.
Still, the transmission worked quite well in sport mode around the track, although some judges found the changes occasionally clunky and hesitant on steep grades. It worked best in normal "Drive" mode.
Dusty roads revealed a flaw in the fuel filler area where there is a clever no-cap filler neck. It means you don't have to touch a petrol cap and get your hands smelly. However, the filler flap is not properly sealed and we were concerned that the dust that leaked in could also get into the fuel tank when you insert the fuel nozzle.
Safety is guaranteed with a five-star rating and six airbags, stability control, hill start assist, and anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution to compensate for uneven loads and brake assist for panic stops.
Of the small hatchbacks in this crop, it had the most power, yet also returned the best economy figures.
One of the outstanding cars of the year, compromised by over-fussy interior styling and a few quirks that are easily fixed when it comes time for a mid-term update.
Ford Focus 2.0 Trend hatch
Price: $26,790 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol, 125kW/202Nm
Transmission: 6-speed Powershift DSG, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 6.6L/100km; 154g/km.