Ford’s medium-size hatchback continues to customarily appear in the top 5 of the UK’s best-selling cars each year while enjoying being regarded as the driver’s choice in the segment, but last year saw it finish three places below the VW Golf. Combined with compelling alternatives from Kia and SEAT, along with people’s understandable taste for something a bit more premium from the Teutonic trio, Ford simply had to up the Focus’ game considerably with the arrival of the new mk4 model.

Mk4 fourth generation Ford Focus hatchback in Chrome Blue, Titanium X trim and 17 Luster Nickel alloy wheels

Suffice to say, Ford’s designers have filled their boots and done a grand job of the new Focus’ styling, with the as-tested and range-topping Titanium X trim bridging the aesthetic divide nicely between the boggo variants and the ST-Line models that might be too in your face for some tastes. With its Fiesta-esque grille, a muscular bonnet and flanks, expensive-looking 17” alloys, elegant and contemporary new LED taillights, and ‘FOCUS’ printed proudly across the smart rear, Dagenham’s latest incarnation has finally got what it takes to lure a number of prospective 1 Series, A3, A-Class, Golf and Leon buyers away, at least in aesthetic terms. The new Focus Titanium X looks resolutely premium in Chrome Blue, especially when specified with the ‘Adaptive Front lighting System with Dynamic LED headlights and glare-free high beam’, which gives it some added pizzazz while boosting safety through visibility and clever tech’.

New Ford Focus 4th gen mk 2019 hatch Titanium X blue - review - lease - side

In a way that would make founder Henry smile, the new Focus’ interior is disappointingly only available in Ebony, which comes across as slightly sombre, but then sitting in an A3 is hardly a barrel of laughs and Ford has really notched up the plush feel with some classy materials, finishes and controls, attention to detail, and today’s must-have touchscreen that juts up out of the dashboard. True, a few plasticy bits can still be found, bizarrely including some main touch-points, but it’s a great effort overall, with various elements from the rotary dial for operating the headlights to the buttons on the steering wheel and around the gearstick looking and feeling like they’re from the drawer above – and this isn’t even a Vignale version.

Titanium X means part-leather seats that hug nicely in the corners, an evocative flat-bottom steering wheel, ambient lighting, and soft console knee pads to enhance the sense of wellbeing. The heated steering wheel specified on this test car’s options list was most welcome in January’s cold weather, the 10-speaker/675 Watt Bang & Olufsen sound system is well worth ticking, too, as is the wireless charging pad for smartphones, but the head-up display is a little chintzy with limited perceivable use while visually not being as impressive as a HUD displayed directly on the windscreen. The specified Convenience Pack came with a wide-view camera at the rear, active park assist, plus door edge protectors that slide out automatically – ideal for today’s urban jungle.

Interior dashboard and SYNC3 infotainment screen in new Ford Focus hatch for 2019

Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system operated via the 8-inch colour touchscreen makes Bluetooth pairing, sat nav-programming and other ‘essential’ operations a doddle, and the display itself looks crisp, the menus are intuitive, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported although clash with SYNC3 at times, and the ability to have your text messages read out while you’re driving is impressively useful.

Boot space in new 2019 Ford Focus hatch back

Passenger space inside the new Ford Focus hatchback has been improved in every sense, and its 373-litre boot is only a whisker smaller in capacity than an Astra, Golf or Leon, but is miles off the Civic and Octavia, which admittedly is a different kind of hatch. This figure is to the roof, leaving the Focus with 273 litres up to the parcel shelf, for cars with either the B&O subwoofer and mini spare wheel or just a full-size spare stashed under the boot’s floor.

New Ford Focus interior manual gear stick buttons damping

On the road, the 6-speed manual gearbox’s stick is ergonomically spot-on, notch-free and slick, while the ratios themselves are nicely-judged to make the spectrum of driving styles from tootling to hurtling an engaging process, and the Focus also comes with selectable drive modes as standard, flicking through Eco, Normal and Sport to suit. The 1-litre, three-cylinder, 125PS EcoBoost petrol engine is uncannily quiet around town, while full-on acceleration brings out the characterful warble synonymous with three-pot units. No, it’s no ST with any real fire in its belly, but Britain’s roads aren’t exactly renowned for copious opportunities to really drive fast or even fluidly.

As an all-round experience, the 125PS engine holds its head up high, although it does require determined revs to get up to speed in some situations and struggles with four or five people on board, meaning torquier diesel equivalents would better suit regular journeys with near enough the full complement of bums on seats.

Rear of the new Ford Focus for 2019, with LED lights and large lettering

The new Focus’ suspension in lowered Titanium X guise is firm but reassuringly so and still manages to serve up a compliant ride across the usual urban detritus like speed-bumps and potholes, while translating into impressively sharp cornering ability that once again reinforces the moniker’s reputation. It’s just a shame that tyre and road noise can rear their heads at faster speeds, on poorer surfaces and in the wet, breaking the tranquillity somewhat.

Across a mix of motorways, A-roads, B-roads and fun-oriented back-roads, the new Focus certainly entertains more than its direct peers and indeed many indirect rivals from the premium bunch, all while returning mid-40s in average fuel consumption, not all that far off this variant’s official WLTP figure of 49.6mpg. Road tax is an affordable £165 thanks to impressive CO2 emissions of 107g/km.

The back of the new Ford Focus hatchback for 2019 in Titanium X trim

The mk4 Ford Focus is one of the safest cars you can buy/lease, which is great news for families and fleets alike, with a 5-star Euro NCAP rating and wads of protective tech’ as standard, from emergency brake assist and pre-collision assist to even more impressive stuff like ‘lane-keeping aid and pedestrian and cyclist detection’. Plenty of other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) can be ticked on the options list, too, from wrong way alert and adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go, to evasive steering assist and headlights that not only look the part but also read road signs and predict when to curve their beam based on sat nav data.

Options totting up to just shy of £4,000 bumped the review car’s base price of £23,130 up to £27,030, while Ford Focus Titanium X personal lease payments are around £318.37 per month including VAT, after reflecting the same additions the journo car was fitted with.

With crisp styling and a newfound premium aura, particularly in Titanium X trim, the latest Ford Focus is the best-looking incarnation yet. Its interior isn’t quite there yet with a strange mix of materials but it’s considerably more upmarket, contemporary and gadget-packed than its predecessor, and comfort can’t be argued with. For anyone used to the added low-down punch of a diesel, or who regularly ferries four or five adults around, perhaps avoid the 1.0 125PS petrol engine, but it’s otherwise a very likeable motor with enough power and a nice thrum to provide a modicum of pleasure, especially allied to such a composed and agile chassis, suspension and steering trinity that reinforces the Focus’ reputation. It definitely remains the driver’s car in the medium-sized hatchback class, with only the forthcoming new Mazda3 likely to run it close, and it even has enough about it in Titanium X guise to potentially lure away some traditional German car stalwarts.

© Author: Oliver Hammond, published motoring journalist, blogger & freelance writer