Some of our lookbacks to the world of automotive history have taken you to the 50s, 60s and even earlier but this time we are bringing you a short hop, skip and a jump back to 1998 and the first incarceration of the Ford Focus.
This compact car grew up in a time when the Spice Girls were the height of cool and Hanson had released what other songs they had apart from Mmmbop! – what a time to be alive, eh?
Back to the Focus of the article though; this motor was originally built to replace various versions of the Ford Escort and Ford Laser in Europe and both north and south America.
We’re going to take a look at the various iterations of the Ford Focus and show you how it changed from a small family car to a rallycross racer with attitude.
What’s your favourite version of the Ford Focus? Let us know what you think – there’s so many to choose from!
And they shall name it: Focus
The decision to name the Ford Focus actually came under a lot of dispute when it was first launched, as German publisher Burda had a magazine that was produced under the name Focus.
A bit of a legal battle ensued but the dispute was resolved and so it hit the European market in 1998.
There’s also a bit of an automotive myth floating around that Ford executive Jac Nasser has actually wanted to name the car the Fusion, but the name had been leaked to the media and he had to change it. Imagine, the media leaking details – I never!
After the initial launch of the Ford Focus, Ford north America marketed its own year 2000 version that had a few changes from the original and was available as a three-door hatchback, four-door saloon and a five-door wagon.
Quel surprise a Paris!
The second generation Ford Focus was launched at the Paris Motor Show in September 2004 and was marketed as a three- door hatchback and a five-door estate.
For this version, the underbelly was largely unchanged from the Mk1 but it was longer and wider, which created larger cabin and boot space.
Technology was a keen feature of this Focus too, as it included a KeyFree system, Bluetooth hands-free phones and voice control for audio – the future had arrived.
The second round of the second generation
In 2005, Ford brought out a Mk.II version of Ford’s sport division of the Focus, which was known as the Focus ST.
It had a much more powerful engine with an output of 225 bhp and it could sprint 0-60mph in just 6.4 seconds – a top speed of 152 mph capped off the new Focus’ sporty credentials.
Europe and America collide
For the MK 3, Ford brought together influences from both the international and north American Focuses that saw a new combined model hit the global market in 2011.
It was unveiled at the 2010 North American International Auto Show and was a five-door hatchback with a brand-new 2.0-litre direct-injection engine.
The new generation saw vast improvements, not only for the car’s performance but also with a redesigned cabin and new entertainment technologies.
Latest road-worthy model
The latest Ford Focus is the RS variant, which is the 2016 model that made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show last year.
Its emphasis is on high-performance, with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine with 316 bhp and a powerful RS brake system.
In all, it’s a fun model to drive that can tear down the road, but it’s incredibly safe too – everything has been accounted for thanks to Ford’s close attention to detail.
Rally and Touring
How could we talk about the Ford Focus without mentioning its rally and touring careers?
The first rally car made its debut in 1999 at the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo with Colin McRae and Simon Jean-Joseph at the wheels of two cars. It replaced the Escort for team Ford and it took its first win at the Safari Rally in February ’99.
So the victories continued to roll in for the Focus, until it was replaced by the Fiesta model in 2011.
The focus has also been used in the SCCA Speed World Challenge Touring Car Series (the TV 2000) and has been champion of this race four times between 2003 and 2012.
One of its best moments however, has to be when it made its second season appearance at the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 2010. The model ran on liquefied petroleum gas and took the first BTCC win for a car powered by this fuel at Brands Hatch.
With all of this and more besides, we hope that you join us in taking a moment to reflect on how impressive the Ford Focus really is. Tip of the hat to you, chum.
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