Initially eight models will be on offer - five sedans and three hatchbacks - with 1.6-litre and 2-litre petrol units and a lusty 2-litre diesel engine, and more models will follow, including the possibility of a rip-snorting ST version.
Safety features abound, and quality levels reflect the fact that this car will be exported from South Africa to Australia and New Zealand.
The 1.6-litre engine produces 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 145 Nm of torque; the DOHC 16-valve 2-litre petrol motor gives 107 kW at 6 000 r/min with 185 Nm of torque, while the common rail intercooled turbo-diesel offers 100 kW at 4 000 r/min and a massive 320 Nm of torque at 2 000 r/min, plus another 20 Nm of over-boost for overtaking.
The 1.6-litre cars come with 5-speed manual gearboxes while the 2-litre petrol offers a choice of 5-speed manual or four-speed sequential automatic (sedan only); the diesel versions all get a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Slightly larger than its predecessor, the new Focus moves away from "New Edge" styling, instead presenting a more muscular and macho appearance.
Thus at the front we see a larger grille, with a much bigger Ford oval in its centre, a heavily scalloped bonnet, and large teardrop-shaped headlamps with clear glass and projector-style headlamps.
Moving to the side, there's a strong crease that runs the length of the car, starting at the front of the wheelarch and rising along the roof to end at the tail.
This is complemented by big wheelarch bubbles to add to the sporty look.
And the tail shows a heavy fastback design (in the hatch) that finishes in a rounded tail, devoid of lights.
Instead these are placed high on the sides of the tailgate, as in the previous Focus, with a heavy tailgate spoiler that does much to aid aerodynamics and also incorporates a high level stoplight.
The tailgate is wider and deeper, making loading easier.
And the whole looks stronger and sturdier, thanks to its 40 mm wider track.
The sedan presents a totally integrated design, with no semblance of "hatch with a boot" - instead, there's more than a touch of Mondeo from the rear of the four-door car.
While the car is totally different from the previous model, one can still feel the Ford "DNA" coming through. It's not as radical as the old Focus, and it's a lot classier.
The interior is accented towards the driver, with a "cockpit" driving position, "flow-through" instrument panel and console design, and the use of quality materials.
Instrumentation is contained in a deep binnacle directly in front of the driver, with two large chrome-rimmed dials for the revcounter and speedo flanking fuel and water temperature gauges.
Knee room and shoulder room are more generous and luggage capacity has been expanded by 10% over the previous model to 385 litres.
There's a new feeling of class in the latest Focus. Gone are the "cheap" plastic fittings, and the lacklustre fit and finish.
At the same time, current owners won't feel lost in the new car, for the basic ergonomics are similar, with the aluminium-rimmed oval vents, climate control and attractive built-in sound system high up on the centre console, and controls logical and easy to get at.
The top of the dashboard is now a one-piece moulding in soft textured rubber-like material similar to that on the Alfa 147 and Peugeot 307, and the same material is used on the tops of the doors and the armrests.
Underneath that is a centre console area that is made of good quality plastic in contrasting tones that gives a good ambience - although we felt it was a bit hard on the knees when bracing yourself in hard cornering.
The centre console looks good, with an aluminium-look insert on all but the Ghia versions, which get a wood-look finish.
All cars get air conditioning - climate controlled on the Ghia - and cloth trim is standard, again with the exception of the Ghia, which gets leather.
The 1.6-litre entry models get front electric windows; the rest have power windows all round. The same applies to the electrically operated mirrors; entry versions get manual operation.
Two types of audio systems are available for the new Focus range.
The Ambiente features a single front-loader CD with RDS Radio connected to four speakers and the Trend and Si models have a front-loader CD with RDS Radio connected to six speakers, while the Ghia is fitted with a 6CD in-dash shuttle and RDS Radio connected to 6 speakers.
Designed to blend with the interior appearance, each system's unique shape and coding system renders it useless to thieves.
The Auxiliary (AUX) capability of the audio systems allows MP3 players or iPods to be plugged in and played through a dedicated jack plug situated in the glove box.
Except for the 1.6 Ambiente, drivers of all new Focus models can operate the audio systems through steering mounted controls.
The two 1.6-litre sedans get 15 inch wheels with 195/65 R16 tyres, while the 1.6-litre hatch has alloys.
All the 2-litre models get 16 inch alloys shod with 205/55 R16 rubbers, with 17 inch alloys optional on top versions (R2 500).
Other options include a sports body kit for the hatch (R5 000) and a full size spare wheel (R500).
The accent on quality shows in the lack of intrusion from wind noise or road noise, and despite hard driving a total absence of rattles and squeaks in the new car.
Manufacturing director Trevor Kok is justifiably proud of build quality, even though these were early production versions, and he's happy that quality will more than meet Australian and New Zealand expectations.
Part of the reason for the lack of noise intrusions is the 20% thicker front door side glass, double closed-loop door seals and lightweight foam insulation in the engine compartment and rear body cavities all working together to isolate unwanted environmental noise.
On the road
Boy, did we have fun with this car! Building on my experience with the car in Europe last year, I was pleased to see that the SA-built cars are just as good.
The new Focus has a superb chassis and body structure, together with a new version of the classic Focus Control Blade rear suspension, and a stiff, new front sub frame that is the foundation for chassis elements that have undergone extensive tuning.
No matter how hard you try it's hard to unsettle the Focus - either sedan or hatch - while the notion of understeer is foreign to this car.
It sits strong and firm on the road, and one merely drives into corners as with a rear-drive car to get the best out of it.
The seats at first seem a little tight around the back, but this doesn't show through when you're driving the car, instead translating to superb sideways support. T
The steering wheel is soft-rim, with three or four spokes (depending on model) that are trimmed with aluminium, and it adjusts for both height and reach.
On the Ghia models the wheel is leather trimmed, and contains satellite controls for the sound system and cruise control, while the centre console has a wood-trim look.
Visibility is excellent, and the sense of space has been increased because the base of the windscreen pillars have been moved forward.
The new Focus hatch is a strong rival to the VW Golf, Opel Astra, and Renault Megane
Space inside is super, with more legroom and headroom, especially in the back, than any of its competitors.
Electro-hydraulic power-assisted steering (EHPAS) makes low speed manoeuvres easier while preserving precision on the open road. The steering assistance is varied according to driver input and road speed.
We were only able to drive 2-litre models - petrol and diesel - and both impressed.
The petrol model is, as expected, a smooth and powerful unit, with lots of bottom end torque and great pulling power out of corners.
Its ability to rev lustily also helps on really tight corners, while on the open road the car has "long legs"
The diesel is a totally different car, but no less rewarding.
Obviously the power delivery is in a totally different rev band, and we had to use higher gears to get the best out of that massive torque.
Ford claims a top speed of 206 km/h for the 2-litre petrol, 203 km/h for the diesel. The 0-100 km/h sprint comes up in 9.2 seconds in the petrol car, 9.3 seconds in the diesel. The 1.6-litre models give the sprint in 11.5 seconds and top speed of 183 km/h.
On the economy front the diesel averages 5.6 litres/100 km, and the 2-litre petrol 7.1 litres/100 km, while the 1.6-litre models get 7.2 litres/100 km.
On the safety front, the new Focus is equipped with new larger ventilated disc brakes at the front and solid discs at the rear, all connected to an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD) System.
All 2-litre models feature an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), traction control and an Advanced Dynamic Aid Mechanical (ADAM) System.
ADAM is a mechanical brake assist system that operates without electronics, designed to significantly reduce emergency stopping distances by as much 40%.
An additional safety/security feature throughout the new Focus range is powering windows all round with "global close" and "anti-trap" capability.
"Global close" allows for the closing of open car windows via the remote central locking button on the key while walking away from the vehicle.
The "anti-trap" feature prevents trapped hands or fingers though having a closing window "bounce back" when an obstacle is encountered.
Security features include a Passive Anti-theft System (PATS), a perimeter alarm, key-operated bonnet lock; central locking as well as security coded audio systems.
All models also come with front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters as well as front airbags as standard.
All models (except the 1.6 Ambiente) are fitted with new 3D design thorax-protecting side air bags, which combined with side impact beams; provide protection in the event of a side impact.
The unique 3D design allows for faster deployment and improved protection against injury over conventional side airbags.
The Focus has achieved 5 stars in Euro NCAP safety testing.
Service intervals are 20 000 km for the petrol models and 15 000 km for the diesel derivatives. A five-year/60 000 km Ford Protect Maintenance Plan is standard with all models, as is a three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance plan.
The warranty is applicable for three years/100 000 km, while the corrosion warranty is in place for five years/unlimited km.
Ford moves into a whole new world with this latest Focus, and it's obvious the company is making a big push to re-establish itself after the disaster years of the past.
Ford is a strong and powerful car-maker, and its latest lineup can stand proud alongside that of any other marque in the country.
The road to recovery started with the grossly under-rated new Mondeo.
Then came the leaps and bounds of the new Fiesta, complemented by the great Ford Ranger bakkie range.
And now we have the biggest gap of all filled and ready to go.
All that remains, as marketing director Nigel Harris told me when I first saw the car in Tuscany last year, is to get bums into seats..,..
The car will do the rest!
Range and prices
Focus 1.6i Ambiente R149 900
Focus 1.6I Trend R162 900
Focus 2.0i Trend manual R189 900
Focus 2.0i Trend auto R199 900
Focus 2.0i TDCi Ghia R219 900
Focus 1.6i Si R159 900
Focus 2.0i Si R184 900
Focus 2.0i TDCi R194 900
Wheels24 was in 2004 on the world launch of the new Ford Focus.
CLICK HERE for our driving impressions of the car.