The turn of the millennium brought about big change at the Pretoria-based manufacturer, Samcor, complete with a new corporate identity as the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.
This significant transformation was spearheaded by the launch of the Focus, but once again South African customers felt that they had been diddled. After all, the ground-breaking Focus had been launched almost two years earlier in Europe. But once it hit the showroom floors it was well received, including being nominated as a SA COTY finalist for 2001.
There was some measure of disappointment, however, in that only a single model was made available in the form of the top-spec 2,0-litre five-door hatch. Nevertheless, it had all the right ingredients, complete with Ford's distinctive 'New Edge' design theme that clearly set it apart.
Performance from the 1989 cc 16-valve Zetec-E engine was smooth and refined rather than particularly spirited, with claimed outputs of 96 kW of power at 5750 r/min and a torque peak of 174 Nm at 3750 r/min.
We had to wait until the second half of 2002 for a second derivative to be added, in the form of the Focus sedan - the booted version somewhat of an ugly duckling compared to the thoroughly contemporary execution of the five-door model.
It also coincided with a minor facelift, dominated by clear-lens headlights, a sleeker bumper design and minor changes to the interior, along with a slight increase in torque to 178 Nm which was claimed to enhance all-round drivability. The standard safety features remained unchanged, and comprised dual front airbags, traction control and ABS with EBD, while a R177 530 price tag applied to both models.
A year later the Focus line-up finally received the diversity it. The revised range started off with the entry-level 1.6 Ambiente at R149 960, featuring respective outputs of 74 kW at 6000 r/min and 145 Nm at 4000 r/min. ABS brakes, dual airbags, air-con and a CD receiver were included as standard.
The 2,0-litre models, identified as the 'Trend', had moved to R181 885, while performance enthusiasts were finally given a reason to celebrate with the ST170 flagship - a funky three-door version sporting sleek styling, flashy multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, a lively interior and a reasonable R211 330 sticker price.
The final step came in early 2004 as diesel power made its eventual debut, with Ford's revered 1,8-litre TDCi intercooled turbodiesel unit conjuring up 85 kW and a mighty 250 Nm of torque, plus an additional 30 Nm overboost function to enhance overtaking performance in short bursts. Priced around R7000 above the 2,0-litre models, it was also offered in both five-door hatch and four-door sedan guises.
The new-generation Focus hit the market in mid-2005, and although it is clearly an evolution of the original car's shape, the previous five-door Focus arguably has the greater visual impact, and even more balanced proportions in many ways.
Due to the limited sales volumes of the early models, the original offerings aren't all that widespread on used car floors, but the broader model range during the latter part of the Focus' tenure, which saw an average of 300-odd sales per month, ensures that there's a decent variety of pre-owned models on offer.