The Ford Focus is a massively common sight on British roads, as the second bestselling new car in the UK. And this success is well deserved – the Focus offers sharp handling, competitive prices, a reasonable list of standard equipment for your money and a wide array of models to choose from.

With a five-door hatchback and an estate on offer – along with everything from affordable and economical models to equipment packed top-of-the-range versions as well as sporty ST models, buyers are spoiled for choice.

The Focus does go up against a huge raft of rival models, however, including the similarly popular Vauxhall Astra, the sharply-styled Seat Leon and many others including the Mazda 3 and VW Golf.

We’ve got behind the wheel of the new turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol model to see if this is the sweet spot of the range, offering both strong performance and impressive on-paper economy.

What is it?

The Focus is Ford’s medium hatchback, which caters for buyers after a spacious, cheap to buy machine to those looking for a well-equipped top spec model that undercuts premium rivals.

We’ve driven the new 180bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol model, in range-topping Titanium X trim. Barring the sporty ST versions, this is the most powerful and fastest Focus available, springing to 62mph in a nippy 8.6 seconds.

Despite its performance, the small size of the 1.5-litre engine means that it is capable of returning claimed economy of 51.4mpg – on a par with the less powerful 148bhp version of this engine.

What is it like to drive?

The Ford Focus has built a reputation for being one of the sharpest handling medium cars around. While the current car is by no means bad to drive, it doesn’t quite share the same poise– though it is perfectly capable around corners – with comfort prioritised over handling.

Even with the most powerful petrol engine fitted (excluding the ST performance models), the Focus doesn’t feel as engaging to drive as previous versions. With the 180bhp 1.5-litre motor engine under the bonnet acceleration is sprightly enough for most drivers, though the engine doesn’t feel as punchy as the power figure suggests – the turbocharged 1.4-litre motors fitted in less powerful Skoda Octavia and VW Golf models feel stronger in reality.

Despite this criticism, the 1.5-litre motor pulls happily enough from low engine speeds, offering sufficient punch for easy overtaking and smooth suspension that successfully irons out most bumps. It also offers a slick manual gearbox, though steering that doesn’t offer much feedback discourages more enthusiastic driving. We also found the clutch in our test car a little more difficult to modulate than it could be.

Refinement levels are suitably high for a family car, with little wind or road noise getting into the car and just a little rumble from the tyres making its way into the cabin.

What is it like inside?

One area that previous versions of the Focus have fallen down, is with their drab interiors. Ford has jazzed up the new model’s dashboard – adding an eight-inch touchscreen media system to top-spec versions, like our car – and it feels suitably solid inside to put up with heavy family use.

Ford has worked hard to pare down the button count, but the air conditioning still features a few too many similarly sized buttons, making it hard to differentiate between controls on the move. We also found the recessed touchscreen mounted a little too far into the dash to be easy to reach while driving.

Visibility is average for this class of car, with the large dash and high bonnet restricting the forward view of the road slightly. Rear visibility, though, is better than many similarly sized cars.

Is it practical?

Available only in five-door and estate form, the Focus should be more than practical enough for most people. There’s adequate space in the front and rear seats – provided the front seats aren’t slid all the way back.

The seats are also sufficiently comfortable for longer journeys. The middle seat is also quite usable, offering sufficient room for adults, while the boot gives buyers a large amount of room to play with.

Should I buy one?

The Ford Focus is a sound medium car option, offering engines and trim levels to suit most buyers. In top-spec petrol form, however, we found the Focus a little underwhelming for its near-£24,000 price tag.

Considering that the turbocharged petrol engine in our car didn’t feel hugely quick, opting for the barely-slower 1.5-litre 150 model could be a wise move. Go for Titanium trim and in exchange for losing a few luxuries, the price tumbles to less than £21,000 – making a much more appealing prospect.

For that price, the Focus offers good roadholding and comfort levels, along with a strong blend of economy and performance – and in Titanium trim, plenty of standard equipment – making it a wise buy when compared to other family hatchbacks.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Ford Focus in our classifieds here.

The facts

Ford Focus 1.5T Ecoboost Titanium X

List price: £23,820
Engine: 1.5-litre, turbocharged four cylinder petrol
Power: 180bhp
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (urban), 61.4mpg (extra-urban) 51.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 127g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-star