Ford’s European arm reached its lowest modern point in 1990 when it launched the MK 5 Escort. The Escort had been king of the blue collar cars across Europe, and especially in the UK. However, the market had moved on and the Escort received a serious drubbing in the media for its deeply unadventurous engineering, unrefined engines and cheerless styling inside and out. Although Ford’s enviable sales machine still managed to shift numbers, Ford vowed to raise its game. Just three years later the medium sized Mandeo was a huge leap forward for the company, although it was effectively very polished conventional front wheel model. Just five years later, Ford managed to replace the Escort with a car that was not only underpinned by cutting edge engineering but also broke the European hatchback mould. The Focus was developed under the codename CW170 and was intended to bury the workaday Escort forever. The most forward thinking aspect of the Focus was packaging of the cabin space. Ford’s engineers drew up a car that was wider and much taller than rival models with an upright driving position that engendered confidence in the driver. But it was under the skin that Ford leapt ahead of the opposition. Since the launch of the Mondeo, the company had built a reputation of first rate ride and handling under the guidance of engineering chief Richard Parry Jones.
The Focus’s ability to combine extremely crisp handling with a fine ride quality was thanks to the adoption of a sophisticated multi link rear axle. The axle design was adopted from one used in the Mondoe estate car and its use marked a first for this class of car. Rival manufactures VW and GM raced to catch up with the all around excellence and impressive sales of the Focus.