The Ford Focus: A Global Phenomenon Created in Europe

Focus Mk1: Revolutionizing the Compact Car Class

At the 1998 Geneva Motor Show, Ford first revealed its groundbreaking Focus model. This particular car instantly became one of the company’s most important vehicles, helping to set the agenda for a new legal age of manufacturing compact vehicles. Thanks to the cooperation between Ford’s United Kingdom and German divisions, the Focus presented an elegant design with high-end features that made it the talk of the world.

Welcome to Timeless European Automobile Classics, our periodical review of cars from the continental marketplace which served to characterize a motoring era.

You might be asking, what makes the Ford Focus so beloved? Well, there are numerous explanations. To start off with, its design has brought something new to the table. The first Focus shocked auto aficionados and daily drivers alike with the introduction of a different visual concept—the New Edge approach launched in the late 1990s. With its controversial yet alluring aesthetics, this car made a powerful impression and distinguished itself from other compacts.

The worldwide appreciation of the Focus is largely due to its technical brilliance. Richard Parry-Jones headed the engineering team in developing the unique Control Blade rear suspension system, revolutionizing ride stability and drive quality for a smaller vehicle. This remarkable advance yielded unsurpassed elasto-kinematic handling, leading to an exceptional driving experience including flawless steering response, finely tuned cornering ability, and outstanding comfort across all roads.

Undoubtedly, devotees of Ford will always possess fond memories of the initial generation Focus due to its performance models. Starting from the subtler US-market SVT iterations to the Focus RS with a turbocharged 2.0-liter setup, the small car offered an acceptable showing for novice and partially professional motorists. Additionally, the Focus RS WRC was a victorious rally vehicle having notched numerous commendable successes in the World Rally Championship.

Ford revealed the initial variation of the Focus in Europe in July of 1998 and unveiled it in the United States as a 2000 model in October of 1999. Initially accessible as a three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon, the Focus fleet broadened in 2002 with the dispatch of a five-door hatchback. It was still in fabrication for the European market until 2005, while North America kept it up until 2007. Argentina and Brazil were the eventual markets to decide to no longer stock the original Focus, terminating the cycle around one year after.

Positioned within the C-segment of Europe, the Focus speedily became a core part of Ford’s selection. It handily filled up the space left by the out-dated Ford Escort as the Focus was strategically set in the biggest sector in terms of volume. As for the United States, Ford held an extensively larger selection of cars at that point and the Focus was seen as an economical car that was tinier than the Taurus, Mustang, Crown Victoria, and Contour.

The first-generation Focus featured a broad range of engine possibilities to meet various performance requirements. Over in Europe, the range had 1.4-, 1.6-, 1.8-, and 2.0-liter petrol motors with outputs varying between 74 and 212 horsepower. Plus, from when it was unveiled, a 1.8-liter diesel motor was accessible, later modernized to common-rail technology once the refurbished Focus Mk1 was released.

In North America, two distinct engine sizes – 2.0 and 2.3 liters – were available. Notably, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) presented its interpretation of the Focus ZX3 SVT in late 2001 as a 2002 model year car. This powerful variant boasted a remodeled version of the Zetec 2.0-liter engine under the hood, which was developed in cooperation with Cosworth. To upgrade performance levels, various components such as an aluminum cylinder head, low-compression pistons, and a solenoid operated variable camshaft timing system were added.

The Ford Focus encountered immense success around the globe. Its offbeat design, especially in the hatchback variety, struck a chord with buyers globally. Initially, Ford had difficulties driving sales of their European models in the United States, however the Focus swiftly entered the list of the ten most popular cars after its launch.

The Focus was essential in bringing to a standstill Ford’s decrease in market share in Europe, with particularly good sales results seen in the United Kingdom. All told, more than five million of these cars were dispensed worldwide. In an intriguing twist, 4,501 Focus RS Mk1s had been produced by Ford, every single one tagged with a serial number. According to rumors, all those automobiles had been released by the company at a price tag of $5,000 less than their cost.

The achievement of the Focus was further affirmed by distinguished accolades. In 1999, it was selected Car of the Year and then won the North American Car of the Year distinction for 2000.

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