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1998 Ford Focus

The first-generation Ford Focus was one of the stars of mass production cars in the 1990s and 2000s. When it replaced the old and tired Escort in 1998, it shocked us with a striking new design, clever packaging, and class-beating dynamics. It was so much better than any generations of Escort ever done. From that moment, I knew it would become a classic in the future. Not long later, it became the first car to win the European COTY and North American COTY awards at the same time. It was a real "World Car."

If the name Escort represented conservative thinking, then Focus represented a revolution. This started from its New Edge design. For decades, car stylists couldn't find ways to make a sporty-looking car spacious or vice versa. They were two contradicting elements in car design. However, the stylists of Ford succeeded in applying its New Edge theme – having already tested in Ka, Puma, and Cougar – to gel the two elements together. Look at its profile; it was a volume-optimizing shape. What distracted your attention from this shape were the coupe-like side windows, which flowed smoothly towards the base of the D-pillars rather than following the roofline like conventional cars. This would have revealed bulky D-pillars, but its designers were clever to cover them with eye-catching triangular-shaped rear lights. The overall effect was very graphical. New Edge made very good use of light reflection to amplify the subtle changes of surface curvature to deliver a sporty perception. This can be seen from the crest lines at both sides and the tailgate, as well as the large wheel arches. In my eyes, there were only two car designs in the 1990s truly innovative. One was the original Audi TT; another was this one.

The Focus was equally innovative in suspension design. While the strut suspensions up front were conventional, at the rear, it introduced a new kind of multilink independent design called "Control Blade Suspension." It used a large trailing arm made of pressed steel and incorporated a hub carrier to replace two longitudinal rods and the expensive cast knuckle. This achieved the multilink's control at relatively little cost. On the road, Focus won many praises from the motoring press for excellent handling and ride. Its steering received similar admiration for precision and feel. Even a decade later today, we still struggle to find a family hatch delivering as much fun in pure driving terms.


Images Source: Ford

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