I loved my old 306 XSi, but it needed replacing as it was getting unreliable. I drove the most logical replacement - the 307 XSi and hated it. I can't believe Peugeot replaced the stonking 306 with this dull handling van lookalike. The only other option was a Golf GTI, but I wasn't really prepared to pay the astronomical asking price, plus a friend bought one last year and it has been one disaster after another. After a 20 minute test drive the Focus, I just had to have it.
Performance is on a par with my old 306, but the engine is sweeter and more frugal. Handling is better than anything currently in this class with steering that gives bags of feel (are you listening VW?). Granted, the Focus doesn't have quite the agility of the 306, but its streets ahead of the 307, and in a different league to the wallowy Golf.
The funky interior still looks fresh although it lacks the elegance of the Golf's superb dash layout. On the plus side, it's beautifully screwed together, and there's plenty of space for rear passengers and luggage. The Focus is available at bargain prices too if you shop around. Build quality and reliability have so far been faultless apart from a duff electric window switch. There are no creaks or rattles from anywhere, it starts first time every time, and has behaved exactly as it should.
If you're in the market for a fun, cheap to run small hatch, the Focus is a no-brainer. The Golf is tempting for its classy looks and interior, but the Focus does everything else considerably better. Brilliant car.