I had a mk1 Focus 1.6 petrol, and when it came to replacing it, I looked at all the £9,000 options - a Clio III dCi, a 207 petrol, an Astra petrol and a Citroen C4 HDi. All were a maximum of a year old, none new.
The C4 was good-looking, but I couldn't get used to all the displays, and the gearchange was long, and notchy. Despite having the same engine as this Focus it's performance felt slower due to the vastly inferior gearchange.
Outside, it's not particularly striking, but in the colour I have (Jeans blue) it does look classy and solid. The colour is also no longer produced, meaning it won't become as common as my silver Focus did.
Inside the Focus is conventional, and this, for me, was an advantage. Plastics are a bit cheap looking on the lower areas, but the most annoying gripe about the interior is the handbrake/cupholder area. Bottles get in the way of changing gear, and the handbrake is on the passenger side and not within comfortable reach. The Clio had the best driving position of all cars, and the classiest interior.
What Clio doesn't have is space: the Focus has it in spades, everywhere. Nearly as big as the Mondeo in the back and the boot isn't small. LX isn't as well equipped as most, but it has the basics and the seats are a vast improvement over the old one. Though I note the omission of alloys and the heated front screen I had on my previous Focus LX. The radio is an improvement, however.
So why do I rate the car so highly? You can't underestimate the drive. The gearchange is an improvement on the old Focus, as is the ride. It handles with less roll, and although they've not cured the road noise (read roar on old concrete m-ways) they have sealed out wind noise, and most of the diesel engine noise, especially at motorway speeds. But make no mistake, the engine is a revelation. It's a Peugeot-Citroen unit, and I've never driven (Mondeo TDCi included) such a refined, and driveable (revvy, powerful and economical) engine. The Mondeo is that bit noiser in my opinion and less economical, but only similarly performing. IT's also well-geared in the Focus.
The Clio was similar in all the above respects, regarding it's drive, though it rolled more noticeably, it's let down by steering which neglects to tell you what the front tyres are doing, and it's here the Focus capitalised. It's steering is second-to-none, as for a diesel hatchback, I couldn't find any better all-rounder.
Think of it as Star Wars, the first was flashy, and magnificent, and the second though not as ground-breaking, moved everything on that bit more.