20 years of the Blue Oval's popular small car

The all-new 2018 Ford Focus has just been revealed, and will be lobbing in Australian showrooms towards year's end – but how did it get to where it is now?

We thought we'd take a look back on the previous three generations of Ford's popular small car, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, coinciding with the launch of its fourth iteration.

Let us know which one is your favourite in the comments below.


First Generation: 1998-2005

The original Focus hit Europe in 1998, replacing the Escort, and was awarded European Car of the Year in 1999.

It landed in the Australian market in 2002, offered in hatch and sedan body styles – a wagon was also available in overseas markets.

Performance models included the ST170 (above) and the original RS, though the latter wasn't offered Down Under.


Second Generation: 2005-2011

Revealed at the 2004 Paris motor show, the second-generation Focus aimed to build on the success of the original.

It was larger in just about every dimension, and debuted numerous modern technologies like Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Highlights of the second generation include the Pininfarina-designed Coupe Cabriolet in 2007, which featured a retractable hardtop, along with the five-cylinder ST (XR5 in Australia) and RS performance models.

Both the ST and RS used versions of the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine shared with Volvo, as Ford owned the Swedish company at the time.

Fun fact: The North American market discontinued the hatchback for the second generation and sold a unique sedan (above) and coupe also badged Focus, which we'd argue was neither sporty or sexy.


Third Generation: 2011-2018

Following the turn of the decade, Ford released the third-generation Focus globally in 2011. There were plans to produce the third-gen Focus in Australia, though that plan was soon dropped and supply for our market was sourced from a new factory in Thailand from 2012.

Key changes in the Focus at the time were an overhauled cabin with higher-grade materials, and the first generation of Ford's Sync infotainment system.

Like its predecessors, the Focus was available in hatchback, sedan and wagon body styles, though again the latter wasn't available locally.

The sporty ST made a return in 2012, featuring a 188kW 2.0-litre turbo EcoBoost engine, while the manic all-wheel drive RS (above) launched as part of the facelifted range in 2016, complete with a 257kW 2.3-litre EcoBoost four shared with the Mustang and a 0-100km/h time of under 5.0 seconds.

Earlier versions of the third-generation Focus fell victim to the well-documented PowerShift saga, which saw many owners file lawsuits against the Blue Oval over faulty dual-clutch transmissions. This led to the facelifted version reverting back to a torque-converter automatic.


Fourth Generation: 2018-

April 2018 saw the reveal of the fourth-generation Focus, aiming to uphold its legacy of "class-leading driving dynamics" while also being a more technologically-advanced and premium-feeling offering to better compete with rivals like the Volkswagen Golf.

The new Focus, due in Australia before the end of 2018, also debuts Ford's Co-Pilot360 safety suite – which includes the standard fitment of driver assistance tech like autonomous emergency braking.

A range of EcoBoost petrol and EcoBlue diesel engines will be available globally, with Australia confirmed to get two three-cylinder petrol engines at this stage – including an all-new 1.5-litre EcoBoost with unconfirmed outputs.

For the first time, the Focus will be available with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with certain markets offering the new self-shifter as an cost-option over a standard six-speed manual.

It's unconfirmed whether the wagon and sedan bodies will join the hatchback Down Under, though our guess is that the wagon will be offered for the first time thanks to it being built at the same German factory as the hatchback – while the sedan looks to be made in China for Asian and North American markets.