We should no longer be surprised by the notion of a compact car with big-sedan features and eye-popping fuel economy. New creations like the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze have gone about making the compact segment one of the most hotly contested arenas in the market, rankling the chains of long-time fighters like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in the process. But while the Cruze and Elantra have proven that big content can come in small packages with smaller price tags, there's a growing sense that the fun-to-fling small car may be on its way out in favor of commuters that have inherited the soft-riding genes of their bigger brethren.
In a way, the change was all but inevitable. Whereas the compact segment once served up a cornucopia of rides that were low on power but big on handling, the market has proven that above all else, buyers in this neck of the woods want value. In an effort to pinch every last copper cent, both Hyundai and Chevrolet have scrapped the independent rear suspension in their respective compacts in favor of the considerably cheaper torsion-beam design.
So when Ford announced that American buyers would finally be able to get their hands on the global Focus, our ears perked up. The last Euro-Focus had built a reputation for being a smart handler, and if this latest version could make it across the pond without becoming too watered down in the process, compact buyers would once again have a vehicle that's as fun to drive as it is responsible to own. Now we get to find out if Ford pulled it off.