The market introduction of the fourth-generation Ford Focus has been a slightly piecemeal and incremental process, but it’s nonetheless now nearing the point where the Blue Oval might tentatively call it complete.

Having introduced the five-door hatchback in the summer of last year and added a couple of extra engine choices, an estate bodystyle and top-level Vignale trim in the autumn, Ford has now revealed the next Focus ST. We’ve also just driven the big addition to the Focus model ranks: the crossover-flavoured Focus Active. Gradually, then, the pieces are coming together.

Launching the car in stages doesn’t seem to have made the Focus much less popular. Even in a major model replacement year, the car retained its top-five overall sales status in the UK market in 2018 (only narrowly missing out on the top three) and looks on course to take up a top-10 berth among Europe’s most popular new cars in 2019.

Ford should be cautiously happy, then, about the health of its big-selling family hatchback. But what about its soul? Although we’ve had to wait longer than anticipated to do it, this week we’ve got an example of the car in its most promisingly dynamic mechanical specification (until that new ST arrives, of course) with which to assess exactly how sporty and involving the segment’s most driver-focused hatchback can be in its latest form.

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In this case, under the bonnet is Ford’s line-topping 180bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol three-pot engine; at the rear axle you’ll find the Focus’s more sophisticated suspension option, the acclaimed ‘control blade’ independent set-up; and above that there are the 18in alloy wheels that come as standard with ST-Line X cars and optional ‘continuously controlled’ adaptive dampers.

This, therefore, ought to mark a dynamic step-change for the Focus MkIV model line. So exactly how good is it to drive?

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