The problem with setting a benchmark is that it's a tough trick to repeat. Jaguar could never quite reach the heights it achieved with the E-Type, Audi had the same problem trying to reprise the Quattro and Peugeot must have resigned itself to the fact that every hot hatch it ever built would be judged to be some way short of its 205 GTi. Ford's unassailable high is probably the first generation Focus. Yes, it was a genuinely great car, but its achievements were helped in many ways by the sheer ineptitude of stiffs like the Vauxhall Astra and the Nissan Almera that it was tasked to knock over.
As its rivals closed on it, each successive generation of Focuses has become more talented yet, rather cruelly, not as highly regarded. The third generation car is a case in point. It's a genuinely talented all-rounder but no longer is it the default pick in its class. It's nevertheless a quite brilliant used choice. Read on to find out why.