Rather than wait until next week's Geneva Motor Show, Ford decided to launch its new 2014 edition of the Ford Focus at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This was partly to make its stand look great and partly to show off the new Ford SYNC 2 in-car infotainment system, which will appear in Europe for the first time inside the new Focus.
The new Focus was certainly popular on the stand, with nary a moment passing without a show attendee lovingly fondling it or sitting inside staring at the interior workmanship. We didn't get to drive it - nobody did - but a few key specs were offered as a teaser for a more car-centric test at a later date.
In new tech terms, the car has an advanced Adaptive Front Lighting System that adjusts the beams of the Bi-Xenon HID headlights to best suit the road layout. For example, on a motorway at high speeds the lamps will be raised to project a longer, straighter beam ahead, while in towns where speeds are slower and there is plenty of ambient light, the lamps will point downwards to give a more localised illumination.
When cornering, they will also adjust to shine further into a bend.
The new Focus will be available in several options, including five-door and estate, and will be first of its generation to offer a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. A new 99g/km CO2 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been developed too, ensuring that version will be the first non-hybrid petrol family car in Europe to offer sub-100g/km CO2 emissions.
In addition, a 1.5-litre diesel PowerShift automatic variant will be available, which Ford claims will offer a 19 per cent improvement on fuel efficiency over the equivalent-powered current model. All versions of the new Focus also come with enhanced handling and steering.
Several driving technologies have been implemented in the 2014 for the first time. This year's Focus has the firm's proprietary Perpendicular Parking tech. This means that as well as offering hands-free parallel parking, the car will assist in reversing into spaces flanked by other cars - such as in a car park.
New sensors at the rear of the car can also help you get out of a tight parallel parking space. Park-Out Assist will operate the steering while the driver controls acceleration and braking in order to manouevre out of the space. Cross-Traffic Alert also warns drivers when a vehicle will soon be crossing behind them, which is useful when reversing out of a space but can't physically see anything coming.
An improvement to the Active City Stop collision avoidance system means that it will now make steps to avoid hitting other vehicles, etc, at 50kmh (31mph) - 20kmh faster than before.
For us at Pocket-lint, perhaps the most exciting new technology demonstrated at Mobile World Congress was the dramatically improved new Ford SYNC. The new in-dash high-resolution colour touchscreen is great, but the biggest change to the system revolves around the improved voice control system.
As before, it was developed by Nuance, but the difference in generations is distinct. Now you can use much more natural phrases and terminology. You still have to touch the dedicated voice control button, but you can then say something like, "I'm hungry." The system will then ask verbally whether you want to find a restaurant in a town or locally, say locally and the list of restaurants mapped to your current area will come up. Choose one and you can tell the system to set a course for it.
Doing this by voice is natural and intuitive. And thanks to a new partnership with the Michelin Guide, Ford has included thousands of options and locations. We found the system to work each and every time. There was no need for repetition of words or phrases that many voice control applications often require.
You can also use voice control for playing music or other features. Saying "play the Backstreet Boys" did exactly that in our demo.
You can still link your phone to the system (indeed, it's encouraged) and use some of your most-treasured apps through Applink - such as Spotify - but the new Ford SYNC 2 seems more complete than the former European generation.
The new Ford Focus, featuring Ford SYNC 2, will be available in the UK and Europe in the second half of 2014.