Ford’s Focus may not be first compact car in the minds of Canadian buyers – it ranked seventh in sales behind the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Jetta in 2015, and the Nissan Sentra is also ahead so far in 2016. Elsewhere around the globe, however, the Focus is a huge deal: it’s the world’s top-selling car and the most common car on the road in England.

The current-generation Focus has been around since the 2012 model year, and for 2015 it was given a mid-cycle facelift with a new familial Ford grille, slim new headlights, new taillights, new hood, and a restyled trunk lid for sedan models.

For 2016, Ford’s world-girding compact has received only a few minor changes for the North American market: There are some revisions to the options packages, the 1.0L EcoBoost engine (an option in SE cars only) is now available with an automatic transmission and, perhaps most significantly, Ford’s new Blackberry QNX-based Sync 3 infotainment interface replaces the previous much-maligned Microsoft Auto-based Sync 2 MyFord Touch system.

I’m one of the few people, it seems, who didn’t actually mind the Sync 2 MyFord Touch system. It took a little getting used to, it’s true, and it could sometimes be a little slow to respond, but it wasn’t so bad. It looked nice, and I generally had little trouble finding the functions I needed. Mind you, I was driving brand-new cars for only a week at a time, so I never experienced the frozen screens and other problems that some owners complained about. Or wait … I do remember once having to shut down and restart a MyFord Touch-equipped car in order to get the radio to work.

The new Sync 3 interface is arguably either “cleaner looking” than MyFord Touch, or perhaps “a bit plain”, depending on your perspective. It’s certainly more streamlined, however, and definitely more snappy in its responses. Visually, it replaces the dark background and four-quadrant layout of the MyFord Touch system with a simple blue-and white colour scheme featuring clear function icons at the bottom of the screen. For the most part the touchpoints are much larger than the outgoing MyFord Touch system – a change that I definitely appreciate – and there’s a useful split home-screen presentation that allows you to see navigation information on one side of the display, with phone and audio information on the other side.

The system recognizes smartphone swipe and pinch gestures, and everything I tried out – from connecting my phone, to changing vehicle settings, to swapping between music and navigation, to playing music off a thumb-drive, to entering navigation destinations – all worked easily and seamlessly without any hiccups, glitches or delays. So in terms of function and ease-of-use I have to give the system high marks. On the downside, there aren’t currently a lot of apps available for the system, and early Sync 3 systems don’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although Ford will be adding that functionality for 2017 models, with free updates for 2016 models.

A Focus on Speed: 2016 Ford Focus RS Test Drive

The interior of the Focus uses nice-looking materials with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, and it has a visually appealing dashboard layout featuring easily read instrumentation. It took me a couple of minutes to find the control for the adjusting the interior ambient lighting (the lighting uses a selector switch positioned in the overhead console, while I was thinking it would be controlled through the infotainment system’s “Settings” function), but other than that all the controls are logically placed and fall easily to hand.

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