Coming off the successful launch of its 2011 Ford Fiesta subcompact at last month's Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford is following up with its even more important 2012 Ford Focus compact.

This will be the first complete redesign of the North American Focus in more than a decade, and at last U.S. buyers will enjoy the crisp, stylish Focus designs that Europeans have relished for so long.

Ours, however, will be far better equipped--at a lower price--than the European edition. Both markets will start production late this year, with the first Focus models reached dealers early in 2011.

Sold as a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, the new Focus styling continues Ford's "kinetic design" motif, with a low front end and large grille opening, a rising beltline, and a broad-shouldered stance. The interior echoes a cockpit, with the center stack wrapped around the driver.

The engine being shown at Detroit is a 2.0-liter direct-injected, dual overhead-cam four-cylinder with variable valve timing, developing an estimated 155 horsepower and 145 ft-lbs of torque. An "EcoBoost" turbocharged four is likely to be offered at a later date.

It can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or Ford's new six-speed "PowerShift" dual-clutch automatic.

Ford has not yet discussed fuel economy ratings, but persistent rumors put the most fuel-efficient version of the 2012 Focus at 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway--the same as the highest-mileage model of the smaller 2011 Fiesta.

Ford also plans to offer small numbers of a fully electric Focus, with a range of roughly 100 miles, that will be built at the same plant in Wayne, Michigan, as the regular gasoline Focus.

Infotainment features include the recently launched MyFord system, which lets the driver operate vehicle features through a combination of touch screens and voice commands.

The new 2012 Ford Focus also comes with Sync connectivity, the voice-operated entertainment and mobile phone system.