• Overall winner and best medium used family car of the decade: Ford Focus 1998 - 2005
  • Small used car of the decade: Ford Ka 1996 – 2008
  • Large used family car of the decade: Volkswagen Passat 1996 – 2005
  • Executive used car of the decade: Audi A3 2003 – 2008
  • Luxury used car of the decade: BMW X5 2000 – 2006
  • Most improved used car brand of the decade: Seat

The Ford Focus 1998 - 2005 has been voted 'Used Car of the Decade' by CAP - the UK's independent used car pricing specialists.

A panel of judges comprising of used car market and vehicle valuation experts at CAP voted unanimously for the Focus, declaring it as the vehicle which set new standards of quality in the volume car market during the decade 2000 - 2009 and brought easily affordable excellence within reach of everyday used car buyers.

Launched in 1998, the Focus was a brave and radical departure from the norm, effectively reinventing every aspect of the small family car, from engineering standards, fit and finish to introducing a host a new innovations to the sector.

CAP's judging panel was looking for a car which excelled in the following areas:

•Affordability and practicality of ownership
•Trusted reputation
•Sustained popularity
•Inspired product improvement across the whole industry

The qualifying criteria for consideration in the judging process was:

'A used car model range that existed as a 3 year old car at any point during the decade from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2009'.

Mark Norman, chairman of the CAP judging panel, said: "The Focus shook up a conservative small family car sector in which the only truly desirable car had, for a long time, been the Volkswagen Golf. The introduction of the Focus was also a truly brave move by Ford. In reinventing their offering to that core sector Ford chose to drop the Escort name, a brand which was woven into the fabric of British motoring.

"Instead of simply re-vamping this trusted name, Ford began with a blank sheet and created a new vehicle completely from scratch. Every aspect of the car was different from its predecessor, from the radical external styling to the new 'command' driving position.

"Careful thought went into every element in the new design, covering performance, comfort, safety and even security.

"And the legacy of the Focus has been lasting. It is a vehicle whose design and execution has informed everything that followed. Other manufacturers are still bringing new cars to market today which clearly take cues and inspiration from the Focus even 12 years after its launch.

"As a used car it has satisfied every criteria for the demanding consumer who requires a true 5 seat family car that offers quality, comfort, performance, durability, reliability, safety, economy, practicality and style.

"Another important aspect in the success of the Focus is the simplicity of its model range, ensuring that the consumer can easily understand precisely which derivative is best suited to his or her needs.

"And despite the importance of practicality and economy in the used car market, it remains true that sentiment and subjective perception continues to play a significant role in the choices made by used car buyers. Here the Focus continues to score ahead of its rivals as a used car in that despite selling very large volumes it is still perceived as distinctive and desirable.

"All of these factors are equally important to the trade also. In a highly competitive market, used car dealers are heavily reliant on 'safe bets' - cars which they can be confident will always be sought by their customers. For dealers, the Focus replaced the 'safe bet' of the Escort with an equally safe bet, but one which also serves as an object of pride for the ordinary motorist. And because the Focus has always been a well engineered and durable product it consistently offers a reliable sales opportunity used car retailers.

"Although the awards focus on three year old vehicles, it is a testament to the build quality of the Focus that even well maintained examples from the late 90's still feel as if they have many years of motoring life left in them."

The fifth generation Passat, produced between 1996 and 2005, was named the large used car of the decade.

The new Passat, revealed to the public at the 1996 Paris motor show, was hailed as a step forward in the upper medium class setting new benchmarks for quality, refinement, styling and performance.  These improvements were recognised at the time with the Passat receiving a string of industry accolades including the prestigious European Car of the Year at the 1997 Auto 1 awards.

Mark Bulmer from CAP Black Book said: "The Passat is a byword for quality, and the model launched in 1996 was a quantum leap forward in every area most important to the trade and the used car buyer.  Volkswagen's attention to detail meant that this Passat offered the sense of a prestige vehicle but at a mainstream purchase price.  Legendary reliability means a deserved reputation as a dependable workhorse and robust engineering and build quality means it is a safe bet even with mileage into six figures."

Bulmer added: "The new range of diesel engines offered a leap forward in terms of the balance between performance and economy, a combination at the very heart of success in the used car market.  This quality set the 1996 - 2005 Passat apart from many other cars in its sector which could often prove prohibitively expensive to live with.  By offering prestige quality at a mainstream price this Passat also influenced other manufacturers to up their game in terms of the quality of their own offerings."

Now in its sixth generation, the Passat was originally launched back in 1973 and, over this 36 year period, has become one of the most successful models for Volkswagen.  To date, more than 16m units have been produced worldwide with over half a million delivered to customers in the UK.