Ford expects its share of the growing c-segment, or compact category, in the United States to reach 200,000 units per year in the next couple of years. Yes, it's well on its way even with the current, outdated North American Focus. However, One Ford, which makes universal the vast majority of Ford's front-drive models around the world, will soon expand the next-generation Focus into a number of variants and different bodystyles.

With Ford's retooled, uber-flexible c-car factory online now building the 2012 Ford Focus in Wayne, Michigan, it can afford to gamble on sub-segments that haven't done well here before. Ford product chief Derrick Kuzak says the company can shift production from a slow-selling variant to a new, hot variant cheaply and quickly.

So, are we ready to buy small minivans? Mazda sells about 15,000 to 20,000 of its four-cylinder Mazda5 minivans per year in the United States. While that's a very small number, it's done with virtually no marketing effort here.

The '12 Focus launches early in '11 with two bodystyles, the four-door sedan and four-door hatchback. Next up will be the 2012 Ford C-Max, recently introduced in Europe. At 178-inches overall on a 109-inch wheelbase, it's 22.2 inches and 10.3 inches shorter, respectively, than the new Toyota Sienna minivan. For young families who feel compelled to buy a minivan as soon as they have their first child, the Ford C-Max may fit the bill. It seats up to seven people, which means mom or dad can drive her or his kid and five classmates and be a responsible car-pooler.

A competitor for such models as the Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic and Chevrolet Orlando in Europe, the C-Max features American minivan-like sliding rear doors on both sides, complete with visible rail openings between the rear doors and the taillamps. The one-box look is sleeker than most the competition, however, with a rakish a-pillar and header.

Ford calls the three rows of seats a "5+2" arrangement, with two extra seats that fold down and out of the way in the rear cargo compartment. While a first-drive of the North American model is still a ways off, we've driven the European version, and those two extra seats are best suited for kids on their way to and from school or soccer practice, or for a particularly affectionate couple coming along for the short ride to a concert or restaurant.

The center row features a neat feature: the middle seat flips forward and then to its right. Then you flip up the seat-cushion of the passenger-side second row seat, and the middle seat folds neatly underneath, for 2+2 seating. Both outboard second row seats slide and recline.