2012 Ford Focus: Playful and Sporty Compact Delivers Style and Economy
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
When Ford replaced the Escort with its new compact, the Focus, in 1999 for the 2000 model year in North America (it actually was introduced to European markets in 1998), the Blue Oval hit on a sales winner and it has been winning ever since. In fact, demand for the new 2012 Focus was so brisk that Ford had difficulty filling orders and keeping sufficient inventory in the early fall of 2011. Additionally, purchasers of Focus are getting younger and more hip, as the average age of new Focus buyers has dropped by eight years since its inception.
Now in its third generation, Focus is still a compact sedan, measuring 78.5 inches long, 71.8 inches wide, 58.7 inches high on a 104.3-inch wheelbase with a curb weight just under 3000 lbs. depending on trim and options. But the new Focus has gained in styling with an aggressive demeanor and added curves. Built in Wayne, Michigan, Focus dropped its coupe and offers hatchback and sedan models based on Ford’s C-Car platform. Focus design cues fit into Ford’s "kinetic design form," as the compact is sporty, playful and more sophisticated-looking than previous generations.
Looking more upscale, Focus still plays to the economical theme, with my test model priced under $20,000 and some versions bordering on 40mpg fuel economy.
Under the hood, Focus utilizes direct fuel injection to provide more horsepower while improving fuel consumption. Powered by a 2.0-liter in-line four cylinder engine that that gallops out 155 horses and 146 lbs.-ft. of torque, the new Focus shows about 15 more hp than the previous generation. My front-wheel drive test model was coupled with a 5-speed manual transmission and was EPA rated at 26mpg in city driving and 36mpg on the highway. A week of mixed use testing, in which highway miles outnumbered driving in town by three to one, my Focus averaged 32.9mpg.
In power tests, Focus certainly can use more low-end muscle. Off the line, Focus takes a moment to wake up, but after a shift, it kicks in decently to finish a zero-to-60mph sprint in 8.9 seconds while finishing off a quarter-mile in 16.6.
Stopping power is confident with 4-wheel ABS (ventilated front disc / rear drum brakes) with electronic brakeforce distribution, while responsive electrically assisted steering provides a safe and stable ride with a minimum of body roll. A stiff body structure and AdvanceTrak stability control with a new torque vectoring control system, makes quick turns and slaloms a smooth experience with only minor understeer, and the 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bar provides a supple, but balanced ride.
A new interior for Focus is sculpted, sporty and upscale for the niche. The modern, cockpit-style cabin is built around a stylish center console. Enhanced by contemporary graphics and a soft-touch instrument panel, Focus is driver- and passenger-friendly with good room within, save for limited rear seat room. Front head room is 38.3 inches with 38 inches of rear head room; front leg room measures 43.7 inches with a tight 33.2 inches for rear passengers and shoulder room goes 55.6 inches and 53.7 inches.
The front buckets are soft and comfortable, interior trim utilizes quality materials, the ride is relatively quiet for the class and visibility is good, though limited vertically out the rear window.
Interior accessories include air conditioning, interior air filtration system, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, audio controls on the steering wheel, 4-speaker audio system, AM/FM/CD/MP3 entertainment system with speed-sensitive volume control, auxiliary MP3 audio input, mast antenna, front console with storage, front cupholders and door pockets, dual vanity mirrors, clock, tachometer, trip computer, compass, low fuel warning, remote trunk release, trunk light, front seatback storage and cloth bucket seats (though leather is an option).
From a safety perspective, Focus was designed to exceed global safety standards for occupant and pedestrian protection. Focus includes front and rear head airbags and dual front side-mounted airbags with passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation. Other safety measures include child seat anchors, engine immobilizer, front fog/driving lights, dusk sensing headlamps, stability control, traction control and tire pressure monitoring.
The Base “S” Focus sedan starts at $16,500 (the hatchback starts at $18,200) and the Titanium is in the $22,500 range. I tested the SE because I wanted a vehicle that is base priced under $20,000 (at $17,500). The Focus Electric starts at $39,200 but can qualify for a federal tax credit of $7500.
Options increased the final sticker. The Entertainment Group 203A added $1195, and included SIRIUS Satellite Radio, cruise control, map lights, perimeter alarm, My Ford driver connect technology, SYNC elements with USB port, rear 12-volt power point and 6-speaker audio system. A moonroof added $795, and destination charges of $795 put the vehicle as tested at $20,285 plus taxes and registration. I missed my goal of an under-$20,000 vehicle, but I could have achieved my objective without the moonroof. That would have brought me in at $19,490, but for a few dollars more, we had a vehicle that is fun to drive all year long and even more enjoyable in the spring and summer.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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