2006 Ford Focus
2006 Ford Focus Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Smooth and fun.
The Ford Focus is inexpensive, stylish, practical and fun. We found it more comfortable than some of the other compact cars, with roomy, cushy seats and a nice balance between a soft, smooth ride and responsive handling. It feels more European than Japanese or American in demeanor and a little more refined than, say, the Saturn Ion and Dodge Neon. A choice of body styles and running gear make the Focus appealing for many different types of people.
The sedans are comfortable and move people efficiently. The three-door hatchback is economical and practical yet sporty and fun at the same time. The five-door hatchback makes it easier for rear-seat passengers to join in the merriment. The wagons can carry a ton of cargo. We found the sporty ZX4 ST fun to drive, if a bit noisy. It delivered strong acceleration from its 151-horsepower engine with sharp handling and precise steering from its sports suspension. It ranks among the most enjoyable cars in its class.
The Focus benefited from extensive upgrades inside and out for 2005 so there are relatively few changes for the 2006 models. New options for 2006 include a package that bundles popular safety and convenience features. A new Street Appearance Package adds a unique face, foglamps, lower air deflector, rear bumper and spoiler designed to give the Focus the look of a tuner car.
Buyers of early models had to endure a string of recalls, but those problems appear to have been solved.
The 2006 Ford Focus comes in four body styles: the ZX3, a three-door hatchback; the ZX4, a four-door sedan; the ZX5, a five-door hatchback; and the ZXW, a wagon.
Three engines are offered. All models but the ZX4 ST come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. They are paired with a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. The ZX4 ST comes with a 151-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder and five-speed manual.
The ZX3 ($13,465), ZX4 ($14,075), and ZX5 ($14,780) are available in base S trim. The S trim level comes with manual driver's seat-height adjustment, split-folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD, and 15-inch wheels. (The destination charge adds another $545 to all of these manufacturer's suggested retail prices.) Air conditioning is optional ($910).
SE trim for ZX3 ($14,985), ZX4 ($15,590), ZX5 ($16,300), and ZXW ($17,310) adds air conditioning, an overhead console, AM/FM/CD/MP3, dual power mirrors, power windows and locks, and remote keyless entry.
SES trim for ZX3 ($16,095), ZX4 ($16,700), ZX5 ($17,410), and ZXW ($18,420) adds a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, fog lamps, tachometer, AM/FM/6CD/MP3, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The high-performance ZX4 ST ($18,220) includes a sport-tuned exhaust; the ST suspension with unique 16-inch alloy wheels; four-wheel disc brakes with traction control; decklid spoiler and lower body moldings; chrome-tipped exhaust; body-color, heated outside mirrors; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with contrast stitching; and sporty interior fabrics and instrument panel different from the other versions.
Safety features that come on all Focus models include second-generation front airbags (that shut off the passenger-side airbag if it is unoccupied or occupied by a small child), child safety seat attachments, and child locks on the rear doors. Side-impact airbags ($350) are available for all models, and we strongly recommend getting them. Anti-lock brakes ($400) and traction control ($115) are available for most models. ABS helps the driver maintain steering control in an emergency braking situation; just remember to maintain firm pressure on the brake pedal and look and steer where you want the car to go.
Options include a four-speed automatic transmission ($815), power moonroof ($625), leather upholstery, heated front seats, an alarm system and an Audiophile sound system with Sony speakers and subwoofer.
The Ford Focus was a head-turner when it was first introduced in 2000. Its styling at the time was fresh and innovative. Styling revisions for 2005 gave it a more refined, more grownup appearance, but it continues with same general theme of sweeping arcs and crisp creases that we've grown accustomed to.
Styling revisions to the front of the Focus for '05 were designed to complement the look of the Ford Five Hundred, the company's flagship sedan. Its hood and fenders fall away less sharply than the original to make the car look more substantial and to create a better sight line of the edge of the car for easier parking.
The most noticeable change is the larger grille with the diamond pattern ringed in chrome. Other details include reshaped headlamps with clear lenses and a fascia that incorporates a wide lower air intake, and round fog lamps.
The interior features a traditional look, and is much less cluttered than the original Focus. The instrument panel is symmetrical with the driver and passenger areas divided by two rectangular climate control registers, the hazard switch and a shallow center stack for the audio and climate controls.
On two-tone models, the lower portions of the instrument panel and door trim panels are finished in a lighter shade for a more open feeling. Cloth and leather upholstery are offered. The ZX4 ST has unique woven fabrics or suede seating surfaces surrounded with leather trim.
A standard floor console houses the shifter, two cupholders, the parking brake, and controls for options such as traction control. An overhead console includes a sunglasses holder and a space for a garage door opener. Storage is also provided in the front doors, which feature molded-in bottle holders.
A CD player with MP3 capability is standard on all models. Models with the optional six-disc CD changer feature audio controls on the steering wheel.
The Ford Focus is notable for its spirited driving dynamics.
The 136-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is the base engine for most of the country. In California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, the Focus comes standard with a super-clean, 130-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
Fuel economy is good: The base engine earns an EPA rating of 26/35 mpg City/Highway with the five-speed manual, 26/32 with the four-speed automatic. More important, it puts out much lower emissions so it meets California's PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) standards.
The Focus ZX4 ST is fun to drive. Ford borrowed pieces of the suspension from the European-market Focus and the 2004 Focus SVT to make the ZX4 ST more performance oriented than the other models. It borrows the front struts and rear shocks from those models, and they are 50 percent stiffer than the ones on the SE and SES versions. The ZX4 ST comes with unique 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Pirelli all-season radials. The package provides sharp handling response, precise steering and generally an enjoyable connection with the road.
We found the higher horsepower engine in the Focus ZX4 ST delivered strong acceleration performance and cruised easily on the highway. The only complaint with the engine was noise. Despite efforts by Ford engineers to quiet the cabin, the ZX4 ST was noisy even when cruising at highway speeds. The 151-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder that goes in the ZX4 ST gets an EPA-rated 23/32 mpg.
The Ford Focus is inexpensive, stylish, practical and fun, and it appears Ford has fixed the quality problems that plagued the 2000 and 2001 models. The Focus boasts an extra-long powertrain warranty of five years or 100,000 miles and the improvements have boosted its quality ratings.
Michelle Krebs filed the original report, with New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
Ford Focus ZX3 S ($13,465); ZX4 S ($14,075); ZX5 S ($14,780); ZX3 SE ($14,985); ZX4 SE ($15,590); ZX5 SE ($16,300); ZXW SE ($17,310); ZX3 SES ($16,095); ZX4 SES ($16,700); ZX5 SES ($17,410); ZXW SES ($18,420); ZX4 ST ($18,220).
Wayne, Michigan; Hermosillo, Mexico.
Options As Tested
side-impact airbags ($350); leather seats ($695); heated front seats ($115); Audiophile sound system ($795); power moonroof ($625).
Ford Focus ZX4 ST ($18,220).
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