2013 Ford Focus
2013 Ford Focus Expert Review: Autoblog
Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze have gone about making the compact segment one of the most hotly contested arenas in the market, rankling the chains of long-time fighters like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in the process. But while the Cruze and Elantra have proven that big content can come in small packages with smaller price tags, there's a growing sense that the fun-to-fling small car may be on its way out in favor of commuters that have inherited the soft-riding genes of their bigger brethren.
In a way, the change was all but inevitable. Whereas the compact segment once served up a cornucopia of rides that were low on power but big on handling, the market has proven that above all else, buyers in this neck of the woods want value. In an effort to pinch every last copper cent, both Hyundai and Chevrolet have scrapped the independent rear suspension in their respective compacts in favor of the considerably cheaper torsion-beam design.
So when Ford announced that American buyers would finally be able to get their hands on the global Focus, our ears perked up. The last Euro-Focus had built a reputation for being a smart handler, and if this latest version could make it across the pond without becoming too watered down in the process, compact buyers would once again have a vehicle that's as fun to drive as it is responsible to own. Now we get to find out if Ford pulled it off.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
EPA hasn't quite wrapped up testing on either configuration, Ford tells us that we can expect at least one variant to eclipse the 40 mpg barrier. That means that unlike the Hyundai Elantra, which manages to hit 40 mpg no matter the trim, the Focus will only be able to pull off the fuel-economy stunt with a special package just like the Chevrolet Cruze Eco.
From the exterior, there's no mistaking the 2012 Ford Focus for a flat-line commuter. The FoMoCo designers graced both the four-door and five-door body styles with a menacing fascia that makes use of massive faux air-inlets on either side of the main grille, and the blacked-out treatment is plenty sharp in the flesh. That's especially true when the Focus wears the optional 17-inch painted alloy wheels of our sedan tester. Ford is planning to offer a whopping total of 11 different wheel variants, with 18-inch, multi-spoke rollers topping the charts.
Wrapped headlights carry your eye around the side of the Focus, where a sloping shoulder line and subtle strake help give the car a sense of movement in four-door guise. Out back, the sedan wears a remarkably short trunk deck, though the wrapped tail lamps go a long way toward helping everything feel cohesive. We couldn't really drum up a complaint with the appearance of the sedan, but the five-door variant is far and above the looker in our book.
While the hatch makes use of the same front bodywork as its four-door kin, the five-door presents a much more sorted rear. Tricks like a fuel door that's integrated into the tail lamp design and an attractive roof spoiler go a long way toward making the Focus hatch one of the more creatively styled compacts.
Inside, the Focus offers up an interior that, while nice, isn't going to redefine what buyers have come to expect from small cars in America. Base trim delivers comfortable cloth seats with acceptable bolstering, though the two-tone grey on black cloth of our sedan tester was more than a little cringe-worthy. The good news is that the higher you climb on the option sheet, the better those thrones become. Ford does offer handsome leather buckets with contrasting stitching if you can't stomach the thought of parking your keester on the low-rent seats.
Seating material aside, the Focus uses stylish, easy-to-read gauges that are supplemented by a small LCD screen nestled between the tachometer and the speedometer. The screen can be set up to display everything from fuel economy to your trip meter, average speed and a host of other information. Handy controls on the steering wheel make the screen easy to use and easier to set up, though we wouldn't recommend flipping through the categories while on the road.
The center stack on the Focus offers more buttons than you can shake a stick at, and at least half of them are tangled up in the same number pad found on the Fiesta. Lower trim levels are stuck with HVAC controls that feel right at home in this segment, though buyers opting up for the Titanium trim level are rewarded with more upscale kit.
Still, that doesn't mean the standard Focus is a slouch at the pump. Ford packed in plenty of learned lessons from its successful EcoBoost program into the 2.0-liter, including a specially-ported intake manifold to increase air flow and twin variable valve timing. Even with plenty of hammering during our time in the cockpit, we saw around 32 mpg in mixed driving, and we're curious to see exactly what the vehicle can return under more sane conditions. Considering that Ford is shooting for an 18-percent increase in fuel economy compared to the 2011 model, the standard 2012 Focus should land somewhere around 30 mpg city and hit high 30s on the highway.
While it's a little disappointing to hear that not every Focus model will be able to return 40 mpg highway, we're bolstered by the handling that Ford has managed to bake into its new compact. The Blue Oval made use of a MacPherson strut set up in the front with a hefty 23.5-millimeter stabilizer bar, and out back, the Focus delivers a multi-link independent rear with a 19-millimeter bar. The result is one of the most well-planted compacts in the segment. Really lean on the Focus and it will serve up sharp turn-in with very little understeer, and the five-speed manual transmission is perfect for banging your way through the gears. With one fell swoop, the 2012 Focus has managed to knock both the Honda Civic and the Mazda3 off their fun-to-drive thrones.
Unfortunately, if you want the Titanium Handling Package package that throws in 18-inch wheels, stickier summer tires, revised dampers, springs and sway bars, you're stuck opting up to the Titanium package. If we were looking for a quality commuter that's fun to sling down our favorite set of twisties, we'd opt for an SE with the five-speed manual and spend the money saved on a new set of tires.
At this point, you're probably thinking that a dual-clutch transmission makes perfect sense on a sport model. You'd be right, only Ford has programmed this cog box to handle shifts just like a standard automatic. While you can technically coax the transmission into a gear of your own choosing by clicking the tiny rocker button on top of the shift lever, gear swaps are slow and soft. If you're really looking to cover some ground with a vengeance, you're better off opting for the manual 'box.
That's not to say that the dual-clutch transmission is lackluster for fielding commuting duty by any means. On the street, the shifts are perfectly smooth, and while the transmission tends to hold gears a bit longer before down shifting than we'd like, the truth is that this piece is a huge improvement over the old automatic.
Ford has priced the 2012 Focus Sedan starting at $16,995 in S trim, though opting up to the five-door in SE guise will set you back $18,790. If your pockets are a little deeper and you like the look of the more polished interior, Titanium trim will go for $22,995 for the sedan and $23,490 for the hatch. That base price puts the Focus at over $1,100 more than the 2010 Honda Civic sedan, though with more horsepower and better theoretical fuel economy, buyers will get what they pay for with the newest addition to the FoMoCo family.
Ford has made it clear that it doesn't intend to be left out of the new wave of high-quality compact vehicles, and the 2012 Focus manages to bring a level of sophistication, comfort and handling that we've never seen from the automaker's efforts in this segment. The Focus has finally grown into a genuine top pick in a field that's already packed with strong contenders. Our only complaint is that we have to wait a full year before the high-horsepower Focus ST model finds its way to the streets. Consider yourselves warned, Civic Si and MazdaSpeed3.
The bottom line is that the 2012 Ford Focus is a compact car with a pulse. With its more youthful exterior and sharper handling compared to either the 2011 Hyundai Elantra or 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, the Focus is perfect for buyers who want more than transportation from their vehicles. And with available goodies like MyFord Touch and a hatchback body style, the Focus also delivers a little extra usability than either of those offerings. If you're willing to give up a few miles per gallon for a few extra giggles per apex, it's hard to do better than the Focus.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
New Car Test Drive
Sporty ST and Electric join newly redesigned lineup.
One of the most popular compacts on the market, the Ford Focus has a sharp, futuristic look that leaves behind old stereotypes of small, affordable American cars. Completely redesigned for the 2012 model year, the Focus makes its claim as the technology and fuel-mileage leader in its class. The 2013 Focus lineup adds two new models: the sporty Focus ST and the all-electric Focus Electric.
The Ford Focus comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models.
The most popular 2013 Focus models come with a 2.0-liter engine with direct injection and twin variable valve timing. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional, with SelectShift manual mode an option for the automatic. The standard 2.0-liter engine makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2013 Ford Focus are 26/36 mpg City/Highway with 5-speed manual, 28/38 mpg with 6-speed automatic.
The new 2013 Focus ST features a more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that cranks out an impressive 247 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Focus ST comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox and sport-tuned suspension. Focus ST comes as a hatchback only with a special body kit. The sporty Focus ST is rated 23/32 mpg City/Highway.
The Focus Electric is powered by a 107-kilowatt electric motor that has an estimated range of 76 miles per full charge and an EPA energy efficiency equivalent rating of 110 MPGe City and 99 MPGe Highway or 105 MPGe Combined. It's an electric car, so gas stations are a thing of the past. You charge it up at home. With a 240-volt home charger, Ford says the Electric can be recharged in four hours, half the time it takes the Nissan Leaf to get fully juiced. The Focus Electric competes most closely with the Leaf, although the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a smaller, less expensive all-electric alternative. Government subsidies, perks and kickbacks make the Focus Electric more attractive to buyers.
The Ford Focus models have nice interiors for the class. The soft materials are clearly high quality, while the hard trim looks slathered on. There's excellent legroom in front, but rear legroom is only moderate. The gauges are easy to read and include a big tachometer and speedometer with cool blue needles.
The 2013 Focus uses the MyFord Touch connectivity interface powered by Microsoft's SYNC. The system uses twin high-resolution screens, including an 8-inch touch screen in the center console, to communicate with your car. The driver uses three senses: see, hear, touch. Ford says the system is designed to be simple and completely intuitive for the driver, and maybe it was designed that way, but it doesn't always work that way. We found this latest version of MyFord Touch difficult to use.
On the road, the Focus is exceptionally quiet. A lot of productive effort went into making the cabin silent, with luxury-levels of sound insulation practically everywhere, including the doors, windshield, carpet and headliner. Ride quality was smooth and soft. We found the standard engine extremely smooth with plenty of power. However, we thought the 6-speed automatic was imprecise in its shifting, while the 5-speed manual felt ropey.
The 2013 Ford Focus competes with the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Kia Forte and Volkswagen Jetta.
The 2013 Ford Focus comes in sedan and Hatchback versions. Focus comes standard with a 2.0-liter engine. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, a 6-speed automatic optional.
Focus S Sedan ($16,200) is equipped with cloth upholstery, climate control with air filtration, power door locks and front windows, full center console, 110-watt four-speaker AM/FM/CD3/MP3 sound system, fold-flat rear seat, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, and black grille, mirrors and door handles. No cruise control or USB port or Bluetooth, rear windows are rollup and rear brakes are drum.
Focus SE Sedan ($18,200) and SE Hatchback ($19,200) come with cloth bucket seats with four-way power driver's seat, body-color mirrors and door handles, floormats, foglamps, auto headlamps, illuminated entry, compass and temp display, steering-wheel audio controls, power rear windows, and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Still no USB port or Bluetooth, and rear drums. With the Hatchback you also get a 60/40 rear seat, rear wiper and liftgate spoiler.
Focus Titanium Sedan ($23,200) and Titanium Hatchback ($24,200) come loaded with leather-trimmed bucket seats with four-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar, dual-zone climate control, 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD Radio, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, 8-inch touch screen, SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system, MyFord Touch system with touchscreen display, pushbutton start, sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch aluminum wheels. Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link is optional. Other options include heated front seats, remote start system, cargo area protector.
Focus ST hatchback ($23,700) features the more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, 6-speed manual transmission, and sports suspension. Focus ST comes with cloth seats.
Focus Electric ($39,200) features an electric motor and a single-speed direct-drive transmission. The Focus Electric comes with cloth upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, 60/40 folding rear seats, MyFord Touch and MyFord Mobile interfaces, with two unique driving screens, rearview camera, Reverse Sensing System, MyKey, rain-sensing wipers, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Safety equipment in all Focus models includes six airbags with the latest technology, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, rearview camera, tire pressure monitor.
The Ford Focus looks like a big Fiesta, with an unmistakably Ford shape. The Hatchback looks especially aerodynamic. The Focus spent 1000 hours in the wind tunnel to get its sleek shape and low roofline. It yields a 0.295 coefficient of drag, an improvement by nearly 8 percent over the previous (pre-2012) Focus.
Active grille shutters block airflow to the radiator when it's not required, which improves aerodynamics and fuel mileage. NASCAR racers did this with cardboard and duct tape for years, but now it's fully electronic; the shutters have 15 different positions, based on engine temperature. Other cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze are doing this, as well.
Ford calls the distinctive grille split-trapezoid. Fortunately, the grille is black and not chrome and in-your-face like other Ford models. There are eight thin horizontal bars in a huge-mouthed trapezoid whose wide side is the bottom and is divided into three segments by two body-colored vertical bars like catfish chin whiskers. It looks better than it sounds, balanced by a horizontal opening above it, with one thin chrome bar and a neat blue Ford oval. The long thin trapezoidish headlamps wrap forward and downward from the cheeks of the car. They're like sweeping dragon's eyes, says Ford.
Sculpted lines at the sills and door handles flow back from neat modest flared front fenders to give the Focus a forward-moving slant: kinetic design energy, Ford calls it. The windshield is steeply raked and roofline steeply dropped to the liftgate glass, making about as much of a teardrop as a chopped hatchback can be. The side window outline is shaped like a picture of smoke traveling over a sleek car in a wind tunnel. Big vertical taillamps make the Focus look being safe and Volvo-like.
The Focus SE looks cleaner, we think, lacking chrome beltline trim. The 17-inch Titanium wheels are multi-spoke wagon wheels, better looking than the optional 18-inch wheels that are like big chrome stars with thin prongs.
The Focus chassis uses a crash structure designed for the larger Taurus. More than 55 percent is high-strength steels, including Boron B-pillars and front beam, and a decoupling powertrain cradle to keep the engine out of the cabin in a head-on crash.
The first thing we notice about the Focus is its seats. Focus models have had comfortable seats for years tne the current models come standard in sturdy fabric, with leather optional. The seats in the Focus are much better than those in the Chevrolet Cruze.
The interior of the Focus feels like a cockpit. With all its bells and whistles, we could easily imagine being a pilot with all those dials, switches, controls that feel like they wrap around to the elbows on the center stack, and LED ambient lighting in a choice of seven colors. The Focus Electric feels even more futuristic, with two screens that show information about driving efficiency, charge capacity and other do-dads related to the electric powertrain.
The gauges on the dashboard and instrument panel are easy to read: big tach and speedo with cool blue needles, fuel and engine temp between them, and easy-to-read digital info above the fuel and temp. The soft materials are clearly high quality, while the hard materials look slathered on: for example four big vertical vents that rival the giant grille in terms of in-your-faceness, and thick shiny trim that lines the edges of the center stack, console, and thick horizontal spokes of the steering wheel. However, we haven't been in a base S model, maybe it's got a more spartan interior missing the overkill trim. We have no problem with the optional piano black trim.
The MyFord Touch powered by SYNC connectivity system uses twin high-resolution screens, including an 8-inch touch screen in the center console, to communicate with your car. Ford says it's designed to be simple and completely intuitive for the driver. We're not sure they've succeeded in achieving this, but they are continuing to work on it.
There's excellent legroom in front, but the current generation Focus is shy on rear legroom at 33.2 inches, less than the amount offered in the previous generation Focus. Rear legroom is a key feature for a compact car, but Ford appears to have discounted it in the Focus. By comparison, the Volkswagen Jetta, a stylish but not flashy car, has 38.1 inches of rear legroom with the same wheelbase.
The 60/40 fold-flat rear seats increase trunk volume from its so-so 13.2 cubic feet (the Jetta has 15.5) and the hatch cargo capacity to a hefty 44.8 cubic feet.
We took a test drive in the Focus SE hatchback, which uses the standard 2.0-liter engine with direct injection and twin variable valve timing. It makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It's plenty powerful, but mostly, it's extremely smooth. Chevrolet Cruze's 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec engine zooms more quickly to high speeds.
If only the automatic transmission were programmed to be as smooth as the engine. Its shift points, whether in Drive or Select, were unexpected and frequent. Sometimes it shifts itself for engine braking going downhill, when you don't need it to, while other times it doesn't when you want it to. There was so much override in the Select mode, it didn't really seem to matter much which mode we were in; the car made the shifting decisions regardless. The manual gearbox is ropey, reminding us of Volkswagen manuals, but the shifting is effortless and precise.
Ride quality is good. The Focus rides on the soft side, good for commuting while sipping cappuccino. Handling is less precise, however. When we ran a modest rise in the road full throttle at about 60 mph, the car floated and the tires chirped when it came down; typically we might have expected that only at higher speeds. The suspension uses MacPherson struts in front, multi-link in rear.
The rack-mounted power steering system on the Focus was less precise than we'd like, matching the suspension. In our Focus SE with the standard suspension, we struggled to steer the car precisely in the curves, in contrast to the Chevrolet Cruze, which handled like a dream when pushed fast through turns.
Active Park Assist, which will parallel park the Focus for you, while you just sit there. It's an improvement on the Toyota Prius system, which can only park if the space is 7 feet 9 inches larger than the car; using ultrasound, the Focus needs only a margin of 3 feet. However, it will require the driver's help with the accelerator in a space that small, because jockeying forward and back is required.
Interior noise is kept to a minimum on the Focus. A lot of productive effort went into making the cabin silent, including the door structure and sealing, thick window glass, an acoustic layer in the windshield, sound-deadening body panels, foam in body cavities, thick carpet insulation and a sound-absorbing headliner.
We observed fuel economy in the mid-20s when we were driving the gasoline-powered Focus SE. Official EPA estimates are 26/36 mpg City/Highway with the 5-speed manual gearbox and 28/38 with the 6-speed automatic. The new Focus ST hatchback with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is rated at 23/32 mpg City/Highway.
The Focus Electric doesn't need gas. It gets its power from a battery that owners charge up at home. On the road, we found the power from the 107-kilowatt electric motor perfectly adequate. It makes the equivalent of 141 horsepower. Like all cars that use electric motors, there's plenty of thrust off the line. The single-speed, direct-drive transmission is smooth and unobtrusive.
The Focus Electric gets an EPA energy efficiency equivalent rating (MPGe) of 110/99 MPGe City/Highway (105 MPGe Combined), which is slightly better than the Nissan Leaf. Ford claims the Focus Electric can go up to 76 miles on one charge, which is less than the Nissan Leaf's estimated range of 100 miles. But the Focus has a huge advantage when it comes to charging time, at least on paper. Ford says the Focus can fully charge in four hours using a 240-volt home charger, while the Leaf requires twice as long. Owners of the Focus Electric will be able to control and check up on their cars using MyFord Mobile, a smartphone integration app that allows owners to monitor charging progress, locate charging stations and remotely set climate control functions.
We found the Focus Electric particularly smooth and quiet. We expected ride quality to be sacrificed with the comparatively huge 17-inch aluminum wheels, but we didn't detect any significance differences while on the road.
The 2013 Ford Focus is a technology leader in the compact car class. The standard Focus models get good fuel economy and are smooth and quiet. The transmissions do the job but are uninspired. MyFord Touch takes effort to learn to operate well. The Focus ST brings sports appeal with a more powerful engine. The Focus Electric eliminates the need for gasoline.
Sam Moses reported from Los Angeles, with Laura Burstein reporting from Detroit, and Mitch McCullough in New York.
Ford Focus S Sedan ($16,200); SE Sedan ($18,200); SE Hatchback ($19,200); Titanium Sedan ($23,200); Titanium Hatchback ($24,200); ST Hatchback ($23,700); Focus Electric ($39,200).
Options As Tested
Sony and MyFord Touch package with Sony audio system, navigation and MyFord Touch interface with 8-inch touchscreen.
Ford Focus SE Hatchback ($19,200).
2013 Ford Focus Information
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