New For 2014
A new sport appearance package for SE models adds cloth sports seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a rear spoiler. The Focus Electric’s sticker price has been reduced by $4000.
The original Ford Focus, which replaced the aging Escort in 2000, took the compact-car segment by storm. Available as a sedan, a hatchback, a wagon, and, eventually, a coupe, the Focus rewarded buyers with tight handling, low fuel consumption, solid quality, and good value for money. Although European buyers received an updated Focus in 2004, the U.S. market had to make do with a warmed-up version of the original until the 2012 model year, when both Europeans and Americans received the brand-new third-generation Focus. More that a decade after it first appeared, the qualities that had us enamored with the original Focus remain: it’s more attractive and better to drive than some rival compact cars yet is still a good day-to-day value. The addition of a go-fast Focus ST, which picks up where the 2002-2004 Focus SVT left off, only adds to our interest.
The Focus is one of Ford’s most popular cars, no doubt partly due to its impressive fuel economy and versatility. The hatchback body style has more cargo room and we think it’s the more attractive version, but many shoppers will prefer the sedan’s traditional three-box design. Both models are equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 160 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to make the Focus feel responsive and fun in daily use. The five-speed manual transmission is our pick for its smooth clutch take-up and easy gear changes; the optional six-speed PowerShift transmission returns better fuel economy and is easy to drive, but it can be noisy and jerky in low-speed driving.
Although it’s one of the cheapest cars in the Ford lineup, the Focus skimps neither on quality nor equipment. The funky, angular interior mimics that of other Ford products, and includes many of the same gadgets, such as a self-parking system, a backup camera, push-button start, MyFord Touch and Sync infotainment systems, and heated seats. The best thing about driving the Focus is, well, driving: it’s taut, responsive, and thoroughly enjoyable on any sort of road, with a ride that is comfortable enough for family outings. Fuel economy is excellent, too, and opting for the Special Fuel Economy package adds special tires, engine programming, and aerodynamic parts that boost EPA ratings to 28/40 mpg (city/highway).
Performance fans can pay extra for the 252-hp Focus ST, which has a turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual transmission, larger brakes, a tighter suspension, sticky tires, big wings and scoops, and snug Recaro sports seats. The ST is a lot of fun, but torque steer and an occasional hint of oversteer can make it a challenge at times. Focus ST buyers also get a free day of driving instruction at Miller Motorsports Park, courtesy of Ford. Green-minded buyers can choose the Focus Electric, which like the ST is offered only as a hatchback. It has a range of about 76 miles per charge thanks to a 23-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, although its top speed is just 84 mph. Ford cut the price by $4000 to $35,995 to help combat slow sales, and a $7500 tax credit can lower the cost even more. The Electric model drives just as well as a normal Ford Focus, but cargo room is greatly reduced by the battery pack and the turning circle is excessively large for a small car. The price cut brings it more in line with other electric cars, but the battery-powered Focus is still pricey.
- Nimble, European handling
- Great fuel economy
- Thrilling ST model
You won’t like:
- Cramped rear seat
- Clunky PowerShift transmission
- Electric version is expensive
- Chevrolet Cruze
- Honda Civic
- Mazda 3
- Volkswagen Golf