2012 Ford Focus

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2012 ford focus Reviews and News

Five Car Comparo Parked Front View
The majority of the compact-sedan class has been heavily revised or totally redesigned in the past two years, and Dodge has just rolled out its Alfa Romeo-based Dart, the latest entry in a hotly contested segment. Will the Dart be able to topple the best of the bunch from the top spot?
The 2013 Dart is more than just a new model -- it is Dodge's first competitive small-car offering since the Neon was killed off in 2005. Most notably, it is the first Dodge byproduct of the Chrysler-Fiat merger. Modified versions of the same platform and powertrain found in Alfa Romeo's Giulietta hatchback hide beneath the Dart's slick sheetmetal.
Last year, we rounded up the top six compact sedans and we came away impressed by the high style, advanced technology, and fun-yet-frugal engines offered in the segment. To see how the Dart compares, we've pitted it against the top four contenders from last year's test: the Ford Focus, the Honda Civic, the Hyundai Elantra, and the Mazda 3. Last time, the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cruze finished in last place and second-to-last (respectively), so we opted to leave them out of this comparison.
We wanted to look at what most consumers will be buying, so we avoided top-trim models in favor of automatic-equipped, mid-grade sedans. There were two exceptions: Ford did not have a sedan available for our testing so we used a hatchback instead (however, almost half of Focuses sold this year were hatchbacks, so we let it slide). We wanted to test the Dart's new MultiAir 1.4-liter turbo-four, but Chrysler had just begun production of its new dual-clutch automatic, so a six-speed manual had to suffice for our test. In this very competitive group, does the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye have what it takes to beat the 2012 Ford Focus SEL, the 2012 Honda Civic EX, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GLS, and the 2012 Mazda 3i Touring?

Dollars and Sense

For many buyers in this segment, it's all a numbers game. Our most expensive car - the Ford Focus - rang in at $25,420 with destination. However, that includes $3325 worth of options. Forego the finicky MyFord Touch and navigation systems, the flashy 17-inch polished aluminum wheels, and the premium red candy metallic paint, and the Focus would cost an easier-to-swallow $22,565 and still include goodies such as heated seats and Ford's Sync voice-activation system with Bluetooth. Sadly, even those deletions still place the Focus higher than all but the Dart.
All of our cars came equipped with Bluetooth, but only the Focus and the Dart came with navigation. Dodge's crisp 8.4-inch touch screen also includes a backup camera -- the only one offered in the segment. The high level of equipment gave the Dart the second-most-expensive price here: $23,360 with destination. One of the big reasons was the MultiAir engine, a $1300 option. Our Rallye-trim car also came standard with projector-beam headlights (only available elsewhere from Mazda). The Mazda and the Honda Civic were mid-pack price-wise, running a reasonable $21,695 and $21,455 including destination charges, respectively.
At an as-tested price of just $19,350 (including destination), the Hyundai Elantra is a whopping $6070 below the most-expensive Focus. While it may not be the most tech-laden of the bunch, our Elantra GLS with the Preferred Package included things such as heated seats, Bluetooth, and fog lights. Hyundai also offers the best warranty of the cars here, at 10 years or 100,000 miles, which helps to keep costs down over the lifetime of the car. Buyers willing to splurge on a fully loaded Elantra Limited will shell out just $24,070.
Advantage: Hyundai Elantra GLS

The Inside Story

"The level of amenities and comfort here were unimaginable in the compact-sedan segment only a few years ago," stated deputy editor Joe DeMatio. Even in the blandly styled Civic, it's clear that plenty of man-hours were spent determining the placement and action of every button, knob, and switch in the cabin. While the Civic may have some of the best ergonomics, its drab beige palette, oddly grained plastics, and too-dark displays left us wanting more.
Hyundai was one of the first to spice up the segment with the Elantra and its swoopy, violin shaped center stack and fashionable-yet-simple concentric climate controls. While the Koreans have done an admirable job of graining plastics, some of the surfaces still look and feel cheap. The Elantra does benefit from the largest trunk in the group, at 14.8 cubic feet. Next would be the Focus sedan (not the hatch we tested) at 13.2 cubic feet, followed closely by the Dart's 13.1 cubic feet with an opening that is deep and wide. The other two cars fell below the Dart's size: the Civic at 12.5, and the 3 at 11.8. However, the Mazda's low lift-over height and deep, square shape belied its smallest-in-test measurement. (I found it easiest to enter, exit, and fit my slim 5'9" frame in the Mazda's trunk, as the pictures show.)
Decked out here with the optional MyFord Touch system complete with an eight-inch touch screen, the Focus' cabin oozed European sophistication. "It feels like a very high quality car," said DeMatio. It was also the only car in our comparison to come with automatic climate control, which is part of the $2530 201A equipment group. However, "every button is too small, even the digital ones on the touch screen," complained road test editor Chris Nelson. Foregoing the MyFord Touch system won't solve the problem either - without the touch screen, the Focus' center stack is sprayed with almost two dozen cell-phone-sized buttons that are no easier to operate than the slow and counter-intuitive MyFord Touch. "The dashboard is so overwhelming in every Focus I've driven," noted graphic designer Tom Hang. "There are just so many buttons and controls."
Stepping into the Mazda 3 from any of the other four cars was a breath of fresh air. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out with straightforward controls, and the look is attractive with a sweeping dashboard and modern, blue LED accent lighting. Everything is clear, legible, and within reach. Contributor Ron Sessions loved "the large gauge that indicates what gear you're in. It looks like it is right out of a Porsche." But the all-black interior was dour and dated to some eyes, and Mazda's too-small audio and trip computer screens won no fans.
While the Dodge's interior may not have been well liked among our editors, we found ourselves talking non-stop about the cabin's size. Our Dart was decked out in diesel gray cloth with "citrus" accents - a very bold combination of a drab gray hue and an eye-searing neon yellow. The Dodge was also, however, the largest car in our test and felt a class bigger when you were sitting in any of the seats, despite head- and legroom that actually fall mid-pack. The more time we spent in the car, the clearer it became that Chrysler's engineers made sure that every touch point was soft and that the controls were all quick to learn and easy to operate. As is the case in other Chrysler products, the oversized touch screen is sharp and lightning-fast in response. There were some complaints that the citrus accents could soil easily and that the gray gave the interior a rental-car-grade feel. Dodge also offers black/red and black/gray interior combinations that look much more upscale than our citrus-trimmed tester.
Advantage: Dodge Dart Rallye

Skin Deep Beauty

Until recently, function led form with inexpensive cars; thankfully, that is no longer the case for most of the segment. Not for all, however: the Honda Civic was variously described by our editors as "bland," "conservative," and "downright boring." Sessions claimed that the Honda was "straight from Planet Strange with its odd proportions and disappointing details," while associate web editor Ben Timmins faulted Honda "for not pushing the envelope in terms of the design."
Surprisingly, bland was a word also tossed around regarding the Dart. While the front and rear fascias were stylish and aggressive - the Rallye-spec blacked-out grille looked menacing in rearview mirrors and the LED taillights were a premium touch on a sub-$25,000 car - the rest of the exterior was an anonymous jelly-bean shape. Despite having reflectors that mimic the larger Dodge Charger's alluring "racetrack" full-width LED taillights, only the top-spec Dart R/T receives a similar treatment; all other models have C-shaped LED units only - a real styling let down.
Mazda also offers LED taillights, but only on its loaded Mazda 3 Grand Touring. Our mid-level Touring model was still sharp, dressed in cheery sky blue metallic paint. The 2012 update softened the 3's Cheshire cat grin, but the front visage still has a gaping smile of a grille that may not appeal to everyone. The rest of the car is athletic looking with swollen front fenders and a sharp crease bisecting the door handles and rising from the front doors to the taillights. It's a sporty design free of overwrought detailing.
The eye catcher of the group was the Elantra. Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language translates well to the 178.3-inch-long sedan, its flowing lines deemed "sexy and sensuous" by Nelson and "far from boring with all its surface excitement" according to Sessions. The front end has one of the best executions of the brand's hexagonal grille and the rear is simple but interesting thanks to the wraparound taillights. That said, all of our editors agreed that the Elantra's design may be sexy and innovative now, but could look as dated as a flip phone in five years -- that consensus kept the Hyundai from winning in the exterior design department.
Both timeless and daring at the same time is Ford's Focus. "The Focus is one sharp little character that manages to look beautiful and aggressive at the same time," opined Sessions. "I'm not sure the Darth Vader chin will stand the test of time, but it's contemporary as hell." Like the interior, the exterior is very Euro-chic with large wraparound taillights, creased bodylines, and a steeply raked windshield. We feel that the Focus' design is mature and will age well as the years go by; it looks like a package designed by a single, very experienced team.
Advantage: Ford Focus SEL

Getting From A to B

No matter how much it costs, how stylish the interior or how good it looks, the main use of a car is to drive. But we weren't looking for the ultimate driver's car here, instead we sought the best all-around consumer compact.
When our testing started, we expected the Elantra to rank highly here -- at first, the ride was comfortable and the Elantra felt like an ideal commuter car. The more time we spent with the Hyundai, though, the more its wallowy ride on the highway, its poorly controlled body motions in the twisties, and harsh impacts on broken roads worked against it. Sessions also noted that "the steering lacks feel and is rather numb." Everyone came away unimpressed with the Elantra's dynamics.
The best driver's car here is the Ford Focus, hands down. The 2.0-liter I-4 is powerful - its 160 hp is tied with the Dart as the most powerful - and the chassis is rock-solid, which inspires confidence behind the wheel. "The supple ride quality, precise steering, and responsive brake pedal feel are all very good for a car of this class," said DeMatio. Thanks to the spot-on steering, the Focus was a breeze to wheel around town and easy to place in the middle of a highway lane, no matter how narrow or badly patched. The Ford's biggest demerit came from the company's new PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. Around town, the PowerShift is clunky and hesitant between shifts, and often hunts for the right gear at low speeds. Once on the highway (and in sixth gear), it's fine but overdrive gives little passing power. Thankfully, downshifts at speed are smooth and unobtrusive.
The Dart was a close second in the race for best driver's car. Selecting the turbocharged engine paid off - the forced-induction unit was the most fun to wind up and felt the most powerful thanks to its 184 lb-ft of torque avaliable at a low 2500 rpm. But find yourself below that 2500-rpm threshold and the Dodge bogs down, its heaviest-in-test weight of 3191 lbs very apparent. The six-speed manual has long throws but great clutch feel; however, we couldn't help but wonder if the upcoming dual-clutch automatic would keep the turbo spooled better than we did. Will the Chrysler-engineered transmission be as slick as Volkswagen's much-lauded DSG or as much-maligned as Ford's PowerShift? More than anything, the Dart felt like the quirky car of the bunch, its inner Alfa Romeo coming out - we agreed that it almost was like an older Saab 9-3 or Audi A4 1.8T thanks to its slow-spooling turbo and larger size.
Also occasionally short of breath was the 155-hp Mazda. Its power rating placed it mid-pack, but any kind of passing left us wanting more oomph. Otherwise, the direct-injected 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder felt peppy around town and had enough power for getting up to speed on the highway. "Acceleration off the line is good without being abrupt," said DeMatio. "Transmission shift mapping is also nicely done, and the tap-shift is quick to respond," pointed out Sessions. The 3's steering was also second-best to the Ford's, nicely weighted and direct -- however, the suspension caused some head bounce over the pothole-strewn roads of downtown Detroit.
The Honda Civic was the Goldilocks of our group -- neither too stiffly sprung to turn off commuters, nor too soft to spurn enthusiasts. "I actually changed lanes on our way into Detroit to get on worse roads to test the Civic. Not only did it pass with flying colors, but the Honda has brilliant ride and handling paired to a responsive and creamy powertrain," raved Timmins. "Somewhere a Hyundai engineer is scratching his head trying to figure out how to make a car ride this well." The Civic also had very good steering. It communicated just the right amount of feel from the front tires and the wheel itself was the best size and shape with its small diameter and thick rim. The transmission was down a cog compared to the rest (five instead of six), but was still smooth and unobtrusive, which is "exactly what most Americans expect from an automatic," DeMatio pointed out. The Civic wasn't perfect, however: Honda's quest for cost savings sacrificed sound deadening, and the steering, while communicative, felt too boosted to be as good as the Ford's or Mazda's.
Advantage: Honda Civic EX

Your Mileage May Not Vary

Our contenders' EPA fuel economy ratings all fell within spitting distance of one another:
1. Hyundai Elantra GLS: 29/40 mpg city/highway
2. Mazda 3i Touring: 28/40 mpg
3. Honda Civic EX: 28/39 mpg
4. Dodge Dart Rallye: 27/39 mpg
5. Ford Focus SEL: 27/37 mpg
As we found during our First Drive - the Mazda 3 will achieve 40 mpg on the highway in the real world. Like the Elantra, the Mazda achieves 40 mpg without any special packages. However, the 2.0-liter Skyactiv I-4 is the only Mazda 3 engine that achieves the rating - the base 2.0-liter is good for just 33 mpg highway, while the larger 2.5 manages only 29 mpg. Hyundai offers just one engine for all Elantra sedans.
Both Honda and Ford offer high-mileage variants (the Civic HF and Focus SFE, respectively), but ask for extra coinage to gain efficiency. For the Honda, the HF costs $20,395 compared to the $19,595 Civic LX on which it's based (an $800 difference) and is rated at 41 mpg highway versus 39 mpg. For just $95, Ford will add the SFE package to a Focus SE sedan, gaining an additional three highway mpg (37 versus 40). Both Honda and Ford utilize aerodynamic tricks like different wheels, low rolling resistance tires, and active grille shutters to achieve the higher highway ratings.
Speaking of efficiency, the Dodge is not only the second-least car here, but it is also the only car in our test to recommend premium fuel. While it can be filled with regular, the automaker doesn't guarantee the full 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of power if regular is used, although Chrysler says fuel economy would be unaffected.
Advantage: Hyundai Elantra GLS

The Winner

You can't go wrong with any of the five cars here. The Hyundai Elantra won two categories, the only car to do so, and is a perfectly competent small car. Said Timmins, "If you're looking at a Toyota Corolla because you think you have to, look at the Hyundai instead." But the fact that the Elantra is a better variant of a long-in-the-tooth car does not endear us to it over the others here, despite the Elantra’s bargain price and (by a hair) best-in-test EPA numbers. The Hyundai Elantra lands in fifth place.
Ford went out on a limb, trying a clean-sheet design and was willing to push the envelope. In some ways it worked, in others it didn't. The Focus was the most fun to drive of the five, but at the cost of fuel economy, cabin space, and a high price. Technology issues also prevented the Focus from a better finish - MyFord Touch's clunky and slow interface turned off even the technophiles in our group and the poorly calibrated transmission had us drawing straws for who would be stuck in traffic with the Ford. Thus the Focus landed in fourth place. In quite the opposite direction from the Ford, Honda opted to stick to its tried-and-true formula. Thanks to its slick transmission, smooth ride, and thoughtful ergonomics, the Honda Civic finds itself dead center with a third-place finish. However, a low-rent interior, boring design, and obvious cost-cutting keeps this veteran of the compact sedan segment from placing higher. In quite the opposite direction from the Ford, Honda opted to stick to its tried-and-true formula. Thanks to its slick transmission, smooth ride, and thoughtful ergonomics, the Honda Civic finds itself dead center with a third place finish. However, a low-rent interior, boring design, and obvious cost-cutting keeps this veteran of the compact sedan segment from placing higher.
None of the six editors agreed on how the second- through fifth-place cars would rank, but the victor was unanimous. Despite being the newest entry in the field, the Dodge Dart did not win. However, its second-place finish shows that the merger of Chrysler and Fiat has a lot of promise. Dodge has crafted a car that drives well, looks good, and has space to spare, but "you can't put a few funky touches on a car and expect everyone to like it," remarked Nelson. The turbocharged engine is peaky and a price that's on the high side kept the Dart from the top spot. The Dodge put up a good fight, but came up a little short.
"It's funny," noted Sessions, "the oldest car in the test feels like comfortable sneakers." In fact, all of our editors related the Mazda 3 to perfectly-worn-in shoes. One commented, "Getting into the Mazda, even for the first time, feels like you're at home. Everything is exactly as it should be." Our logbooks filled with comments like "I can't think of many negatives about the 3" (DeMatio) and "a great all-rounder that has everything you need and nothing you don't" (Timmins). What kept us from naming the Mazda as last year's winner was an unrefined five-speed automatic and poor fuel economy. Both issues are remedied by opting for the new Skyactiv powertrain.
Nelson hit the nail on the head: "I've got nothing to add to the pile of praise for this car. The 3 is so good. No matter what, the Mazda is always an enjoyable experience." It might not have won any individual categories, but with its combination of a reasonable price, a user-friendly and attractive interior, a stylish exterior design, fun-to-drive road manners, and excellent fuel economy, the Mazda 3 can’t be beat.
2012 Ford Focus Electric Front Left Side View
Ford chose an auspicious moment to dazzle the world with the engineering talent and savvy product planning behind the 2012 Focus Electric. Bad news about electric cars had been cascading in the days before the car's press launch in Southern California. Production of the Chevrolet Volt remained suspended, the recall of one leading battery maker's products threatened that company's very existence, and an exploding lithium-ion battery injured two workers at the GM Tech Center.
Furthermore, sales of the Nissan Leaf aren't even approaching predictions for that model in 2012.
Nevertheless, awaiting us in a briefing room, the Focus Electric, wearing a pale coat of celadon like a Chinese vase, was plugged into a charger, no more concerned about the above calamities than a hound dog faced with a cat food shortage. And after our briefing and drive, we were more or less dazzled -- as much as anyone could be by a compact five-door weighing 3624 lb and motivated by 144 hp (105 kW) and 188 lb-ft of torque.
While the dynamic performance of Ford's first-ever electric car can best be described as adequate, Ford has done a superior job of integrating electric propulsion into a normal package. In other words, the Focus Electric doesn't look like a previously undiscovered larva scraped from beneath a thick mat of rainforest duff.
If the Electric exudes any trademark characteristic, it's of quotidian utility with a dash of sportiness -- not so different from a Focus with a gas engine.

A new front-end aims at optimal efficiency

Besides the charging cord sticking out of the left front flank, we immediately noticed the Electric's completely different face. Rather than the basic Focus's single-bar grille, gaping mouth, and bold twin-triangle intakes, the Electric is mutely masked in favor of aero efficiency. The new grille displays delicate horizontal crossbars with another more discreet opening beneath the bumper bar.
As there's no compelling need to evacuate hot air from beneath the hood, the triangular intakes are gone, taking along their visual drama. And the Electric peers at the world through all-new HID headlamps, drawing less power than halogen lamps.
"Energy's extremely precious," said Chuck Gray, Ford's engineering chief for hybrids and electrics. "We scrutinized every amp at every moment to determine whether it's important."
Other than the charging port, the delicate and lovely fifteen-spoke alloy wheels, and the blatant but not tasteless badging to distinguish this Electric, there's nothing externally that isn't found on a basic Focus. Be it noted, however, that the Electric will be sold only in this five-door body style and only in one trim level, so there can be no dithering over the lack of leather upholstery. (In fact, the seats are covered with fabric boasting a high content of recycled polyethylene and other waste.) Seat heaters are included.
Under the hood, beneath a shroud of black plastic that's alongside the power inverter, is the permanent-magnet motor, which is bereft of any internal-combustion companionship. The current for this unit is supplied by a liquid-cooled and -heated pack of lithium-ion cells with capacity of 23kW hours. These cells -- manufactured by LG Chem and assembled in a pack by Piston Automotive Group, the enterprise started by former Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson -- form a recumbent L-shaped 600-pound-plus mass that reposes under the rear seat and between the rear wheels.
Ford claims the advantage in recharging time: four hours, or half that of a Nissan Leaf. Of disadvantage to the owner is the Focus Electric's battery pack. Alas, it impinges upon the cargo area, where inserting two golf bags would seriously discompose the mashies and niblicks. But the Electric surrenders no backseat positions. It remains a five-passenger car.

Driving with refinement, assurance, and efficiency

If nothing is outwardly exceptional about the Focus Electric, it sure helps that the basis for this exercise in electrification is an already satisfying car. The cabin is anything but cramped, there's great outward visibility, and a comfortable driving position is achieved before we pull away on our test drive. The motor yanks us happily along in suburban traffic. This tester is so quiet that we realize how much a normal car suppresses unavoidable tire noise and wind rush, which here seem more prominent in the absence of a gas engine's mutterings and sputterings.
Flowing along, we kept waiting for the single-speed transmission to change ratios, as the driver of a horse-drawn surrey would expect to jolt over a bump, but soon we forgot about it.
So the Electric's EPA-certified range is 76 miles, although Ford says up to 100 miles can be eked out. Our experience verifies there's enough range to run errands, commute to work, or combine some of both, although achieving the top speed of 84 mph and holding it will hasten battery depletion.
Efficiency of 110 MPGe city/99 MPGe highway is astonishing, considering the nonchalance with which the Electric achieves such a figure. In every other way, the Electric's driving experience is unexceptional. Press the accelerator, and the car goes. Press the brake, and it stops without undue hissing and humming from the regenerative system that sends new current to the batteries. With the independent multilink rear suspension, no untoward body motions are observed. The ride is perfectly acceptable, thanks to recalibrations made necessary by the extra weight.
If anything surprises, it's this newbie's level of refinement. Imagine a space vehicle that shrugs off passage through a dense belt of asteroids as no big deal. We can only picture today's world if New Coke had been as successful on its first attempt.
An important part of the Electric's story is the exclusive instrument panel that displays information about range and performance, throwing in atta-boys for efficient travel and energy recapture during braking. This data can be posted to Facebook as a challenge to other Electric drivers to do better.

The marriage of car and smart phone

Almost as important as the Electric's on-road performance is its interaction with our smart phone and the cloud. MyFord Mobile serves as the intermediary. This app lets us shape the charging profile, biasing this operation in favor of low-cost off-peak current. Preheating the Electric's interior before unplugging in the morning is another discretionary function. An accessory 240-volt charger and solar rooftop array are available.
At first, the Electric will account for only a small percentage of Focus sales, but Ford says it gives customers a choice today. Although the Electric is expensive at $39,995, some geeks might see the value equation when the three-phase launch starts with May sales in California, New York, and New Jersey.
Ford names the Nissan Leaf as chief competitor, but we see the Electric giving the comparably priced Chevrolet Volt fits. It's so uncompromised, so clear about its mission. Given the right marketing, this car could be responsible for establishing the Blue Oval as the go-to brand for electric propulsion.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Powertrain
Motor: Permanent-magnet electric
Power: 141 hp/105 kW
Torque: 188 lb-ft/255 Nm
Transmission: Single-speed
Drive: Front-wheel
Chassis
Steering: Electric power-assisted
Suspension, Front: Independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
Suspension, Rear: Independent multiple link with stabilizer bar
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS and regenerative braking
Tires: P225/50R-17
Measurements
L x W x H: 172.9 x 71.8 x 58.2 in
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
Track F/R: 60.5/59.6 in
Weight: 3624 lb
Performance
0-60 MPH: N/A
Top Speed: 84 mph
EPA Mileage: 110/99 MPGe
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic Front View
Any time there's a new Honda Civic, it's a big deal in the small-car market. The Civic, together with the Toyota Corolla, is one of longest-running nameplates in the field, and it regularly vies with the Corolla for the top spot in sales. This year, however, the new Civic is hardly the only big news in small cars. The past few months have also seen the introduction of an all-new Hyundai Elantra and an all-new Ford Focus, both vastly improved over their predecessors and both coming from companies that have been on a roll lately. It seemed natural to get the new Civic together with these upstarts to see how the freshest entries in the field compare.
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic Front Parked
The Many and the Few
The Civic is available in more different iterations than any other compact car. For the 2012 version, Honda has upped the count by one, adding a new HF high-fuel-economy model. The Civic already offers two body styles, coupe and sedan. There are a total of eight trim levels: DX, LX (the biggest seller), EX, EX-L, the sporty Si, as well as HF, Hybrid, and Natural Gas (due out this fall). For this comparison we had an EX-L sedan.
Ford's new Focus also comes in two body styles. The two-door coupe available previously is gone, but there's a new four-door hatchback to accompany the four-door sedan. There are four trim levels: S, SE, SEL, and Titanium. A Focus electric is joining the lineup in late 2011. We had an SE hatchback here.
The Hyundai Elantra has the simplest lineup. The new Elantra is offered only as a four-door sedan, in GLS or Limited trim. (The Elantra Touring, a high-roof four-door hatchback, shares the Elantra name but is really a distinct model.) For this comparison, we had an Elantra Limited.
Who's Got the Looks
We'll wade only briefly into the subjective area of design. The new Civic reverently continues the design theme of its popular predecessor. The large cabin is visually elongated with a steeply raked windshield and backlight, while the hood and the trunk are abbreviated. The result is on single-arc profile, which has been freshened somewhat with more sculpted surfaces. Designers of the Elantra and the Focus appear to have given no thought whatsoever to maintaining a visual link to the previous models -- and rightly so, since both were dowdy and downmarket-looking. The Elantra's flowing lines may not be to everybody's taste, but they're certainly dramatic and stylish for a car in this class. The Focus bears a familial resemblance to other Ford of Europe products, with an oversize grille, raised creases along the body sides, a rising beltline, and a small greenhouse. Overall, we think the design works better on the hatchback than it does on the overly busy sedan, although in both cases it's very similar to the subcompact Fiesta.
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic Parked
The Civic's Familiar Surroundings
Consistency is again the name of the game for the new Civic's interior, which clearly follows the format laid down by the previous model. Under the large windshield is a very deep dashboard that, as in the last Civic, is bisected into two tiers. The upper binnacle houses a digital speedometer, flanked by readouts for fuel level and another one for fuel economy. Bracketing the speedometer are lights that glow green when the driver lets off the gas or blue when he gets on it. Set below the upper binnacle is the large, analog tachometer, which the driver sees through the small-diameter, three-spoke steering wheel. An additional, 6.5-inch LCD screen just offset to the right within the upper binnacle is new for 2012. It can display a variety of information, which the driver can scroll through using the relatively simple buttons on the steering wheel. Readouts include audio system info, Bluetooth phone info, turn instructions from the navigation system, trip computer info, or a wallpaper photo that you upload. Our EX-L was equipped with the optional navigation system. Its large touch-screen was fairly easy to use and we had no qualms with the system's logic. But the audio and nav-system buttons that surround it are tiny, and the whole units looks like its ten years old. The Civic's other switchgear is typical Honda: simple and of high quality. Aside from our top-spec EX-L model's leather seats, the cabin is otherwise fairly basic and unadorned. Interior space, though, is quite good -- slightly better than before despite unchanged exterior dimensions -- excepting rear-seat headroom under the sloping roof. And the comparatively generous window area makes the cabin feel large and airy.
The Cockpit-like Cabin in the Focus
The design philosophy of the Focus cabin is definitely in contrast to that of the Elantra and the Civic. The driver's environment is more enveloping and less open. Although the dash slopes away from the occupants so as not to feel oppressive, the center console area is much higher and it flows right up into the center dash. A smattering of brushed-metal trim provides some relief in the mostly black interior, whose firm but supportive seats are upholstered in a grippy cloth (although leather is available). The Focus hatchback's rear seat is easier to get into and out of than the two sedans', but there's less legroom once you're in there. It's still adult-habitable, though. Of course, the Focus hatchback offers unmatched cargo-carrying utility, even before you fold the rear seats. Unlike the other two cars here, our Focus SE was not equipped with navigation (it can be had on the SEL and Titanium only), but it did have the optional MyFord and Sync package. This is not the same as the MyFordTouch touch-screen system, which is standard on the Titanium. This somewhat simpler system has two small screens, one in between the speedometer and tachometer and one in the center stack; they're accessed via a multi-function controller on the steering wheel (similar to the Civic's) and cell-phone-like buttons in the center of the dash -- the latter require a bit of a learning curve.
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic In Motion
Three Fours
All three compacts feature four-cylinder engines; the Ford and Hyundai engines are new, while the Honda four is largely carryover. The Focus engine is the largest, at 2.0 liters, and it alone uses direct injection. Its power and torque ratings are the highest of the three at 160 hp and 146 pound-feet. The Elantra's 1.8-liter is next, at 148 hp and 131 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are more powerful than their predecessors. The Civic's four-cylinder, also 1.8 liters, is a modified version of the previous Civic engine, but its horesepower and torque figures are unchanged from before, at 140 hp and 128 pound-feet. The drivability characteristics of all three were remarkably similar, perhaps because they all make their peak torque within the relatively narrow range of 4300 and 4700 rpm. Their relative differences in horsepower were blunted by the cars' differences in curb weight, where we find the Civic to be the lightest, the Focus the heaviest and the Elantra in between. The uptake is that none of these cars is a sparkling performer off the line, but all three have sufficient gusto for passing and highway merging.
Mileage Matters
The Hyundai was the only car here with a six-speed transmission -- in fact, whether ordered with a manual or an automatic, all Elantras have six forward gears. That probably helped the put the Hyundai out in front in the fuel-economy race, with EPA ratings of 29 mpg city and that suddenly all-important 40-mpg highway number. With the Civic, you get only five forward gears whether you choose a manual or an automatic like we had here (only the Si gets a six-speed manual). Still, the Civic is only a tick behind the Elantra in both city and highway measures, at 28/39 mpg. Our Focus had a five-speed stick, but the Ford's automatic is a six-speed. Not surprisingly, the manual-transmission Focus is the less economical variant, rated at 26/36 mpg. Both Ford and Honda can advertise higher numbers: 40 mpg highway in the case of the Focus, and 41 mpg on the part of the Civic. But in both cases, those figures are only for special, high-mileage variants: the Focus SE with the SFE package, and Honda's Civic HF model, whereas all Elantras achieve the same EPA rating.
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic Front Left In Motion
On the road
Ford has been making strides in the dynamic behavior of its small cars -- witness the Fiesta -- and that's clearly evident with the new Focus. The Focus felt particularly buttoned-down, and it had easily the best steering. The Honda proved to be a bit more eager to turn in than the Hyundai, exhibiting less understeer. It also rode notably better. We were less pleased, however, with the Civic's steering, which was rather vague on center. As impressive as the Hyundai was otherwise, it was somewhat disappointing dynamically. Its brakes were grabby and the suspension didn't do much to mask bad pavement. The Elantra's handling, though, was pretty good and its steering, while light, was not totally dead.
Conclusions
The Elantra is an impressive effort and boasts a long list of superlatives. It gets the best gas mileage, has the largest interior and trunk, and the best electronics interface. Less surprising but no less important is the fact that it has the most equipment at the lowest price. The Elantra is a good $2000 cheaper than the Civic, and would offer similar savings over a comparably equipped Focus. For many people, that wraps it up right there. To choose the Civic over the Elantra, one would have to place a greater weight on more subjective qualities. The Honda cabin feels more airy and comfortable and is easier to see out of. We found that the Civic also rides better. Its power deficit isn't really an issue because it's the lightest car here, and its fuel economy is close enough to the Hyundai's that it would hardly make a difference in real life. The Civic has the composure of a bigger car, but the ease of use of a small one. The Focus was a bit of an outlier in this test because of the way it was equipped. We had lined up a more directly compatible version (a sedan with an automatic transmission) but it was damaged at the last minute and this sporty SE hatchback stepped in. Despite its lower spec, the Focus was our favorite car to drive, with its nicely weighted steering, natural clutch action, and responsive handling. True, the Focus was the least economical, but we enjoyed rowing its manual gearbox. The hatchback body style is a versatile configuration that neither competitor offers. The Focus cabin wasn't as stylish as the Elantra's but neither was it quite as pedestrian as the Honda's, although it is more intimate than both. In any event, the Focus was the best driver's car, and while they may not be the most important factor for most small-car shoppers, it's where our prejudice lies, so the Focus is our pick.
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Honda Civic Front Left In Motion
2012 Ford Focus SE hatchback
Base price:
$18,785
Price as tested: $21,945
2012 Ford Focus Front In Motion
Standard equipment: 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, air-conditioning, power windows, 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, tilt/telescoping steering column, automatic headlamps, fog lights
Options on this vehicle: Rapid Spec 203A (convenience package, cruise control, perimeter alarm, MyFord & Sync package, MyFord Tech/6-speaker stereo/Sirius satellite radio, Snyc voice-activated system); SE Sport Package (16" painted aluminum wheels, piano black grille, rear disc brakes, rear spoiler, cloth sport seats, metallic interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob); Winter Package (heated seats, power/heated mirrors, turn signal mirrors)
Key options not on vehicle: automatic transmission, power moonroof, SFE super fuel economy package, leather seats
Fuel economy:
26/36/30 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Engine:
2.0L I-4
Horsepower: 160 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 4450 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
5-speed manual
Curb weight: 2920 lb
Wheels/tires:
215/50R17 Continental ContiProContact
2012 Honda Civic EX-L with Navi and XM radio
Base price:
$24,205
Price as tested: $24,205
2012 Honda Civic Ex L Front Left View
Standard equipment: 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering column, power moonroof, leather-trimmed interior, heated seats, Bluetooth, Navigation, satellite radio
Options on this vehicle: None
Key options not on vehicle: None
Fuel economy:
28/39/32 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Engine:
1.8L I-4
Horsepower: 140 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 128 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2773 lb
Wheels/tires:
205/55R16 Continental ContiProContact
2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited
Base price:
$19,980
Price as tested: $22,110
2011 Hyundai Elantra Front End
Standard equipment: 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, air-conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, satellite radio, tilt/telescoping steering column, Bluetooth, leather seating surfaces, heated front and rear seats
Options on this vehicle: Premium Package (navigation, rearview camera, premium audio system, automatic headlights, proximity key entry with pushbutton start); carpeted floor mats; iPod cable
Key options not on vehicle: None
Fuel economy:
29/40/33 mpg (city/highway/combined)
1.8L I-4
Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 131 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2877 lb
Wheels/tires:
215/45R17 Continental ContiProContact
2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Ford Focus Promo
Change has been a constant in our nation's capital over the past few years, as relative unknowns have swept into the halls of power. The very same might be said of compact cars, particularly the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. For years, these two cars have campaigned in relative obscurity as more established and better-funded offerings dominated the segment. Now, thanks to thorough redesigns, they're both frontrunners, promising more features and better fuel economy than we once thought possible for a compact car. But which deserves your vote? That's what we aimed to determine by journeying in both cars from still-chilly Michigan to cherry-blossom-lined Washington, D.C. As politicians haggled over the dollars and cents in our national budget, we put the Focus and Elantra through their paces and found which car brings change we can believe in.
2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Ford Focus Head To Head
Looking presidential
The right look doesn't count for everything - just ask John Edwards and Mitt Romney - but it sure helps. The Elantra and Focus both score big points here. They're stylish enough to stand apart from the bland appliances in the segment (Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta) while avoiding weird design elements that turn off potential constituents (Mazda 3, Honda Civic). In fact, we were surprised by how similar the two cars look in person, even though our Focus was a hatchback. They share a sleek, sloping profile and feature similarly slanted head and taillights. Each has a few distinguishing details - we love how elegantly the Elantra's rear window flows into the trunk and were wowed by the Focus's hidden gas cap (once we found it). No doubt about it, these cars would look plenty comfortable in a televised debate -- no makeup required.
A chicken in every pot and Bluetooth for every phone
2012 Ford Focus Front Three Quarters
Well-equipped compact cars, once a novelty, are now de riguer. And so our test cars both ride on seventeen-inch wheels and pamper occupants with satellite radio, iPod connectivity (both via hard wire and streaming), heated seats, and redundant steering wheel controls. Bluetooth? You even have to ask? The Elantra, in Limited trim, adds a navigation system identical to what you get in the more expensive Sonata, leather seats, and a sunroof for a price of $22,860. Ford offers a similar trim for the Focus, called "Titanium," but our particular SE model, listed at $21,945, hews more toward performance with a sport package that adds the aforementioned rear disc brakes, sixteen-inch aluminum wheels (the seventeens are extra), and unique interior and exterior trim.
Clearly, both candidates are making some lofty campaign promises. However, there are a few areas where they underdeliver. Take, for instance, the much-hyped Sync voice-recognition system on the Focus, which has a learning curve steep enough that we often gave up and relied on the busy assortment of buttons on the center stack. The optional MyFord Touch cleans up the center stack with a large touch screen, but our recent experiences with the system on other Fords have left us frustrated with its less-than-intuitive function and occasional glitches.
Hyundai's system, in contrast, works very smoothly and easily but can be overwhelmed in very demanding situations such as, say, providing directions in a chaotic city. We wish Hyundai offered something akin to the Google maps option available with Ford Sync, whereby directions can be calculated via Google and beamed to the radio or nav screen.
In fact, we at one point wound up staring at Google maps on an iPhone, as the Elantra's in-dash nav-screen wasn't detailed enough to show us how to negotiate a particularly confusing loop near the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. Similarly, Hyundai's voice-recognition technology is easier to use than Sync at first, but can become tiring with its multilayered command structure, leading us to believe real owners will find more utility in the Ford system over the long haul.
2011 Hyundai Elantra Side
Hyundai is also the more earnest in following through on its fuel-efficiency claims. Both Ford and Hyundai are heavily touting their small cars' ability to achieve 40 mpg on the highway, but the Focus only does so when equipped with a dual-clutch automatic transmission and a special fuel economy package. Our test car, equipped with a five-speed manual -- no six-speed is offered -- is rated at a still impressive, but less sensational, 26/36-mpg city/highway. The Elantra, on the other hand, is rated at 29/40 mpg regardless of trim level and with either the six-speed automatic that was in our test car or the standard six-speed manual. Over the course of our three days of mixed city and highway driving (including the round trip to D.C. from Ann Arbor, MI), we observed an indicated 36 mpg in the Elantra, versus 33 mpg in the Focus.
It's a similar story when it comes to interior space. On paper, the two cars have nearly identical interior dimensions. In real life, the Elantra feels noticeably more spacious, especially in back, where its flat floor allows for easy pass-through and tolerable legroom even for a middle passenger. The Focus feels a bit crowded in front and positively cramped in back, though it scores some points with nicely bolstered front seats and excellent materials quality overall.
The right experience
2012 Ford Focus 2011 Hyundai Elantra Front End 4
Is it better to be the experienced Washington bureaucrat who knows the ins and outs of legislating or the fresh-faced outsider who isn't tainted by years of backroom dealings? The Elantra and Focus are mostly able to balance the best of both worlds thanks to their size: They're small enough to slice through the snarling urban traffic and negotiate the bizarre intersections that make up D.C.'s "grid," and yet they have no issue flying at 80 mph on dangerously congested highways. Steering in both cars is quick, but not nervously so.
There are a few holes in the Ford and Hyundai's commuter car resumes, though. Both cars, for instance, suffer in stop-and-go traffic due to their fuel-economy-focused, numerically low gearing. It was especially noticeable in the Ford, despite the power advantage afforded by its 2.0-liter four-cylinder (159 hp compared to 148 hp from the Elantra's 1.8-liter), as we were constantly working the manual gearbox to keep up with traffic. The saving grace here is that the Focus has one of the best stick-shifts we've experienced in a domestic compact, with linear clutch take-up and smooth shift action.
The Elantra has a harder to dismiss issue in its ride quality. We expected the Elantra, with the longer wheelbase of the two cars, to be the more mature cruiser. Alas, its suspension crashes over potholes and jitters across highway expansion joints. Here's where Ford's experience comes into play. Blue Oval engineers perfected the art of small-car suspension tuning more than a decade ago with the first Focus and have demonstrated that acumen as recently as last year with the smaller Fiesta. The new Focus follows the same theme. Its four-wheel independent suspension calmly absorbs road imperfections that had the Hyundai's torsion-beam rear axle pitching about the contents of its trunk.
That experience shines even more brightly when we finally escape the Beltway and find some winding rural Maryland roads. The Elantra is no slouch at cornering, taking fast turns with reasonably little body roll and little complaint from its Continental all-season tires. But it's never much fun, which is where the Focus really distinguishes itself. Through quick switchbacks, its back end feels noticeably more planted, and its overall limits feel slightly higher even though it wears slightly taller-profile Continental all-seasons. More important, we enjoy the Focus more because it supplies that now rare commodity known as steering feel. The steering wheel in the Focus is a communicative, lively, naturally weighted driving tool. The Elantra's tiller, in contrast, is much more typical of modern small cars - it gets the job done accurately enough but relates very little of what's happening to the front tires.
2011 Hyundai Elantra 2012 Ford Focus Front Grille 2
Conclusion: Serving special interests
Our candidates have a lot in common. They achieve good fuel economy, offer lots of electronic goodies, look quite good inside and out, and drive well in just about any environment. We hear they want lower taxes and support the troops, too. But as with most campaigns these days, the choice comes down to special interests. If you value interior packaging, user-friendly controls, and getting the absolute maximum fuel economy for your dollar, go ahead and support the Elantra - thousands of young families will likely agree with you. We, however, happen to be vocal backers of the enthusiast lobby, complete with membership cards that read "No Boring Cars." Ford has unabashedly pandered to those of us who care about driving by designing an efficient, comfortable mainstream car that absolutely nails the finer points of steering feel, suspension tuning, and overall driver involvement. Our vote goes to the Focus.
2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited
2011 Hyundai Elantra Front
Base price (with destination): $19,980
Price as tested: $22,860
Standard Equipment:
1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
17-inch alloy wheels
Electronic stability control
Traction control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
Power sunroof tilt & slide
Fog lights
Air conditioning
AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with 6 speakers
iPod/USB and auxiliary audio input
Power windows/locks/mirrors
Remote keyless entry
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Leather seating surfaces
60/40 split rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package -- $2000
Navigation with high-resolution 7-inch touch screen
Rearview camera
Premium audio system with external amp
Automatic headlights
Proximity key entry with push-button start
Carpeted floor mats -- $95
iPod cable -- $35
Key options not on vehicle:
None
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
29 / 40 / 33 mpg
Engine:
1.8L I-4
Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 131 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2877 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch alloy wheels
215/45R17 Continental Contiprocontact all-season tires
2012 Ford Focus SE
2012 Ford Focus Front End 3
Base price (with destination): $18,790
Price as tested: $21,945
Standard Equipment:
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
5-speed manual transmission
16-inch steel wheels with covers
Power windows, mirrors, locks
Anti-lock brakes
AdvanceTrac
Electronic stability control
Driver and passenger air bags
Tire pressure monitoring system
Fog lamps
AM/FM stereo single CD/MP3
Auxiliary audio input jack
Air conditioning
Tilt/telescoping steering column
60/40 split rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Convenience package -- $1385
Cruise control
Perimeter alarm
MyFord & Sync systems
MyFord tech, 6 speakers, Sirius satellite radio
SE Sport package -- $1130
16-inch painted aluminum wheels
Piano black grille
Rear disc brakes
Rear spoiler
Cloth sport seats
Sport tuned suspension
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Winter package -- $570
Heated seats
Power and heated mirrors
Turn signal mirrors
17-inch machined and painted alloy wheels -- $495
Key options not on vehicle:
6-speed automatic transmission -- $1095
Moonroof -- $795
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
26 / 36 / 31 mpg
Engine:
2.0L I-4
Horsepower: 159 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 4450 rpm
Drive:
Front-wheel
Transmission:
5-speed manual
Curb weight: 2920 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch alloy wheels
215/50R17 Continental Contiprocontact all-season tires
2012 Ford Focus Front Three Quarters View
Y2K was not only the year we all worried about our computers going up in a mushroom cloud of silicon smoke, it was also the year when the Ford Escort was replaced by a hot little car called the Focus. Ford's new compact car was edgy and cute, and it quickly won the hearts of the motoring press thanks to its independent rear suspension and lithe moves. As time marched on, the Focus was reskinned without any substantial changes to its chassis. Twice. As a result, the Focus you could buy brand new last month was as outdated as anxiety over a two-digit year code.
2012 Ford Focus Front Three Quarters View
EUROPEAN ROOTS
Like the new Fiesta, the Focus has been plucked straight from the European model -- a car that, unlike our Focus, hasn't been left for dead by the engineering team for a decade. Like the smaller Fiesta, the Focus is edgy, sporty, different, and decidedly European. Even though it's been tweaked and tuned for the U.S.-market, much of that was done by teams overseas. So it's the real deal, replete with the fully independent rear suspension, and that, of course, means it's the handler of the class.
EUROPEAN HANDLING AND SEATS
Equipped with the sport package (optional on SE models, standard on top-of-the-line Titanium trim), the Focus resists body roll, turns in crisply, and with the optional eighteen-inch Michelin Pilot Sport PS3 summer tires, flies around corners like a sports sedan. Given the prodigious lateral grip, it's not surprising that the front seats are uncommonly good. Comfortable and fantastically supportive, they give your back the clear message that the Focus wants to dance.
NEW ENGINE AND TRANSMISSIONS
On paper, the driveline fits the sporty bill, too. An all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder uses dual variable cam phasing and direct injection to produce 20 more horses than last year's engine, for a total of 160, only ten less than the Volkswagen Jetta's optional 2.5-liter five-cylinder. A five-speed manual is available, but most buyers will choose the six-speed dual clutch automatic with manual shifting control.
And the enthusiasts may be disappointed if they do -- the transmission is a few points short of top marks. No steering-wheel paddle shifters are offered, and carpal tunnel syndrome is an inevitability for those repeatedly reaching for the awkwardly placed plus/minus button on the side of the shifter. More frustrating, the transmission's manual mode doesn't like to follow directions, and there is no sport mode. In "D," the transmission is clearly programmed to provide the best fuel economy, so it constantly hunts between gears on hilly terrain.
GREAT LOOKS, GOOD ERGONOMICS
The bad news mostly ends there -- the new Focus otherwise gets a report card full of great marks. It looks far more expensive than most of its classmates, both inside and out, with a well-designed, clean center stack. The bulk of buttons, especially on higher trim levels, has migrated to either a touch-screen or the steering wheel. In fact, the well-sculpted, just-right-size steering wheel has twenty-one buttons -- enough to type a term paper on it.
2012 Ford Focus Hatchback Front
Dual-zone climate control is available -- remember when compact sedans barely had air conditioning? -- as is a backup camera. And while the latest version of the MyFord Touch interface comes standard with a steep learning curve, it packs a lot of additional features, like a rear-view camera, Wi-Fi capability, and the latest version of SYNC. Ford is even planning to offer an active parking system.
EPA fuel economy estimates haven't yet been finalized, but Ford expects that a special eco version of the sedan will achieve 40 mpg on the highway. Regular Focus models should be slightly behind that, at perhaps 28 city, 38 highway. The manual, lacking a sixth gear, should trail slightly behind that. These numbers trail behind the new Hyundai Elantra, which is expected to receive 40 mpg highway from all model variants. (The segment's lone diesel offering, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, achieves 42 mpg on the highway.)
THE HATCHBACK -- OUR CHOICE
The Focus is available as either a hatchback or a sedan -- and we think the hatch is the better choice in every way. It looks better, handles better (thanks to improved weight distribution) and, of course, offers the cargo benefits of a big rear door.
The new-for-2011 Jetta is available as a wagon, and the Hyundai Elantra is, too -- but that model, the Elantra Touring, is a completely different car than the sedan. And it's not up to the same visual or material standards.
The Elantra sedan, however, is a very impressive effort. It, combined with the new Ford Focus, have dramatically raised the bar for a class of cars that was, not too long ago, filled with penalty boxes. Which one is better? Well, you'll have to wait for a comparison test to find out for sure.
2012 Ford Focus
2012 Ford Focus
After years of reskinning the same old Focus, Ford finally presented an all-new car, one that is as fetching as the last one was frumpy. Like the smaller Fiesta, the Focus is edgy and sporty, and it is available as either a four-door sedan or a four-door hatchback. An all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder uses dual variable cam phasing and direct injection to produce 20 more hp than last year's engine, for a total of 160 hp. A five-speed manual transmission is available, but most buyers will likely choose the six-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift control. The Focus handles well, with little body roll and crisp turn-in, especially when equipped with the sport package (optional on the SE and standard on Titanium models). The seats are uncommonly comfortable, and the cabin features a well-designed center stack and lots of available amenities, such as a rearview camera and Wi-Fi capability. The SFE (Super Fuel Economy) version of the Focus gets 40 mpg in highway driving. Speaking of economy, an electric Focus is set to debut soon -- in limited markets by the end of 2011, according to Ford. Pricing has yet to be announced. At the other end of the spectrum, the 250-hp Focus ST -- with a tuned version of Ford's EcoBoost four-cylinder, along with a six-speed manual, eighteen-inch wheels, a three-mode stability control program, a body kit, and more -- will go on sale sometime in 2012. These new versions of the Focus can't come a moment too soon, as compact-car sales are predicted to surpass all other segments by the end of 2012.
2012 Ford Focus Electric Front Left View
The Focus Electric drives very much like a standard Focus, which is a very good thing. The steering is crisp and communicative, the brake pedal feel is pretty conventional, and, of course, the torquey off-the-line acceleration is fabulous, just as it is in all electric vehicles. That makes the Focus Electric a nearly perfect urban commuter and around-town errand-runner, especially if your workplace or your municipality happens to have EV charging stations. Downsides, other than the obvious limited range? The turning circle is awfully wide, which compromises your ability to make quick three-point turns in the city to grab a coveted parking spot. Much of the trunk space is eaten up by the battery pack. And then there's the price; $40K is a lot to spend on a Focus, but we all know that electric vehicles at this stage of the game are for early adopters who are willing to pay for the technology. To those pioneers, I say, bravo; you'll love this Focus.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Ford Roximity 31
Almost right on the heels of its release of last year's winning entry, Ford announced that it will once again stage an AppLink Developer Challenge, bringing together application developers to compete on whose car-friendly smartphone application is best.
Ford Roximity 1
The landslide of in-dash applications continued this week, as BMW unveiled a new radio on-demand application, and Ford released a new Groupon-like daily deals application.
2012 Ford Focus Titanium 5 Door Front Right Side View
This is my first experience with Ford's revised MyFord Touch infotainment system and it worked just fine. It's not the best system on the market, but I can see how tech-savvy shoppers would be very impressed with this solution in a compact car. I'm not a huge fan of voice-activated controls in cars, but I found myself using Sync to change the satellite radio station when I wanted to jump more than four or five stations at a time. It's still easier to skip a single station in either direction by pushing a physical button.

2012 Ford Focus Titanium 5-door

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Certified Pre-Owned 2012 Ford Focus Pricing

Certified Pre Owned Price
$12,100

Used 2012 Ford Focus Values / Pricing

Suggested Retail Price
$16,500

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2012 Ford Focus
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26 MPG City | 36 MPG Hwy
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S FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
$16,500
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2012 Ford Focus
2012 Ford Focus
S FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
160hp
Top Ranking Vehicles - Horsepower

2012 Ford Focus Specifications

Quick Glance:
Engine
2.0L I4Engine
Fuel economy City:
26 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
36 MPG
Horsepower:
160 hp @ 6500rpm
Torque:
146 ft lb of torque @ 4450rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control (optional)
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
Vehicle
36,000 miles / 36 months
Powertrain
60,000 miles / 60 months
Corrosion
Unlimited miles / 60 months
Roadside
60,000 miles / 60 months
Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:20
Component
VISIBILITY:WINDSHIELD WIPER/WASHER:SWITCH/WIRING
Summary
FORD IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2012 FOCUS VEHICLES MANUFACTURED FROM AUGUST 1, 2010, THROUGH OCTOBER 18, 2011. A SEAL IN THE WIRING HARNESS CONNECTOR TO THE PASSENGER SIDE WIPER MOTOR MAY BE MISSING.
Consequences
WATER OR OTHER CONTAMINANTS MAY ACCUMULATE IN THE CONNECTOR, RESULTING IN AN INTERMITTENT OR INOPERATIVE PASSENGER SIDE WIPER MOTOR, REDUCING VISIBILITY AND INCREASING THE RISK OF A CRASH.
Remedy
FORD WILL NOTIFY OWNERS, AND DEALERS WILL INSPECT AND AS NECESSARY, CLEAN AND PROPERLY SEAL THE PASSENGER SIDE WIPER MOTOR CONNECTOR. ANY INOPERATIVE WIPER MOTORS WILL BE REPLACED. THIS SERVICE WILL BE PROVIDED FREE OF CHARGE. THE SAFETY RECALL BEGAN ON MAY 21, 2012. OWNERS MAY CONTACT THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP CENTER AT 1-866-436-7332.
Potential Units Affected
140,310
Notes
FORD MOTOR COMPANY


Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:30
Component
EXTERIOR LIGHTING
Summary
Ford is recalling certain model year 2012-2013 Focus BEV vehicles equipped with High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, manufactured September 15, 2011, through May 6, 2013; and model year 2013 Focus ST vehicles equipped with High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, manufactured February 16, 2012, through May 7, 2013. Due to a wiring incompatability, the front side marker lamps may not function. Thus, these vehicles fail to comply to the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment."
Consequences
Without the proper illumination of the side maker lamps, the vehicle may be less visible in night time conditions, increasing the risk of a crash.
Remedy
Ford will notify owners, and dealers will modify the headlamp assembly wiring, free of charge. The recall began on August 16, 2013. Owners may contact the Ford customer relationship center at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's recall number is 13C04.
Potential Units Affected
6,308
Notes
Ford Motor Company


Recall Date
12-31-1969:21:35:21
Component
EQUIPMENT
Summary
This recall involves aftermarket parts sold by Yakima Products, Inc. for use on model year 2012 and 2013 Ford Focus vehicles. This recall is being conducted by Yakima, not by Ford. Certain combined Q-Tower and Q128 Clip rooftop rack systems, part numbers 8000124 and 8000728, do not fully contact the door frame.
Consequences
Without proper contact of the rooftop rack clip to the door frame, there is insufficient clamping pressure and friction. The system may slide off the vehicle when loaded with accessories, possibly becoming a road hazard to other vehicles or causing injury to pedestrians.
Remedy
Yakima will notify owners, and Yakima or a Yakima dealer will refund the purchase of the Q-Tower and Q-128 Clip system. There is no replacement system available for the 2012-2013 model year Ford Focus. The safety recall began on October 15, 2012. Only vehicles equipped with the vehicle rack system are affected. This recall is being conducted by Yakima, not Ford. Owners may contact Yakima at 1-888-925-4621.
Potential Units Affected
440
Notes
YAKIMA PRODUCTS, INC.


NHTSA Rating Overall
4
IIHS Roof Strength
Good
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
5
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
4
NHTSA Rating Front Side
4
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
5
NHTSA Rating Rollover
4
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
Good
IIHS Overall Side Crash
Good
IIHS Best Pick
1
IIHS Rear Crash
Good

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2012 Ford Focus

Depreciation
19%
Loss in Value + Expenses
= 5 Year Cost to Own
Depreciation
$5,021
19%
Insurance
$7,125
26.9%
Fuel Cost
$8,363
31.6%
Financing
$1,278
4.8%
Maintenance
$2,875
10.9%
Repair Costs
$1,452
5.5%
State Fees
$324
1.2%
Five Year Cost of Ownership: $26,438 What's This?
Value Rating: Above Average