I followed a 2003 (or thereabouts) Focus hatchback into work today. As I pondered that unique-looking small car, I couldn’t help thinking that Ford has really killed all the funky fun of the Focus. Gone is the unique exterior and interior styling, and even the historically fabulous Focus chassis has now been softened up to suit old-school American tastes. Sure, the new Focus goes down the road with a decent level of refinement, but where did the fun go? It is going to take more than SYNC to bring the import-loving buyer into a small Ford. The forthcoming Fiesta and third-generation Focus can’t come soon enough.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
The interior of the revised Focus is pleasant, if not particularly exciting, with a smartly styled, aluminum-look center stack and easy-to-decipher controls. I didn’t use Sync this time, but I am convinced from previous experience with it that most owners in this class will really like it. The Focus still drives reasonably well, but as Marc Noordeloos points out, the chassis has been softened a bit too much for mainstream American tastes. But the suspension tuning is still quite solid, the ride comfort is very good for a small car, and there’s some steering feel. I wish mainly for a bit more body control. The five-speed manual shifter in our test car is relatively refined, although it has none of the polish of a Honda manual. Clutch pedal take-up is smooth and progressive, though, and the brake pedal feels responsive and predictable. It’s easy to drive this car smoothly, something that can’t be said for all manual-transmission cars. Power from the 2.0-liter four is sufficient, and the 35-mpg highway rating is a compelling figure.
I’d certainly rather buy a Focus sedan than this coupe, though, because although the rear seat has decent space, ingress/egress are compromised by the front seats, which do not easily slide forward and out of the way. In a coupe like this, you need to be able to grab the handle on the back of the front seatback and, in one swift motion, move the seatback forward AND have the seat itself slide forward. The rear passenger hops in, and then you grab the same handle or pull on the seatback, and the entire seat needs to return to its original position. This is obviously not rocket science, and it’s a feature that has been in other cars for years, but it must cost enough extra money that Ford wasn’t able to offer it in a car that starts at only $16,695.
On the plus side, the coupe’s trunk is very commodious, which is especially nice since Ford ditched the previous Focus hatchback body style.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I can’t get past the look of the new Focus, particularly in coupe form. I liked the way the old hatchback looked, but this car looks like a joke. And those funky looks are on top of the loss of utility. But the inside of this coupe is much nicer than the last-gen car. I had a rental Focus sedan in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and that was not such a pleasant experience. The materials are higher quality here, and the design of the interior is much better.
I tried Sync and had very limited success. When I use a Bluetooth system, I want the car to be able to read my phonebook without downloading it. That way you don’t have to worry about updating the car’s phonebook when you add contacts or change a phone number. I was able to stream Bluetooth audio and it sounded very good. Oddly enough, I could not get Sync to recognize my iPod. I highly doubt my iPod is broken since it worked perfectly on my way to work in the BMW 135i. I’ve had great success with the Mercedes, BMW, and Infiniti systems. But Sync continues to disappoint me when it comes to iPod integration, which is the feature I want to work the best. I was able to use my iPod with other Sync-equipped Foci in the past, but even then I couldn’t get it to read my playlists.
Overall, this is a pretty logical car. Joe DeMatio is right, 35 mpg sounds pretty good to me these days, and it doesn’t feel like you are sitting in a budget car when you drive the Focus. I just wish Ford would bring back the hatch.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
The sleeker styling of the Focus coupe requires a notable packaging compromise. Not only is it tricky for passengers to hop into the rear seats, as Joe DeMatio mentioned, the front seatback and the B-pillar make it difficult to reach back there to retrieve your briefcase or other articles that you didn’t feel like loading into the trunk.
It’s a darn good thing that the stick-shift Focus is rated at 35 highway mpg, because you really have to exercise this gearbox if you want anything resembling sprightly quickness. The aforementioned softened chassis also undermines fun.
I am truly glad that the compact Focus has recently experienced a sales resurgence (moving new metal is obviously critical to FoMoCo these days), but my colleagues are right-import-level refinement still isn’t quite here. Case in point: an annoying rattling sound clearly emanated from the right side of the dashboard/footwell on my way to work this morning. Not good in a car that has only a few thousand miles on it.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Base Price (with destination): $16,695
Price as tested: $17,375
– Anti-lock brakes – $385
– Ambient Interior Lighting – $295
-24 / 35 / 28 (city/hwy/combined)
-Size: 2.0 L
-Horsepower: 140 @ 6000 rpm
-Torque: 136 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
– 16-in 6-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, P205/50R16 BSW