The Focus used to be much more sporting. We had this discussion in the kitchen yesterday, agreeing that the second-generation Focus was the “one.” And then Ford got deadly serious and made it to big and bland. The 2009 Focus SES gets some spunkiness back, but still needs to move from tidy design to really hot.
That’s the exterior. Inside, it’s clear that Ford design is moving rapidly and firmly into Audi territory (which should be no surprise, given that two of Audi’s former brightest lights, J Mays and Freeman Thomas, are at now at Ford), with beautifully executed interiors featuring attractive material blends and shapes, great switchgear, really well thought out control displays, and exceptional quality fit and finish.
This doesn’t just mean the Focus SES is a stylish place to be, it means that all of the controls you use in the course of driving are perfectly sorted – the shape of the five-speed manual’s shift knob and the material wrapped around it, it’s solid shift feel and the same great feel in the foot pedals, the beefy leather-wrapped steering wheel, shapely fabric-covered seats with good side support.
The 2.0-liter DOHC in-line four is adequate, especially when it’s paired with the five-speed manual. And maybe you just need to be from Michigan to understand how to tune a suspension for our special road needs. This one is totally sorted with an amazing ability in a car this small and light (2588 pounds) to soak up the big awful out there.
In all, the Focus SES is a satisfying car, surprisingly nice inside, and a good choice in this category.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
Although it’s not a grand departure from previous Focus designs, the new coupe is attractive and different enough to be easily distinguished from its predecessors and from its sedan sibling. Luckily, Ford kept it simple, even with this top-of-the-line SES model. It has a sporty look without being garish. The dark chrome alloys and matching grille are nice subtle touches, and even the rear spoiler, while oddly placed at the top of the rear glass, is probably small enough to avoid attracting all the boy-racers in your neighborhood.
The engine is peppy and responsive, but it’s best on secondary roads, where it’s easy to keep the rpm below 4000. Once I got on the interstate and climbed past 65 mph, wind and road noise became considerable, especially when compared with the Honda Civic.
The seating position is great and a huge improvement over Focuses of the past, where the high-mounted seats gave me the feeling of driving ON the car rather than IN the car. The seats themselves are also really comfortable and supportive, and the side bolsters kept my butt planted. Most of the plastics are good, but the seat fabric feels rough and cheap. The pale blue lighting on the controls gives the cabin a cool, calm ambiance that’s easy on the eyes, especially at night.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
The Ford Focus really must have been something when it debuted a decade ago, because our mildly refreshed 2009 version isn’t half bad. Its well-bred pedigree shows through best in the way the suspension soaks up road imperfections. You actually hear bumps more than you feel them (on that note, more sound insulation, please). The smoothness of the shifter was also a pleasant surprise, as was the well-laid-out interior, which I actually liked better than that of the Honda Civic we recently had in our fleet.
Really, the only thing wrong with the Focus is the knowledge that almost everyone else in the world gets a much better one. What is a decent car and a good value could be – and indeed once was – a class standout. The Focus deserves to be fighting it out with the Civic and the Mazda 3 (which, of course, benefits from a good deal of Euro-Focus DNA) rather than running with the rest of the pack.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
This is by far the best-looking new-style Focus I’ve seen. The blacked-out grille and the spindly aluminum wheels go a long way toward cleaning up the chrome-heavy, somewhat-frumpy lines of the most recent Focus face-lift.
I must concur with my colleagues: The Focus SES is fun to blast around town in, it handles Michigan’s wretched roads remarkably well, and its interior is quite stylish and well-done. I particularly like the nice, usable design of the HVAC, radio, and Sync controls.
My only complaint after a brief evening in this black bomber: It can be tricky to get the Mustang-like shifter into first gear, particularly when the Focus is cold. In spite of that minor niggle, I’ll continue to recommend the Focus to my friends shopping in the sub-$20K price range.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2009 Ford Focus SES coupe
Base Price (with destination): $18,265
Price as tested: $18,265
Fuel Economy: 24/35/28 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.0-liter I-4 DOHC 16v
Horsepower: 143 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 136 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Weight: 2588 lb
– 17″ aluminum wheels (size)
– P215/45R17 BSW