2012 Ford Focus SE

Wow. I really like the new Ford Focus. Its European roots are plainly evident, from the fun way it steers and handles to the Fiesta-like switchgear to the attractive "kinetic design" styling theme. The neon red paint is a bit much for me, but I love the shiny black wheels.

The front seats are very comfortable and highly adjustable, but passengers in the rear seats suffer from rock-hard armrests on the doors and no center armrest. From the driver's standpoint, though, the Focus is a small gem. The manual gearbox is a joy to work, with nice action and a lovely smooth knob that enhances the stick-shifting experience. The chassis is tuned to allow more body roll than I expected, but the Focus gripped the corners I subjected it to very well all the same, and ride quality during normal cruising is pleasant and relaxing. I really like the new Hyundai Elantra, too, but the Focus -- particularly in this SE hatchback stick-shift trim -- just feels sportier to me, and more fitting to my personality. I even like the shiny metal trim on the steering wheel, although it'd be nice if that metallic trim matched what's on the center stack.

I drove the new Ford Explorer recently, and I'm as impressed overall with the Focus as I was unimpressed with the Explorer. The interior build quality of the small car seems significantly better than that of the much pricier crossover, too.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

New Car Research

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