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.
I am not very impressed with the handling package on this Focus. Although the steering ratio is reasonably quick, the turning circle is huge for such a small car. The 235/40WR-18 Michelin Pilot Sport tires also wanted to follow every groove in the pavement, which combined with the quick steering, makes highway driving on broken pavement in windy conditions a bit more involving than it should be. On perfectly smooth canyon roads this might be an ideal setup, but not so much in the Snowbelt. I was more impressed with the handling of a Focus without the handling package that I drove last spring.
Despite the so-so interior space utilization and ever-increasing pricing, the Focus is my current favorite small car. It drives well, looks good, and comes as a hatchback. The aging Mazda3 is a close second, though its interior is not up to the standard of the newer compact cars.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
It's good to know that Ford will allow Focus buyers to option their cars with premium features like touch-screen navigation and leather seats while still keeping a manual transmission. And I was elated to find that said manual transmission has great shift action and a positive, easy-to-modulate clutch.
On the road, the Titanium's sport suspension did make the ride a bit bouncy -- you might as well skip it -- but I'm again impressed with the Focus' handling and its steering weight/feel, especially compared its pedestrian predecessor. While we're on the subject of steering, the Focus Titanium's wheel is fairly perfect: it's the perfect size, it looks great, and it works well. GM -- especially the Chevrolet Sonic, which seems to have a steering wheel larger than its front tires -- should take note.
At first glance, the Titanium model seems overpriced: it's nice to see a Focus hatch with navigation and leather, but at our tester's $27,000, many Ford buyers would no doubt choose a less highly optioned Fusion or Escape. Then again, the newly swanky Focus Titanium is about $5000 less than an identically equipped Mini Cooper S Countryman. Screw brand cache -- my money's on the Ford.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
As Ben mentioned, it's heartening that the Focus can be had with a manual even in its top-spec trim. This is especially true given the current trend amongst automakers of either dropping manual transmissions altogether or limiting the options that can be had with a manual transmission. It's also encouraging that Ford fitted the Focus with a stick shift this rewarding to use. The progressive clutch and the shifter's light action make smooth, quick shifts both effortless and enjoyable.
The steering wheel is as good as I remember, too: it's undoubtedly one of the finest wheels in an affordable vehicle, both in terms of size and comfort. I also appreciate the direct steering, although I agree with Phil that the turning circle is large for a small car. It's certainly not a deal-breaker as most drivers would become accustomed to it but it does take away from the car's sporty compact feel.
The revised MyFord Touch system still requires a good deal of attention to use but the screen layout is noticeably cleaner and easier to read. The touch-activated Sony stereo controls, though, are still a chore.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I like the new Ford Focus so much that I not only voted for it to be an Automobile Magazine All-Star, I also bought one. My wife's Focus is an SE hatchback with a stick shift, heated seats, the sport package, and a sunroof. This Titanium test car has a lot more fancy features but not much that I wish was on the car that's usually parked in my driveway. The eighteen-inch wheels make the Focus turn in even more sharply, but I think that they also make the car slightly too darty. Ride quality, though, is still very good. For my money, MyFord Touch and automatic climate control are unnecessary and complicate the user interface. The leather seats would resist dirt better than the sport seats in my car, and the Titanium's changeable ambient lighting would definitely be a treat for my young children. I also wouldn't mind having the black-trimmed headlamps. Still, I'd rather pocket the $6000 difference and keep my Focus as is.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The compact car class is easily the most competitive in the industry these days. Pretty much every brand of consequence, from Subaru to Buick, sells a new or redesigned offering, and most of them are impressive. All of this goes to say that the Ford Focus, which won our last compact comparo and was a 2012 All-Star, is an unbelievably good car. More specifically, it's unbelievably good to drive. The steering wheel feels absolutely perfect in a way few do these days thanks to its accuracy and natural weight. The suspension provides excellent body control at seemingly no cost to ride quality. This is a European car, alright. The powertrain is somewhat less perfect -- the four-cylinder is a bit flat in the lower rpm ranges and the manual's clutch take-up is a bit high -- but it's more than willing to play along during aggressive driving. Overall, the Focus's driving dynamics feel better balanced than those of some sports cars, which is probably why I enjoyed driving it around town more than I have any number of expensive performance machines.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor