The Ford Focus will see substantial changes for the 2008 model year. The hatchback has been dropped and the car will be offered only in sedan and coupe configurations. While the all-new model features the prerequisite clean-sheet body design, stiffer chassis and a mild bump in horsepower, the most innovative aspect lurks in the cabin.
Body structure enhancements provide a rigid chassis for the Focus' suspension, which is the same basic MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear set-up from the previous generation. Shocks, spring rates, anti-roll bars and bushings are all new for 2008. The base S model features 15-inch wheels, low-resistance Hankook tires and a front anti-roll bar. The higher-level SE and SES models can be had with sportier suspensions, featuring stickier 16-inch Pirelli tires and anti-roll bars at both ends. Stopping power has been improved with lighter aluminum calipers, 10.9-inch vented discs up front and 11-inch drums in the rear.
As in previous models, Ford's Duratec four-cylinder engine provides the power. An updated version uses an all-new intake system, featuring an electronically actuated throttle, bumping up power from 136bhp to 140bhp. The available transmissions (five-speed manual and four-speed automatic) have revised final drives that, along with aerodynamics and 30 pounds of weight savings, produce a small increase in fuel economy. Ford engineers have spent more than 1000 hours in the wind tunnel, developing a body shape with a 0.32 coefficient of drag.
The all-new Sync connectivity system is the hands-down star. The result of an exclusive partnership between Ford and Microsoft, the system allows drivers to talk to their digital audio devices as well as a Bluetooth-equipped cell phone. The system is easy to embrace. Placing calls and navigating the provided Zune MP3 player happens quickly. The Focus targets the young, entry-level buyer and Sync allows Ford to zero in on this pool of digitally savvy consumers.
The Focus has always been competent, providing reliable and comfortable commuting at a good value. That trend should continue with the second generation. The car is solid, safe and the new interior makes for a relaxing ride on many levels. We recommend the 16-inch wheel/tire package and its accompanying front and rear anti-roll bars. While not a hot-lapper by any stretch, the sport suspension does a much more admirable job tracking the corners than the 'low-resistance' base set-up.
We're long-standing fans of SVT (Special Vehicle Team), Ford's in-house tuning arm. This group of inspired engineers is responsible for putting the Contour SVT and Focus SVT into the hands of enthusiasts. Our very own Project Focus SVT is proof positive. So we asked Ford if SVT's talents were going to be unleashed on the second-gen Focus. The considered response was that the 4bhp increase in the new Duratec 20 and the car's revised 16-inch suspension package was 'fun' enough.
Ford also stated that fuel economy was driving the C-segment and that the coupe, the most likely SVT platform, was expected to comprise only 35 percent of Focuses hitting the streets. The bottom line is: no SVT
And Ford seems uninterested in the aftermarket/compact tuning scene in general. Neither will Ford Racing have much to offer in the way of bolt-on parts. Although a half dozen or so modified Focuses were on display at the 2007 SEMA show, the car's aftermarket appeal looks tepid at best.
While there seems to be a widening gap between what Ford sees as 'fun to drive' and what enthusiasts expect, we must still acknowledge that the Focus hits its intended mark and achieves the goals set before it in a proficient manner.
2008 Ford Focus
Price as tested: $14,695
Engine Displacement/Type/Valvetrain: 2.0-liter in-line four, aluminum block and head, DOHC
Claimed Crank HP: 140 @ 6000rpm
Claimed Crank Torque: 132lb-ft @ 6000rpm
Drivetrain/Layout/Transmission: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, five-speed manual or four-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 2588 lbs
Suspension (Front): MacPherson struts with stabilizer barSuspension (Rear): Independent multi-link
Brakes (Front/Rear): 10.9-in. ventilated discs, floating aluminum calipers/11-in. drum
Wheels (Front/Rear): 15-inch aluminum alloy (Base S model)Tires (Front/Rear): 190/60R15 Hankook (Base S model)