The new Ford Focus is a pretty damn good car. Let’s just get that out of the way from the get go. In the compact segment, this car takes the cake in every category, combining excellent driving feel with an almost unreal amount of cool gadgets, especially considering the price tag of well under $25K. If this comes as a shock to you, it’s time to move on from the late ’90s and early ’00s mentality that Ford is a car company with a lot of downsides in their vehicles. Here’s the plain and simple truth: the newest generation of Ford cars is really good. Let me tell you why.
Ford has always been a landmark American car company, offering a wide variety of cars in different market segments, all at reasonable prices. This business model has worked extremely well, for the most part. Cars like the Mustang have been cemented as a permanent icon in the muscle car realm, gaining a massive following and an extremely loyal fan base. All of the Ford sedans provide a comfortable ride and good amount of utility and features for your average American motorist who isn’t necessarily looking to be wowed by his car and wants to get from point A to point B safely and smoothly. And let’s not forget the supercar Ford GT, which leaves little to be desired for those fortunate enough to fall into the upper tax bracket required to own one.
However, the sales of the aforementioned vehicles make up only a percentage of what Ford moves each year. In today’s economic mood, most people who are looking for a new car are in it for a few key reasons: fuel economy, longevity, reliability and affordability. There can sometimes be an unfortunate side effect of cost reduction in the form of overall lack of build quality — a feeling of chintzy-ness, if you will — and when combined with the general lack of this fault in many Asian-manufactured compact cars, companies like Ford have had to endure an uphill battle to claim a spot in the top tier of the compact car market.
Not anymore. Enter the ’12 Ford Focus, a car that’s just another reasonably priced compact sedan or hatchback on paper. But it’s much more than that. As you walk up to the new Focus, it’s obvious that Ford’s design team has worked hard to retain the aesthetic of the previous generation, but it all seems much more pleasing now. The triangular headlights of old have been replaced by a more mature and contemporarily designed set, which are complemented nicely by an aggressive front fascia. With three large air dams, this front end looks more like a racing bumper than an economy car, and it’s not all for looks either. At speed, the front air dam has a set of vents that actually close off to streamline the exterior aerodynamic shape of the Focus, thus improving fuel economy. This is one of the first cool features one would expect to find on a much pricier luxury car, a sentiment that continues throughout the design of this intuitive little car.
The driver-seat experience is very rewarding. We’ve got to keep in mind that this isn’t supposed to be a sports car, but the pep produced by Ford’s 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 is not exactly lacking. We would love to see another 40 or so horsepower, but we may have to wait a bit for that one. The GTI and Civic Si–contender Focus ST is rumored to arrive around the end of this year, and we can only hope (and pray) that Ford decides to bless the North American market with the coveted RS model, a mark reserved only for European sales historically. Regardless, the current Focus handles quite well and feels very composed in the corners, thanks largely in part to Ford’s TVC (Torque Vectoring Control) system. Think of TVC like a limited-slip differential of sorts — the car senses when a drive wheel loses traction and actively transfers power to the area of need. This results in a significant decrease of understeer, and combined with the AdvanceTrac ESC (Electronic Stability Control), the new Focus has a major improvement in road feel over previous models.
Another area where the newest Focus is markedly improved over its predecessors and competition is the cabin interior. Comfortable and supportive seats place the driver in just the right position to grip the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The rear set isn’t massive, but there’s ample room for two average-sized adults or three children. The coolest part of the Focus’ interior is the dash and console area, with several cool options. MyFord Touch is an integrated in-dash touch-screen system, capable of controlling several features. This system allows users to route turn-by-turn directions, control the optional HD radio functions and even turn the car into a wi-fi hotspot. Pretty cool, right? We wish the system was a bit easier to navigate through, but once you get the hang of it, the results are very useful. Select models also feature an optional parking assist package, voice-activated SYNC and all Focus models come with rain-sensing wipers as standard equipment.
So what does it all mean as a complete package? The ’12 Ford Focus is a winner across the board due to its combination of excellent fit and finish, helpful electronic features and assistants, and nimble sporty handling. I still can’t wait to get our hands on a ST model or, better yet, an RS, but in the meantime, I wouldn’t hesitate to park a Focus in my garage as a comfortable and fun daily driver.
In the compact segment, this car takes the cake in every category, combining excellent driving feel with an almost unreal amount of cool gadgets, especially considering the price tag of well under $25K.
Specs & Details
'12 Ford Focus
Engine 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC inline-4
Horsepower 160 at 6500 rpm
Torque 146 at 4450 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual or 6-speed PowerShift automatic with SelectShift manual control on select models
Price Starting at $16,995 for base models, $22,995 for Titanium models