It’s been a long time since the Ford Focus was anything we wanted to drive at all, let alone for 40,000 miles. But our initial impressions of Ford’s new no-longer-smallest-but-still-pretty-tidy car in 2011 convinced us we wanted to drive it, and after its performance during our 2012 10Best testing, we concluded that its ratio of how much we want to drive it and how useful and efficient it is to its sticker price was among the 10 highest in the land. After crowning the Focus one of the year’s 10Best Cars, we added one to our long-term fleet. Various other 2012 Focuses have proven themselves with three comparison-test wins.
Although 2012 Focus sedan pricing starts at $17,295, we prefer our cargo holds large and our back glass embedded in a liftgate, and the minimal investment is $19,095 for an SE hatchback. That nets 16-inch steel wheels, power windows and mirrors, a tilting-and-telescoping steering column, and keyless entry. To that we added the Convenience package, with cruise, Sync, and satellite radio, for $1385; the Winter package, with heated seats and mirrors, for $570; the Sport pack, with rear disc brakes—to go with the front discs—sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a few trim changes, for $810; and 17-inch aluminum wheels for $495. Subtract a couple hundred bucks in package discounts, and you’re left with our price of $21,655.
Until the turbocharged ST goes on sale, and excluding the electric model, Focuses are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 160 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. Rowing through our five-speed manual transmission, we managed a best 0-to-60 time of 7.3 seconds. The quarter-mile took 15.9 seconds at 89 mph. Although European breeding shows in the Focus’s balanced, confident handling, American litigious paranoia shows in a stability-control system that can’t be turned off, limiting skidpad performance to 0.83 g. We’ve seen up to 0.88 g from other Focuses, but this car’s 174-foot stop from 70 mph is consistent with other examples we’ve tested.
Hey, Y’All, Check Out My Engine
Break-in and testing behind it, our Focus got off to a rocky start. With 5500 miles on the odometer, the check-engine light came on. Our dealer found a stored misfire code in the car’s memory, reset the memory, and drove around with a scanner attached but found no further fault. He cleared the code, and we’ve had no more trouble lights.
That’s not to say we haven’t had more trouble. While the car was in the shop, the dealer replaced the clips holding the driver’s-side C-pillar trim in place, as the plastic had been loose and rattling. (A staffer who wanted more time with the car and bought one himself noted loose trim in his Focus, too.) Two days out of the dealership, this was one of several long-term cars caught in a hailstorm. All golf-balled up with dimples and divots, it was—assuming the aerodynamic justification for golf-ball dimpling translates to car-sized objects—probably more fuel efficient but was much less pretty, so we paid $1010 to get it back into shape. At an average thus far of 32 mpg, this Focus SE leaves precious little to be desired. Maintenance costs, too, have been refreshingly low. We’ve taken the car in for one scheduled service visit so far: an oil change, tire rotation, and basic inspection that cost $48.
No Kicking Yet, but Some Screaming
There’s much to be pleased about, but the Focus is not flawless. We’re a little worried about our interior plastics, but the greater concern is the learning curve on the interior controls. The layout looks great—one staffer said he felt as if he were on the bridge of an alien spacecraft—but the controls and the command menus occasionally seem alien as well. And as handy as Sync is, we firmly believe all voice-control systems should be programmed to recognize red-faced screaming and apologize. And then maybe dispense soma.
But if we’re just driving, the Focus constantly reminds us why we chose it for 10Best, its upscale feel and athletic reflexes impressing even one of our number who, until recently, owned a previous-generation SVT Focus. In time, perhaps the camp that thinks Ford has gone overboard on interior styling and gimmickry will become more sparsely populated.
- Months in Fleet: 6 months
- Current Mileage: 16,113 miles
- Average Fuel Economy: 32 mpg
- Average Range: 397 miles
- Service: $48
- Normal Wear: $0
- Repair: $0
- Damage and Destruction: $1010
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