Totally redesigned, the 2012 Ford Focus looks, feels, and smells like the future. It makes its claim as the technology and fuel-mileage leader in the compact car class, a crowded and competitive field full of good cars with base prices in the $16,000-$17,000 range: Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Kia Forte.
But the Focus is a mixed bag of function. The new 2.0-liter engine is super smooth, but the new 6-speed automatic transmission shifts at quirky times. The fabric seats are super, the interior materials excellent and the wraparound cockpit cozy, but there isn't much rear legroom.
Focus looks like a big Fiesta, with an unmistakably Ford shape. It's lower, longer and wider. The new Focus Hatchback model is especially aerodynamic looking. The windshield is steeply raked and roofline steeply dropped to the liftgate glass, making about as much of a teardrop as a chopped hatchback can be. Ford calls the distinctive wide-mouthed grille a split trapezoid, and thank heavens it's black and not in-your-face chrome like other Ford models.
All 2012 Focus models use an all-new 2.0-liter engine with direct injection and twin variable valve timing. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, 6-speed automatic optional, with SelectShift manual mode an option to the optional transmission. The engine makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, an increase over last year's engine. It's plenty powerful, but mostly, it's extremely smooth. That's what a driver will feel: "Man, this car is smoooth."
We observed fuel economy in the mid-20s when we were driving the Focus. Fuel economy figures from the U.S. federal government were not available when this was written.
There's excellent legroom in front, but compared to the previous Focus, Ford has somehow lost 2.9 inches of legroom in the rear, despite stretching the length of the car by 3.5 inches. The importance of rear legroom appears to have been discounted here.
Interior noise was definitely not discounted, however. The Focus is a compact car with the NVH qualities of a full-size car. A lot of productive effort went into making the cabin silent, with sound insulation. Powertrain noise has also been reduced, by attentive engineering of the new engine, transmission, and chassis.
MyFord Touch powered by SYNC is the connectivity system that Ford is touting with its new cars. The system uses twin high-resolution screens, including an 8-inch touch screen in the center console, to communicate with your car. The driver uses three senses: see, hear, touch. Ford says the system is designed to be simple and completely intuitive for the driver, and maybe it is designed that way, but that doesn't mean it works that way. We struggled with it. And we think all this technology can distract drivers from the important task of driving.
The gauges that are in front of the driver's eyes are easy to read: big tach and speedo with cool blue needles, fuel and engine temp between them, and easy-to-read digital info above the fuel and temp. The soft materials are clearly high quality, while the hard trim looks slathered on.
There's an all-new power steering system, with a ratio quickened from 16:1 to 14.7:1, but our experience in twisty Malibu canyons did not confirm Ford's claim of precision. In fact, in our Focus SE with the standard suspension, we struggled to keep the car precise in the curves, in contrast to a recent run in a Chevrolet Cruze. The Focus ride is good, with a suspension that's on the soft side, which doesn't help precise turning. We also drove a Focus SE with the 5-speed manual transmission and sport-tuned suspension. Ah, relief.
The 2012 Ford Focus comes in sedan and Hatchback versions. All use a redesigned 2.0-liter engine with the latest technology of variable twin camshaft valve timing and direct fuel injection. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, 6-speed automatic optional, with SelectShift manual mode an option to the optional transmission.
Focus S Sedan ($16,270) is well equipped with cloth upholstery, climate control with air filtration, power door locks and front windows, full center console, 110-watt 4-speaker AM/FM/CD3/MP3 sound system, fold-flat rear seat, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, and black grille, mirrors and door handles. No cruise control or USB port or Bluetooth, rear windows are rollup and rear brakes are drum.
Focus SE Sedan ($17,270) and Hatchback ($18,065) add body-color mirrors and door handles, floormats, foglamps, auto headlamps, illuminated entry, compass and temp display, steering-wheel audio controls, power rear windows, and 16-inch steel wheels. Still no cruise control, USB port or Bluetooth, and rear drums. With the Hatchback you also get a 60/40 rear seat, rear wiper and liftgate spoiler. An optional Sport package features firmer suspension tuning and SelectShift.
Focus SEL Sedan ($20,070) and Hatchback ($21,065) upgrade over SE with dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker sound system, 12-volt power for rear seat, piano black grille, chrome beltline trim, ambient lighting, overhead console, metallic interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 60/40 rear seats, 16-inch painted aluminum wheels, MyFord Touch handsfree driver connect, SYNC elements with USB port, cruise control and rear disc brakes. The 6-speed automatic transmission includes SelectShift manual operation.
Focus Titanium Sedan ($22,270) and Hatchback ($22,765) come loaded with a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD Sirius radio, pushbutton start, 8-inch touch screen, 4-inch info display screen, sport cloth seats, sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. There's a Hatchback with Premium package ($24,060) that upgrades to leather upholstery with six-way power driver's seat, rain-sensing wipers, backup system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rear armrest with storage. Options include leather seats, power moonroof, voice-activated navigation, parking technology, and special interior trim.
Safety equipment in all Focus models includes six airbags with the latest technology, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, and tire pressure monitor.