TEST DRIVE: Ford's Latest Focus Is A Huge Leap Forward

2012 Ford Focus

The long-in-the-tooth Ford Focus has been totally redesigned for the 2012 model year.

While Europe has received two sweeping updates to the Focus since its inception, the US model has only been given minor changes since it was introduced in 1998.

Needless to say, we are thankful that Ford is finally bringing a new one to these shores.

Ford provided a brand new Focus Titanium that had MyFordTouch, 18 inch wheels, leather, and heated seats. This particular Focus came with 17,000 miles on it. Media fleet cars are known for getting
thrashed, but this car was in great shape.

There were some minor scratches around the interior, but otherwise it was in flawless condition.


Base Price: $22,700
As Driven: $26,640
Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder, 160 hp
Transmission: 6 speed Automated Manual
Curb Weight: 2,948 lbs.
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
MPG Rating: 27 city/37 highway

This post originally appeared on Every Man’s Auto.

Chris Tracy spends his days wading through the minefield that is middle school in middle America. He rarely says the right thing and continually sticks his foot in his mouth. When he’s not moulding America’s youth, he can be found at the nearest road course obsessively trying to get faster. Check out more of his work at Every Man’s Auto. If you are starting a car search and want help narrowing it down, send Chris an email at [email protected].


The interior is quiet and feels solid. Competitor models have more road noise and ride like the suspension is made out of one piece of steel, but those same models can be had for substantially less money. The road noise was noticeable, but it didn't restrict conversation.

The backseat's legroom is listed at 33.2 inches and as long as you are not an adult it won't matter. We had two child seats in the back; one forward facing and one rear facing. The rear facing one takes up more room and we were still able to position the driver's seat comfortably. Both kids had plenty of room and loved the Focus.

The backseat has moulded plastic pockets on the door and two snack/candy traps next to the seat. These are places in other cars that Swedish Fish and gummy candy will ruin the carpet; Ford made a good choice by installing easy to clean plastic. It might also put a seed of doubt in your single friends' minds that you have been lying about having kids the whole time.

The LED dome lights will outlast all of the other components in the car. The interior lighting is so brilliantly white that the 3.5 year old kept asking us to turn it off. Without going through the manual, we're still not sure how to set the dome lights to not turn on when the car doors open.

The cargo volume is very impressive for the Focus' class. Measuring in at 23.8 cubic feet, the Focus has the most readily accessible cargo volume. The Hyundai Accent was the closest competitor at 21.2 cubic feet. The back hatch is easy to open, but you have to use the specific hatch handles to close it, otherwise the ergonomics get just a little questionable.


One of the features we really enjoyed was the cruise control. We love this option when it displays the exact speed when set. It's convenient to be able to adjust the speed by one mph with just the touch of a button. The controls themselves were easy to use, but we wished the car would remember if we had turned the cruise on the last time we were in.

The ergonomics of the upper steering wheel controls weren't quite bothersome, but didn't stand out in a good way. We're used to a more flat plane for the controls on the wheel and the ones in the Focus are curved.

The shape of the wheel causes the top half of the controls to be farther away than the bottom half, which we found to be quite awkward.

This Titanium came with MyFordTouch. Being able to browse our iPod is a feature that we all enjoy. It's one thing to use the voice commands to request a band, but sometimes we can't remember all of the individual artists contained in 8GB of content.

Between the voice recognition and the touch screen, the Focus feels almost like something from the not to distant future.

One issue we noticed is that the touch screen would occasionally be sluggish to respond. No matter how we changed its sensitivity, we just couldn't get it right.

While the Focus has loads of technology on the inside, there is no back up camera. It's not a very big car, but we kind of expected it to have a backup cam; if for no other reason than for Ford to be able to say they were the only maker with it in this class.


The Kinetic design of the exterior is much better to look at than past models. The front end is especially great; the lines are aggressive and sinister. It doesn't have the gaping smile of the Mazda3 or the awkwardness of the Elantra.

The gas door blends in perfectly along the side. The door is not a sugar cookie shape of other models. It's a parallelogram that matches the rest of the lines perfectly. In fact it took most of us a substantial amount of time to find it.

We're not fans of the Titanium wheels. There are approximately 93 spokes and we prefer the more aggressive five-spoke wheels.

While we had the Focus, a number of admirers came up while we were at the park & running errands. This is the 1st car we've had in a while where people wanted to know what it is and who makes it. Hands down the front grill is the best part; too bad we can't see it while driving.

When it comes to the final judgment of the exterior, we'll let you decide. We consider this a massive improvement over any Focus that has come before.


The performance of the Focus is acceptable, but the thought of taking it around a track is anxiety inducing. The 2.0L four cylinder engine turns out 160 horsepower. If you really want to feel the Focus pull you around with the front wheel drive, you have to keep the revs up around 4,500 rpms.

The 6 speed automated manual means you can put the Focus in S mode on the gearshift and control the gear changes with a + or -- button. We found ourselves putting the car in S mode, but then still letting the car decide on the appropriate time for gear changes.

S mode means the transmission holds the gears longer and holds the revs higher. Once you reach cruising speed you need to pull the gearshift back to D, otherwise the noise from the higher revs may start to drive you insane.

The sticker for the Focus lists the miles per gallon at 27 city and 37 highway. The average for our time with it was 30.8mpg. This number is just under Ford's published 31 mpg combined. On our highway specific trip the mpg meter was reading 38.7.

Given a longer trip on the interstate we are confident that we could have edged closer to 40 MPG.

We noticed that the 2.0L engine sounded vaguely diesel-esque on the winter nights. This might be due to the low idle/gas saving measures taken by Ford to cut back on emissions and raise mpgs.

Even when the engine is warm, the sound is not sporty. If you're looking for a better sound out of the Focus, we suggest the Focus ST which isn't due out till later this year (We're already plotting to get to the head of the line for that car!).

The steering was light and nimble. The forgiving nature of Truck/SUV steering that we are accustom to means that the electric power assist rack and pinion steering felt twitchy to us. Driving with your knee is always frowned upon, but in the Focus it could quickly lead to a situation involving light bars.

Summing it up

Being that most of us who drove the Focus are well over six feet tall and had to have child safety seats behind us, we were not looking forward to this test.

We expected the Focus to be a slightly larger less fun version of the Fiat 500. Turns out that we were very wrong.

Each of us was sad to see the Focus go. It's not nearly the most powerful car on the road, but the engine adequately moves the Focus swiftly through traffic.

It was roomy, felt solid, and was short enough for the 3.5 year old to climb right in. The fuel efficiency does not lead the class, but will save you money.

If you are looking for a small hatchback, the Focus is not a bad place to start.

Think about it.

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