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The New Ford Focus

Susan Holt

 

Ask any American who has owned a previous generation Ford Focus what they thought about their car, and you probably wouldn’t get many positive remarks.  

However, if you were to ask a European the same question, they would tell you it was one of the best cars they have ever owned.

For years the Europeans got a far superior Focus that was fast and exciting compared to the rather mundane one that we had to live with.

However, for 2012, we finally get the same Focus, thanks to Ford’s new “One Ford” initiative, the goal of which is to have the same models for all markets. 

It really shows, too. 

The 2012 Focus has absolutely nothing in common with the outgoing model, which couldn’t have happened to a better car.

As soon as you walk up, you can tell this is not the same Focus you had in high school.  

The exterior styling is absolutely stunning, especially in the test car’s five-door hatchback body style.  

Our test car’s looks were also aided by the SE sport package, which gave the car a piano black grill. This looked attractive against our rather pricey ($1,675) 17-inch black wheels, which run on the equally pricey ($810) but sticky T Eagle tires.

Also included in the aforementioned SE sport package is a leather-covered steering wheel and shift lever, two-tone cloth seats, as well as rear disc brakes. This not only makes the sport package a must-buy option, but also a rather good deal at only $695.

The interior of the Focus really sets it apart from the rather monotonous looking interiors of the competition with its silver accents on the center column and what seems like real metal on the steering wheel. 

The front seats are quite comfortable and supportive and would be no problem on long road trips. 

There is also plenty of space in the backseat, and they should seat two adults comfortably, given that nobody is over 6-feet tall. Unlike the front seats, their upright position may prove to be annoying over long distances.

The only major gripe I have about the interior is its lackluster sound system. 

There isn’t a whole lot of bass, and the sound is not the clearest. However, this is rather trivial and would probably only bother the most hardcore music listeners. 

I do think Ford should at least offer an optional premium sound system, something I think young buyers would pay extra for.

The 2012 Focus comes standard with a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine which makes 160-hp with 146-lb/ft of torque and is good for 7.8 seconds to 60 mph, which is second only to the Mazda 3. 

The engine is also very smooth and doesn’t ever act like it’s being overworked. The power seems to never drop off all the way to redline — it seems like it just wants you to push it harder. 

The engine is very economical as well, with an EPA rated 27-mpg city and 37-mpg highway, which puts it about in the middle of its segment. This should give you at least 400 miles between fill-ups on road trips with its 12.4 gallon tank.

The biggest let down of the new Focus is its 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

The transmission seems a little clunky and is hesitant to downshift, which is a shame considering how great the engine is. 

It is important to note, however, that even though the transmission is not up to par with the rest of the car, it still ages better than the segment leading Corolla’s 4-speed automatic.

The best thing to do is save the extra $1,095 that it costs for the automatic transmission and get the five-speed manual gearbox, which has received rave reviews from other members of the automotive press for its direct action and short shifts. It also knocks down the 60-mph sprint to 7.3 seconds, a half-second quicker than with the two pedal gearbox.

The chassis engineers at Ford also did a great job, as the Focus feels very connected to the road with just a slight feel of understeer.  

The electronically-assisted steering also gives great feedback and feels perfectly weighted. 

This amounts to a very fun and exciting driving experience, something that most of its competitors lack.

The base 2012 Focus SE starts at $18,065. Add in all of our car’s optional features like the automatic transmission, sport package and convenience package, which includes cruise control and an alarm, and the price rises to $20,975. 

Our test car also came with multiple dealer added doodads like the wheels and tires and a decal package that might not fit everybody’s taste. This swells our test car’s price to $23,970.

The test car was provided by Belk Ford in Oxford.