Auto Review: Ford’s fresh, futuristic Focus
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Aug. 4, 2011
A lot of changes have been going on with the technology we interact with in our daily lives, and obviously cars have not been immune to these often dramatic upgrades. In fact, the changes on the automotive front have been unusually significant in that they have involved both mechanical and electronic systems, and how these two entities interact with each other.
So, what does this have to do with this week’s review auto, the 2012 Ford Focus? I think it’s not only a very competitive compact car, but also an excellent example of how a company like Ford completely overhauls a model and leaves no aspect of the vehicle untouched by the latest in contemporary thinking.
The results are very interesting, and no doubt a sign of things to come in the design of new Ford vehicles. And like so many cars these days, the Focus is built on a platform designed for use in markets around the world, and, as such, is heavy influenced by Ford’s European design division. Overall, it’s an interesting mix of ideas that makes the car very economical, as well as a lot of fun to drive.
Changes start in the engine room, of course, where the new front-drive Focus has a very advanced 2-liter Inline Four with gasoline Direct Injection and Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing. This plucky little mill delivers 20 more horsepower than the previous Focus (now up to 160), yet also delivers a 10-percent improvement in fuel economy. There are two transmission choices; a five-speed manual and a very unusual gearbox for this class: a PowerShift six-speed automatic.
Ford likes to describe this complex bit of technology thusly: “A high-efficiency dual dry-clutch design, this advanced transmission is also offered with SelectShift Automatic functionality, allowing drivers to manually control gear selection.”
This is the transmission that graced our SEL 5-door hatchback test mule, and I honestly wish we had the manual gearbox instead, because this was the only disappointing mechanical feature on an otherwise stellar compact car. The problem was inconsistent shifting in the Automatic mode, resulting in a lack of midrange power under some circumstances and abrupt surges of power at other times. This is something Ford will hopefully sort out quickly, because the taut, compliant suspension, responsive steering, solid chassis and refined, quiet cabin make the Focus a true driver’s car and not just another bland econobox.
A roomy interior with excellent workmanship is accompanied by some unusual controls, and like the rest of the Ford line, boasts the option of sophisticated SYNC voice-activated technology (and clear, concise display screens of many of the car’s functions). Ford even offers Parking Assist technology as an option, if you really want to roll with all the latest in black-box magic.
During our week with the Focus, we averaged 35 MPG garnering top marks in the efficiency department as well. The 2012 Ford Focus 5-door Hatchback SEL is EPA-rated 27 MPG city/37 highway and has a base price of $21,065. With options, our sticker came to $22,775.