Ford Focus - Prime Example of New Features, Same Low Price

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 8:40am

The 2013 Ford Focus is the US News' Best Compact Car for the Money, a combination of positive critical reviews and ownership costs. Comparisons with the Honda Civic Si, VW Golf R, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, and others in its class recommend the Focus in all its configurations, even its electric model:

All Ford Focus lines run on the same 2-liter 4-cylinder engine driven by 160 horses, larger in size and power than the Fiesta ST but smaller than and with less torque than Honda's Civic Si. (The Focus sold in California and in the northeast come in at 159 hp. with a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle Status.) A much-touted 5-speed manual is standard on the Focus S and SE. (Dual-clutch 6-speed automated-manual is an option on the S and SE but standard on the Focus ST Titanium package.)

EPA-rated performance comes in at 27/38. (The ST's EcoBoost feature spurs 252 horses for 28/40.) The S and SE run on regular gas and can use E-85 ethane if they don't have the Partial Zero Emission Vehicle Status.

The new twin-cam timing (Ti-VCT) improves the Focus performance and fuel economy as road and weather conditions warrant. The intake and exhaust camshafts adjust independently. In doing so, they provide precise and continuous adjustment at the moment when the intake and exhaust valves are open at the same time.

The Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) automatically delivers precise response at hi-speed and maximum control at lo-speed. This EPAS technology measures the driver’s personal steering input. It adjusts to changing conditions and compensates slight steering shifts from uneven road surfaces, black ice, or wind sheer. This integrates with the Focus Torque Vectoring Control that automatically transfers traction to outside tires in certain road conditions and competes well with the VW Golf R and Mazda3. The Hyundai Elantra and the Chevrolet Cruze have sacrificed the Focus independent rear suspension for the less expensive torsion-beam design, and the Dart's Rallye lacks the Focus' handling precise and supple handling.

The exterior comes in a variety of metallic colors (with some specialized exteriors available). A three section black intake grill pushes the front end up and forward with its long slim squinting headlights. The steel supported profile is energetic and athletic with vertical taillights. Fifteen-spoke 17" aluminum wheels are standard as is the hatchback on all ST models.

The interior's standard entertainment unit is an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, auxiliary jacks, and four speakers. Upholstery is fabric in colors to complement the exterior choice, and the rear seat backs fold down to open up space. Seats are firmer and more fitted than the more spacious Dodge Rallye. Driver, front, and side airbags are standard as are electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring system. 

The base Ford Focus S prices out a bit more than the Mitsubishi Lancer DE but lower than the Nissan Sentra S and Suzuki SX4 LE. Significant feature upgrades on the S are standard in the SE model; the Focus ST with Titanium package has an optimum selection. The total ST experience is "best in class" for manual fuel economy, agile, turbocharged, and safe with hi-performance disc brakes all around. The audio system supports 6 speakers, but options bring SiriusXM, Ford Synch, and MyTouch inside. Additional options include body supporting Ricaro seating in partial or full-leather. 

The Ford Focus had been in a competitive slump, but it has re-emerged - clean, sporty, fuel efficient, and the pace setter for cars in its class while other cars have inexplicably stopped their own development trajectories. In road tests, cornering and climbing, and in critics' reviews, the 2012 has put Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, VW Jetta, and others in their place. Mazda3 surrendered its "best" small-car trophy to the Focus on style, value, and class.

Other cars have, inexplicably, stopped their own development trajectories. Ford would be wise to chase this best-of-its-class status, and it looks like it will be doing so into 2014. A flagship compact, the Ford Focus dynamic look, optional features, and low price rule its market.