Review: 2012 Ford Focus SE Take Two (With Sport Package)

Posted on 01. Aug, 2011 by in Auto News

As reported in a previous post, the new Focus Titanium trim is good enough to warrant a price tag over $ 27,000 for a compact Ford. But what if you do not want to spend that much money, or want a manual transmission is not the trim levels with the SEL or Titanium? How much will you give to the SE? I asked for a $ 21,380 Focus SE Sedan with the Sport package to find out.

With small cars are hatchbacks often more attractive than their cousins sedans. To me, the focus is an exception. With Luke, appear twisted the rear quarters and the outside, with a little too much going drawn. The oversized tail lights do not help. I also found myself wondering about a cut line below the tail lamp, before realizing that someone was too clever way of locating the fuel filler flap. The smaller Fiesta hatch is a clean, attractive design. All this said, the current competitors are either less attractive, less stylish, or both. The focus at least lacks the sort of deal-killing aesthetic flourishes found on the Mazda3. One possible exception: black wheels, the visit to $ 495 17-inch tire upgrade. Easily fixed: do not tick that box and go aftermarket (more on that later). Wheels make a huge difference on both body style: Both sedan and hatch look much better with the optional five-spoke titanium-18s than with the other, smaller rims on the menu.

Within the SE loses padded upper door panels and trades some of the Titanium and Titanium "piano black" trim bits for prosaic silver. I thought I would miss it, and find the SE interior terribly cheap in comparison. But during the week I had the car I have not. Not a bit. Everything looks and feels solid and precise. The SE-wearing black cloth with gray accents looks and feels both sporty and elegant. This is the way BMW cloth used to do back in the 1980s, before leather (or something they closely enough to deceive the masses similar) was de rigueur in ultimate driving machine. Need more color in your car? For $ 795, Ford will replace red and black leather. With the sun out and temps in the mid 90s, I was glad the tested car was missing this option.

As mentioned in previous reviews, the instrument panel is quite large, and its relative depth at the limits of what I, as a sufficiently open view to the front. I once again cranked up the seat a few clicks to get a good view of it. You can not MyFord Touch on the SE. Instead, as in the Fiesta there to fight a confusing, unconventional arrangement of buttons with audio and communication systems. I figured out the basics in a few days, with full use of the system requires either extensive, often frustrating trial and error, or (horrors) a journey through the manual.

The sports package includes a leather-covered sports steering wheel and sports seats aggressively strengthened. These are both comfortable and supportive. The headrests do not protrude too far forward too intrusive. The non-adjustable lumbar support fits my back good, but others are undoubtedly the desire for a bigger and / or higher bulge. At 5-9 and 160 pounds, I'm not a big guy and had a lot of space in the passenger seat. Larger drivers may find the instrument panel and center console to narrow excessively. Perhaps the seat side bolsters and-they were about perfect for me.

Ditto on the back seat. I could very easily sit behind me with an inch of air in front of the knees, one inch above the head and a high supporting my shapely thighs. A six-footer would be more of a squeeze.

The freight volume is typical of a compact hatch. 60/40 second row fold to form a perfectly flat ground, but not easy. Instead:

A. If the front seat is pretty far forward or upright, move them out of the way.

Second Tip of the rear seat forwards.

Third Remove the rear headrest.

4th Fold the rear seat backrest.

5th Return the front seat, at least a portion of the original path in their position. (The seat can not slide all the way back, but enough for riders up to six meters.)

I suspect that it won a choice between ease of one hand and a flat bottom and full-size back seat, on the other, and the latter priorities. It would help if excluded the rear head restraints, as they worked on the Explorer, but that was probably for cost reasons.

Get the car is moving, and the Focus SE immediately impressed as much as the titanium did. The $ 20,000 Ford has thoroughly refined slickness, solidity, calmness and serenity you used to get buy a hyper-expensive German machine. This is evident during the first 50 meters and remains impressive after a week in the car. Also on pockmarked roads of Michigan Focus drives well, with strictly controlled body movements. Some cars absorb bumps a little better, but they have the advantages of a longer wheelbase and wider track. A Chevrolet Cruze is not far away in total sophistication. But the Hyundai Elantra trails considerably, and this is new-for-2012 Honda Civic hopelessly far behind.

The usual drawback of this level of refinement: curb weight. At 2920 pounds, the new Focus has much (though still about 200 pounds less than a Cruze). One implication: Even a strong, smooth 2.0-liter engine as the direct injection, 160-hp, 146-foot-pound unit is used to produce not here to stabbing acceleration. Do not slip the clutch a bit off the line, and the first few seconds of turning on a busy road may take forever to appear. Especially when the current when to. At other times, performance is just adequate, but far from exciting.

A sixth cog would help. The grunt to give five-oriented economy of the line and on the highway, so the situation is a bit of a spread for an engine with a 4450 rpm torque peak. On the other hand operating the circuit and could not clutch easier. Throw and effort are both moderate, and their feeling is as thorough as the rest of the car improved. A consumer association: a rather heavy flywheel, which blunts some of the potential of the engine.

An upcoming Focus ST with a 247-hp turbo engine, four and six-speed manual should cure this evil power, and then some, at the expense of, well, a higher price. For those who want more than 160 hp, but who do not need or want to pay for license-threatening appearance and speed should consider Ford, provides a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 200 hp. This would hit a sweet spot.

The 2.0-liter engine is economical, especially when you consider the weight of the car. The EPA estimates 26 city / 36 highway. The trip computer reported low 30s in suburban driving with the AC on high.

The sports package does not change the suspension settings, the currently "sport tuned" for all trim levels (per Q & A with Ford). The handling is very good, but again just exciting. The steering is weighted well and while usually used better than most buyers could feel sharper, more precise and sophisticated. The Mazda3 retains a clear lead in this area, and also the earlier Ford Focus felt directly. In part, this is the cost of refining, but also that an economy-maximizing fully electrical system instead of the electro-hydraulic hybrid Mazda employs. The Focus SE chassis and just about anything you ask of it do well (except feels light on its feet) to, with sharp turn in, minimal understeer (partly due to electronic wizardry, including the brakes), good communication excellent-you attitude to approach the front outside of the tire limits. Then it gets a little muddy when very safe.

Step up to the Titan, and an extra $ 595 package for the handling you get moderately firmer struts and 235/WR18 Michelin Pilot Sport3s that handle harder and sharper feel aggressive driving. Or simply as suggested earlier: do not spend $ 495 on the factory 17-inch Contis, and go aftermarket.

As in the intro, the cars tested mentioned lists for $ 21,380, while. Corresponding sedan lists for $ 20,780 You can $ 495 by not using the 17-inch wheels and tires, spare, but in this case you will want to spend definitely a lot more for the aftermarket kit. You could also save $ 800 by not using the SYNC system, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, but you will not know if you were alive in the 20th Century.

Likewise equip 2011 Mazda3s hatchback, and there is a $ 110 less. After adjusting for remaining feature differences with True Delta car price comparison tool finds the two are almost exclusively. Thus, the choice between these two is not done about the price. Rather, on the refinement and fuel economy (the Mazda only 21/29 rated) vs. acceleration and steering feel. For most people, the Ford is easily win this match-up.

A Kia Forte5 SX is the budget buy in the segment, with a list price of $ 19,090. With a bigger engine, it is faster than the Focus, and has a longer warranty, but it is less efficient (22/32) and much less refined in almost every way (materials, powertrain, ride, handling). Features are as well here as well. Is it worth saving $ 2,000 a car that looks and feels to get to $ 5,000 cheaper?

To get the premium look and feel of the Focus in a semi-affordable car, it is necessary with a Volkswagen Golf and even go to the not-yet-decontented VW hatchback is not on the same level as the Ford you can not the sporty look and feel of the Focus SE Sport with no emphasis on the more expensive (and much faster) GTI. Compare a base 2011 Golf with Bluetooth to a Focus SE with SYNC but without sports package and 17s and the VW is about $ 400 more. So to close the Focus and the Mazda3, but without their sportsmanship.

The 2012 Ford Focus is not a hooner joy out of the box, but I am still by how good it is, surprised. Even in SE trim has the look, feel and refinement of a much more expensive car. And it drives better than 90 percent of the population ever expect. So if you just want a really good, nicely trimmed small car but do not want to spend $ 27,000 + for it, $ 21,000 or so (before dealer discounts and taxes) do the trick.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates True Delta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.