The latest Mark VII VW Golf and the Mazda3 have been the undisputed compact car class leaders— for those appreciating a pleasing drive, at least —but Ford’s freshening of the Focus has moved it at least into the same ZIP code as these two, and made it a vehicle you might want to actually own, not just rent.
The latest Ford Focus hasn’t changed much in style; the new grill, lights and other changes bring it in line with other, newer Fords, but otherwise don’t move the style meter. The SE tester’s blacked out trim, body kit and dark wheels gave it a bit of ‘tude, which is currently in vogue.
The interior quality is slightly higher, which is great, as the company has a penchant for penny pinching on materials. Room front and back is decent, the trunk large, and the updated, basic 4.2in interface for infotainment is better than before, though it still requires some fumbling about a touch screen (VW) or wheel controller (Mazda) makes unnecessary.
Now With More Refinement!
The big surprise is in how much more refined this latest Focus is. Engine din has been dramatically reduced and twinclutch gearbox now kind of works as an automatic. The 2-liter, 160hp/146lb-ft motor is smooth and willing, pleasing to rev, and has a good spread of torque and power. The tranny is quicker shifting and more intuitive in its full-auto setting, though manual mode is still completely useless, based on the lurchiness it engenders, making the SE’s paddle shifters redundant. Where the European-designed Focus as always excelled is dynamically, and nothing has been lost here. Ride quality, steering acumen and handling prowess are as good or better than any competitors’.
The refinements and improvements don’t extend to better fuel economy though. The test Focus couldn’t break out of the teens in urban use at Denver’s altitude, with an average of 18.7mpg—simply not good enough in a compact car of this level of performance. Perhaps it would do better closer to sea level, and there is the option of a 3-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost motor. Aside from that there is decent value here; at just over $20k this Focus SE is substantially less than the Mazda or VW with similar equipment.
EPA ratings: 26/38mpg; 30mpg combined
0-60mph: 7.5sec (est)
Price as tested: $21,970
Here is what Ford has to say.