2012 Ford Focus Road Test Review
With an all-new look and feel, the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus rolls out to a worldwide audience.
Scores High: Stylish and fun-to-drive, high-tech user interface and fuel efficient.
Scores Low: Optional automatic dual-clutch transmission still needs a bit of sorting out.
Total Car Score Analysis
While Ford has been selling its compact Focus in the North American marketplace for more than a decade, consumers in the U.S. have sadly never been offered the same vehicle as the one sold to Europeans — ours has always been on a slightly less refined (older) platform. Dry those tears, as Ford Motor Company has introduced an all-new, completely-redesigned "world car" for the 2012 model year and it delivers style, innovation and European driving mannerisms.
This is what gives the 2012 Ford Focus a top Total Car Score in the compact car segment Just as many of the once-dominant compacts are falling off the podium, upstarts are climbing quickly to claim the vacant steps. This segment is not only getting crowded, but it is getting highly competitive, and there are some extremely impressive vehicles offered at the same price point. That the all-new Focus is among the top-rated cars in this group is a confirmation of how much Ford wants to be taken seriously in the small-car market.
Standard fitment under the hood of all Focus models is a 2.0-liter inline-4, rated at 160 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Our test vehicle was equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission, which did an admirable job of putting the power to front wheels. The clutch was easy to use and the shift mechanism was accurate, with confident, solid throws. While it lacks the sixth gear found in many late-model cars, the extra gear was never missed as the ratios are well spaced and power delivery remains consistent (in sharp contrast, we weren’t overly thrilled with the optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which seemed to have a mind of its own).
Acceleration is peppy, despite its low-displacement engine and its near-40 mpg EPA highway rating. Thanks to an advanced MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link independent rear suspension the Focus delivers predictable and fun-to-drive handling. It zips around town in an entertaining manner, but we wouldn't call it overly sporty. Our fuel economy around town was in the mid-20s (slightly lower than EPA estimates), but we exceeded the fuel economy rating on the window sticker during steady-state highway cruising.
Ford used an electric power-assist steering system on the Focus to improve engine efficiency. Some complain about a lack of road feel with this type of system, but we would argue this application is good enough to leave most drivers hard-pressed to tell the difference. The brakes inspired confidence, delivering very predictable stops with little effort (our test vehicle was fitted with rear disc brakes, included with the optional SE Sport Package) while the upgraded tire/wheel package helped to not only improve appearance, but overall grip. All season tires are standard.
Interior Design and Function
The 2012 Ford Focus is offered in both sedan and 5-door body styles. Aside from the additional cargo space in the rear, the five-passenger cabins are nearly identical, with individual bucket seats up front and a folding second-row bench seat that collapses nearly flat (it is a one-piece rear seat on the sedan and split folding arrangement on the 5-door). While many competitors have switched to a multi-tier dashboard, Ford thankfully retained a traditional single-cluster arrangement with large analog gauges mixed with smaller digital displays. The overall look is sleek, modern and stylish without being garish.
Front passengers will find a lot to like with the new Focus, as the seating positions are comfortable and outward visibility is excellent. Materials, fit and finish are all above expectations for this segment (the dashboard returns a solid thud when you knock on it). The primary analog instrumentation (tachometer, speedometer, gas and coolant temperate gauge) is easy to read when viewed through the four-spoke steering wheel, but the center stack of instruments looks a bit overwhelming at first (as can be the operation of the SYNC infotainment system). All primary switchgear, from the door-mounted window and mirror switches to the console-mounted HVAC controls, is logically placed and intuitive. We really liked the optional sport seats, with their more aggressive bolstering, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel — both are included in the SE Sport Package.
Rear passengers will find the seats a bit flat and legroom slightly cramped if the driver and/or front passenger are approaching 6 feet, but smaller folks should leave plenty of room for those riding in back. Cargo room behind the second-row seat is generous in both the sedan and 5-door.
Primary Features and Options
Ford offers its 2012 Focus in both sedan and 5-door body styles in four different trim levels (S, SE, SEL and Titanium). Base sedan models start at $16,500 with the base 5-door at $18,300. Entry-level trims feature a long list of standard equipment, including a five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning and many power accessories. Base models also arrive with steel wheels and manual rear window lifts. Higher trim levels feature alloy wheels, full power accessories and standard infotainment systems — much of these are bundled in option packages for the lower trim levels.
The range-topping Titanium model, with a base price of $22,200, comes loaded with leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, parking sensors, HD radio, an 8-touchscreen and a standard dual-clutch automatic transmission. A voice-activated navigation system can also be ordered for SEL and Titanium models. With that in mind, and if you prefer more driver involvement and a lower price tag, try to configure your Focus much like our test vehicle — a silver SE 5-Door with the standard manual transmission and the SE Sport Package.
It’s Perfect For…
Whether purchased as a first car for a college student, an efficient vehicle for a daily commuter or as a family's primary mode of transportation, the Focus delivers a comfortable and engaging ride, adequate interior space and impressive fuel efficiency. But don't get the impression it is just another boring compact economy car — the little Ford is also stylish and loaded with a slew of innovative technology. In a nutshell, it simply works very well regardless of what role it is tasked to do.
While it isn't necessarily the best in its very competitive segment, the 2012 Ford Focus makes an excellent argument to earn itself an extended test drive.
Vehicle Tested: 2012 Ford Focus SE 5-Door
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $18,300
Options on Test Vehicle: Base Focus SE 5-Door, Sirius Satellite Radio package including Convenience Package, MyFord and SYNC ($1,195), Ingot Silver paint ($0), SE Sport Package ($695), 17-inch machined and painted alloy wheels ($495).
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $21,480
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.