Well, here it is, the new 2012 Ford Focus, and I have to say that it is one nice little car. Most people think that as journalists we gravitate to high horsepower road monsters that have the ability to shred on both the street and the track. I mean don’t get me wrong, we love those machines but like most people, we need everyday drivers too. For automobile manufacturers like Ford, cars like the Focus are where they make their bread and butter so they’d better be good if they expect to sell them. It used to be that compact cars were short on price, short on power and short on features, but in today’s world that is no longer the case. Cars like the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Hyundai Elantra are the perfect example of this, as they offer good value, decent performance and features that would make higher end cars from just 10 years ago look obsolete. Consumers shopping in today’s compact car segment now want to be able to get their cake and eat it too, and thankfully for them the 2012 Ford Focus delivers on both counts.
If you’re at all familiar with the canyons of Los Angeles, CA then you’ll know that they are home to some of the best driving roads on the planet. Changing elevations combined with tight switchbacks, decreasing radius and flowing curves make these roads a playground for car enthusiasts the world over. Imagine my surprise then when we found out that these were the exact roads that we’d be test driving the new 2012 Ford Focus on. Hmm… perhaps Ford was trying to tell us something.
Understand that this IS the Ford Focus that we American’s have always wanted. It’s more sport minded, has edgier styling and at the end of the day is simply more fun to drive then its predecessors. The exterior of our tester was clad in what Ford calls Yellow Blaze Tricoat Metallic. It was loud and in your face, but fit this little car perfectly. On the outside the car has a decidedly European look and feel about it. Its front end is highly sculpted incorporating a large tri-fold grill, integrated fog-lights and highly stylized headlamps. Out back large taillights flow nicely through the rear lift gate and into the surrounding sheet metal. There is also a built-in overhang rear spoiler that rounds off the exterior package nicely.
Keep in mind that there is also a sedan version of the 2012 Ford Focus that is, in my opinion, more attractive then the 5-door hatchback. The one you see here was equipped with the Titanium Handling Package which ads 18″ alloy wheels with low profile tires, a sport tuned suspension and a full-size spare tire that replaces the standard mini spare.
What I want to focus on here is the actual driving experience of this car. I’d love to go into full detail about Ford’s new MyTouch System, but quite honestly I just didn’t have enough time in the car to go through all its bells and whistles. For right now lets just say it’ll do everything except cook you breakfast in the morning and leave it at that. Our first car was the 5-door hatchback that was packed with myself and Agent 001 from Autospies – he’s a good guy which is why I’m giving him a nod, but more importantly he’s also a big guy like me which gave me a chance to test out the Focus’s roominess. We were pretty comfortable up front, but at 6’4″ each, that meant that folks who sat behind us would either have to be very short or simply have no legs. Average size drivers though will find this car to be more than comfortable enough and should have no problem with a few passengers climbing in for a ride.
We ran the Focus through the 55 + mile back road course that was charted out on our navigation system and in that time I put the little bugger through its paces. Right off the bat I will tell you that this little car can be a lot of fun when driven spiritedly. It’s got a great chassis, nicely weighted steering and slick shifting dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission with what Ford calls a SelectShift manual shift control. You can shift it manually if you wish, but the button is a bit oddly placed on the shifter and makes it difficult. If you want to shift just buy a Focus with a 5-speed manual and have at it.
I wasn’t cowboy’ing the Focus too hard, but I was having a little fun with it. Throw the car into a corner and you’ll find it handles much better than you’d think a compact car should handle. Body roll was very minimal and thanks to Ford’s new torque vectoring system, steering control through the corners was great. In fact, I had a smile on my face the entire time I was driving it.
The Focus was powered by a direct-injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 160 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. It moved the car along ok, but quite honestly I was expecting more out of the little mill. Let’s put it this way, with a chassis this good we could have handled another 100 hp with no problem. With that being said, this car supposedly gets 40 mpg on the highway, so it makes sense that this engine works perfectly in the package we were supplied with. We were seeing around 34 mpg in mixed driving, which wasn’t half bad for a compact that was this much fun to drive. Understand also that Ford will be bringing the Focus ST over to the States, so those who have a hankering for more power will have their prayers answered within the next year.
What’s great about the 2012 Ford Focus is its youthful appeal. It’s compact (but not too compact), is packed full of technology (Ford MyTouch System) and is a hoot to drive. It also comes in a cool 5-door hatch or 4-door sedan, manual or automatic and depending on options, will run you between $18,790 – $25,000. So, is this new Focus worth your hard earned greenbacks? The answer – Yes. It gives you great bang for your buck, edgy European styling and handling, as well as the most important factor of them all… it’ll make you smile. We’ll have more on the 2012 Ford Focus as soon as we get a long term press car, until then though, please know that out of the box we’re impressed with this little guy and are looking forward to becoming better acquainted with it.