Back in the 1980’s the Ford Motor Company ran an ad campaign that lasted for years, and it was based upon the slogan “Have you driven a Ford, lately?” While I can’t tell you how successful that campaign was, I can tell you that for those who haven’t been behind a Ford in the last several years, you may want to think about that slogan once again.
If I was to relate that slogan to one particular model, it would have to be the Ford Focus. Now in its 3rd generation, the Ford Focus which first debuted in Europe in 1998 and in North America for the 2000 model year is Ford’s entry into the ultra-competitive and immensely crowded compact car segment. It was brought on to replace the tired but tested Escort and my initial impressions of this global platform model were less than stellar. Its second generation North American version did little to inspire me either as it strayed away from the global platform which was making improvements and offered car buyers here a rather sedate and uninspiring replacement. Even worse was the fact that the popular 5-door hatchback was completely removed from the North American market.
Fortunately though, the 3rd generation Focus has much to offer in order to draw one back to look at Ford again. Included amongst that is the return of the 5 door hatchback, which is the subject of this Enviro Dad Test Drive.
AT FIRST GLANCE
Thankfully the 2012 Ford Focus has abandoned the previous North American platform and embraced the sportier and more attractive European styling. With some small discrepancies relating to specifically safety laws and powertrain preferences on this side of the Atlantic, the 2012 Focus is almost identical to what is found in Europe. This is a good thing as Euro-styling certainly adds to the Focus rather than detracts.
My tester was the premium “Titanium” model and with it came leather interior, a sporty suspension, power moonroof and 18” aluminum wheels with low-profile summer performance tires. Add to it a vivid yellow colour and it was eye catching from the start.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
All 2012 Ford Focus versions come equipped with a standard 2.0L 4 cylinder GDI engine. It puts out 160 hp which is an increase of about 20 hp from its previous version. Compared against other vehicles in its category it carries more horsepower than the very popular Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze or the Kia Forte, but doesn’t quite match what’s offered with the Mazda3 Sport or the Volkswagen Golf.
The sport suspension on the Titanium model made for smooth handling on corners and a good solid feeling of control behind the wheel. The ride is also remarkably quiet and the bucket seats were both comfortable and supportive.
THE GREEN FACTOR
What’s impressive about the new Focus drivetrain is that despite the extra horsepower, Ford’s engineers still managed to reduce fuel consumption from its previous generation. In fact with a posted fuel rating of 4.8 L/100 km (Hwy) and 7.2 L/100 km (City), these numbers beat the fuel ratings of just about every other non-hybrid hatchback in its category.
According to Government of Canada posted ratings, estimated fuel costs for the Focus (based on $1.05/ L) would be $1323.00. Carbon emissions are estimated at 2,900 kg’s annually.
Through its latest generation of model re-designs Ford has made a genuine commitment to reduce fuel consumption across all its models and the Focus provides verifiable evidence of that.
THE FAMILY FACTOR
Compact cars are understandably not designed as pure family vehicles. Any family of more than 4 would likely want to look upwards and into the mid to full size categories as opposed to a compact car like the Focus.
That said, its cargo capacity of 23.8 cubic feet with the second row up or the 44.8 cubic feet with the 2nd row down provides plenty enough space for the demands of any small to mid-sized family. It provides enough space for a full grocery shop, sports equipment hauling or other typical family requirements.
2nd row legroom of just over 33 inches is a full 10 inches less than that in the front row, so it would seem fine for children up to about their tween years but after that, legroom would begin to be an issue.
FOR THE TECHIES
Where modern Ford vehicles are concerned, techies really have both a love and a hate relationship when it comes to technology that is offered.
To Ford’s credit, they fully understand that while the marketplace is moving towards smaller vehicles, they still want to have access to all the same technological features and advantages that larger vehicles often have. The Ford Focus, depending on your package choice has a wide range of tech options available including GPS navigation, premium 10 speaker Sony sound system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, heated seats, rearview camera and even the somewhat revolutionary Active Park Assist which is a God send for anyone not accustomed to parallel parking.
Where Ford still continues to have a problem is with the My Touch interface they utilize. While improvements certainly have been made in its 2nd generation of My Touch, I still find the layout and the sensitivities of the touch screen to be a bit frustrating. I have a personal advantage in that I’ve been in a few Ford’s with My Touch and only through repetition have I become somewhat comfortable with using it. That said, they still need to work on making the interface more user friendly and simplified. There is a lot of great technology available in the Focus and Ford needs to find a way to make it easier to access.
The 2012 Ford Focus is a formidable entrant in what is perhaps the most crowded and competitive market segment in the entire auto industry. With the continued migration of consumers from larger to smaller vehicles, this is a category that is expected to remain highly competitive for a long time. Automakers are well advised to develop vehicles in this category in a way they previously had never done, and Ford seemed to fully understand this with the launch of their 3rd generation Focus.
With a stylish design, a drivetrain and suspension that offers pep, stability and solid fuel efficiency plus a bevy of technology options (My Touch frustrations notwithstanding) that once were the sole domain of larger and more expensive cars, the 2012 Ford Focus is well positioned to maintain a dominant role in the category.
So if you haven’t driven a Ford Focus lately…well, perhaps it’s time to do so once again.
BY THE NUMBERS (Out of 10)
LOOK/DESIGN - 9.0
DRIVE - 8.5
THE GREEN FACTOR - 9.0
THE FAMILY FACTOR – 7.5
TECHIE STUFF - 7.0
VALUE - 7.5
(MSRP as Tested $30,859)
OVERALL SCORE - 8.0