More than a few members of TTAC’s esteemed B&B have been clamoring for the European specification Ford Focus—ever since Ford decided the original was just fine for the non-discriminating American customer. “If you bring it, they will buy it” our commentariot railed at the Powers That Be. Well, after sampling the latest basic Focus, I can tell you that the Euro Focus sucks just like the American Focus, just not quite as much.
The first inkling that the Schwarz black, manual transmission 2009 Ford Focus 1.6L was a turd: when I failed to find a comfortable driving position despite the multitude of levers and knobs arrayed on the side of the seat just for that purpose. Push, pull, twist, jerk; I never could get quite comfortable. The steering wheel was too high or the shift knob too far away or my feet were splayed at weird angles. It also smelled like cabbage but this might not have been Ford’s fault.
I settled for slightly awkward and motored off to the A60 autobahn. Puttering down an L-road (not motoring, as the 1.6L proved woefully inadequate to power the overweight compact), I realized that the verve-to-corner ratio remained from the original Focus. The Blue Oval Boyz sure know how to tune a chassis. And yet, somehow, the rest of the car conspires against this excellence. Brakes, gearbox, steering—none of the major systems works in harmony with the other. Trying to get the most out of this economy car quickly transforms the Ford Focus into a rolling box of pent-up frustration. It felt cheap, tinny, unsubstantial, brittle and not completely not fun.
The stoppers remain the Focus’s single worst aspect. As I crested 160 kmh (downhill) at full steam, I tried to brake for a Fiesta that pulled out into my lane. As the Focus’s wimpy calipers attempted to scrub speed, the stop pedal sank to the floor. The Ford Focus wiggled and squirmed under the pressure, threatening to cause another navigation course correction (I nearly slammed into the central barrier). I had moment, after moment, after moment . . . .
After conversing with the European B&B, I will reserve final judgement on the Focus until I have sampled the higher-spec models, such as the 2.0L petrol and diesel versions, or the interesting Focus CC (Convertible in German). However, from my initial impressions, if you are a North American reader and aspiring European compact driver, stand down.