The Truth About Cars » Focus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:44:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Focus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Double A (Beep! Beep!) Em, Cee, Oh… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-double-a-beep-beep-em-cee-oh/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-double-a-beep-beep-em-cee-oh/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 12:37:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840217 TTAC commentator M0L0TOV writes: Greetings All-Knowing Sajeev, I am looking for some insight on an ongoing issue with my workhorse. I have a 2003 Ford Focus ZX-5 with 160,000 miles. A little bit over a year ago, I had Aamco rebuild the automatic transmission on my car for the tune of $2500. Apparently, my car […]

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TTAC commentator M0L0TOV writes:

Greetings All-Knowing Sajeev,

I am looking for some insight on an ongoing issue with my workhorse. I have a 2003 Ford Focus ZX-5 with 160,000 miles. A little bit over a year ago, I had Aamco rebuild the automatic transmission on my car for the tune of $2500. Apparently, my car seems to have an appetite for transmissions, I’m on #4 now (original, warranty, junkyard, Aamco).

Lately, I noticed my car was leaving large puddles of fluid on the driveway, I checked underneath it, and saw fluid was accumulating around the transmission pan. I took my vehicle to my mechanic and he showed me what had happened. It looks like whoever worked on the transmission last (Aamco) had attempted to seal a crack in the transmission housing with silicone. From my understanding, silicone will not stand up very well to the heat and corrosive properties of ATF.

I passed by Aamco and they inspected my car, they acknowledged they had attempted a repair during the install. The owner of this Aamco franchise advised me that I would need a new transmission case and with parts and installation would cost me over $800.00. I’m a bit pissed because if they knew it was cracked, while the transmission was out, this part could have been replaced, now I have to go through a similar procedure to get this done again.

I really don’t feel like spending $800.00+ to get this done considering the age and wear on the vehicle. Should I:

  1. Try one of those additives that claims to fix leaks.
  2. Drain the transmission, clean the area, add JB Weld, and hope for the best.
  3. Have the crack welded.
  4. Try to find somebody else to do the job cheaper.
  5. Listened to my father and avoided Aamco.

I’m mechanically inclined but my skills are not advanced nor do I have the space and room to do this job myself. Besides the transmission issues, the car hasn’t given me any issues, the engine runs strong. I do have a little bit of sentimental value for the car since it was my first “new” car I ever got. I do I.T. work which requires a lot of driving and the car gets decent mileage.

P.S. Driving my Dodge Magnum R/T is not an option since it would eat me out of house and home gas wise.

Sajeev Answers:

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of problems with an AAMCO transmission franchise.  Or, heck, any franchised service shop.  Even worse, this is the second time I heard about a rebuilder cracking a transmission case.

What is the right move? Franchise owner eats the bill and hopes you remain a happy customer. If this only happens via running it up the AAMCO channel, so be it.  Hit up their Twitter or Facebook accounts and ask the store owner for his regional manager.   If it’s not too late, go do that.

If AAMCO doesn’t care, well, you are SOL.   There are plenty of reputable rebuilders that dropship refreshed unit to a recommended installer, complete with a good warranty. I’ve heard good things about Jasper and the B&B previously agreed.  Or get one from the junkyard and hope for the best, again. I’ve personally had a great Ford AOD rebuilt from a franchise shop, but I interviewed them, inspected their shop and asked them detailed questions about their AOD-skills. They passed the test and that made me happy.

Since you do like the car, I suggest getting a quality rebuild.  And if there’s a local shop with a good reputation and extensive knowledge of Ford specific transmission issues, give it another shot. Because the aftermarket usually fixes all the weak spots in transmissions, combine that with an aftermarket ATF cooler and you’ll be set for many years to come.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Ford: Manual-Only Plan For 2015 Focus 1-Liter “Sensible” For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ford-manual-only-plan-for-2015-focus-1-liter-sensible-for-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ford-manual-only-plan-for-2015-focus-1-liter-sensible-for-us-market/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817898 Despite a majority of U.S. consumers preferring automatic transmissions over manual offerings, Ford’s plan to offer the 1-liter EcoBoost with only a six-speed manual for the 2015 Focus is seen by the automaker as a sensible decision for the home market. Ward’s Auto reports U.S. Focus customers are more likely to choose a manual over […]

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2015-Ford-Focus-06

Despite a majority of U.S. consumers preferring automatic transmissions over manual offerings, Ford’s plan to offer the 1-liter EcoBoost with only a six-speed manual for the 2015 Focus is seen by the automaker as a sensible decision for the home market.

Ward’s Auto reports U.S. Focus customers are more likely to choose a manual over an automatic — the lineup as a whole as a take rate of between 12 percent and 13 percent — if not the desire to learn how to shift, according to Focus marketing manager Seema Bardwaj:

We see younger customers who think it’s cool and think they are better engaged with the vehicle (with a manual). We see that in that customer that you may not see in other vehicle segments.

In addition, Ford believes U.S. consumers may not find the dual-clutch automatic offered with the engine elsewhere to their liking, citing customer reaction toward the technology — and complaints of abrupt shifting that was later fixed through software updates — behind its reasoning. Last year, TTAC reported that the 1.0L/Powershift combo in the Fiesta was axed, due to concerns over NVH. This may have been the case for the Focus as well.

However, the take rate for the pairing under the Focus may be lower than hoped, which may lead to an automatic behind the 1-liter down the line. In the meantime, Ford hopes the engine more than makes up for the lowered expectations, thanks in part due to its fuel economy; under the hood of the Fiesta with the same transmission, the B-segment car delivers a combined 37 mpg.

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Ford Unveils 2015 Focus, 1-Liter 3-Pot Manual-Only For U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-unveils-2015-focus-1-liter-3-pot-manual-only-for-u-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ford-unveils-2015-focus-1-liter-3-pot-manual-only-for-u-s/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752497 Ahead of its world debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain prior to making the rounds at the Geneva and New York auto shows next month, Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2015 Focus. The Detroit Free Press reports the updated Focus, set to enter showrooms in Europe and the United States this fall […]

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Ahead of its world debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain prior to making the rounds at the Geneva and New York auto shows next month, Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2015 Focus.

The Detroit Free Press reports the updated Focus, set to enter showrooms in Europe and the United States this fall with assembly in South America and Asia following soon after, takes its looks from its Fusion stablemate with a new grill, while a higher hood line, lower stance, new lighting elements and a restyled trunk lid for the sedan complete the package.

Underneath the hood, the 1.0L EcoBoost three-cylinder from the Fiesta will find a home in the Focus. Like the Fiesta, the engine will only be paired with a six-speed manual for the U.S. market; other markets will receive an automatic option, as well as the station wagon above. Though Ford hasn’t released mileage figures, the pairing is expected to deliver above the 40 mpg highway rating held by the current model.

Inside, the driver will have greater access to their car’s electronic communications with the Blue Oval’s SYNC AppLink system, allowing iOS and Android users to download and use more than 60 related apps to access everything from real-time vehicle data to hands-free notifications when a phone is connected. In addition, lane-keeping and blind-spot warning systems will be standard.

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691530 Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result […]

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2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

For 2014, the American hot hatch shopper is spoiled for choice. There are a whopping two options: the 2014 Ford Focus ST and the 2014 Volkswagen GTI. If you’re patient enough, VW plans on releasing a new GTI for the 2015 model year and the Mazda rumor mill is rife with 2015 Mazdaspeed3 assumptions. I must therefore rule the Focus ST the most attractive hot hatch in America and put the comparatively boring GTI in last place, or second. However you want to look at it. For performance duty Ford takes the already handsome Focus, lowers it by nearly half an inch and swaps in some new wheels, a front bumper, tweaked spoiler, rear valance and exhaust tips. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is no sedan variant of the Focus ST. Sorry America.

Although the parts list is short, I found the transformation impressive. I haven’t warmed to the Euro nose that the current generation Focus wears while the ST’s more conventional single grille look manages to be both more grown up and more aggressive when compared to the donor car. (Don’t worry, you can get your Focus in colors other than “Tangerine Scream”.) The ST shares hoods with the lesser Focuses (Foci?) there is an oddly large gap between the hood and front bumper that is so uniform (and is on every ST model I have seen) that it must be intentional, however distracting. The reason is that the regular model’s hood doesn’t mate directly with anything as it is styled to be the upper part of the front grille. I have a feeling that if and when the Mazdaspeed3 lands, it will take the crown as I find the Mazda3 the most attractive entry in the compact hatchback segment.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005

Interior

Like the Volkswagen GTI, the first thing you will notice about the Focus when you hop inside will be the very European color palate. In other words, black. The soft injection moulded dashboard combines with the black headliner, black carpets and predominantly black upholstery to create a very Germanic interior. All Focus models sport a double-bump style dashboard with the infotainment positioned in a prominent position and the ST trim tops off the binnacle with standard gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost.  This is the same cabin that European shoppers get with one exception: the Recaro seats aren’t standard on our side of the pond. Neither is that 8-inch touchscreen.

Although the ST starts at $23,625 my realistic base price jumps to $25,845 by adding the “ST2″ package which I consider essential. This package adds the 8-inch screen, automatic climate control and the Recaro seats that you see in all the photos and reviews of the Focus ST. The base seats lack the aggressive bolstering or the exceptional comfort of the half-leather Recaro thrones. ST2 shoppers can opt for two-tone seats (as seen in our tester) in blue, yellow or black-on-black. Checking the ST3 box brings the ST up to $28,000 and adds completely leather faced seats (black only), seat heaters, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and standard navigation software.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004

During my week with the ST I put over 1,100 miles on the Tangerine Scream including a 650 mile road trip. The Recaro thrones proved to be supportive, comfortable and superior to the GTI’s seats for long road trips. Unfortunately the rear passengers weren’t as happy since the Focus has a fairly cramped rear seat. Adding the Recaro seats to the Focus seems to drop the rear seat room by a hair as well making the Focus a great deal tighter than the GTI despite the Focus being the longer car by six inches. Where do those inches go? Some of them are consumed by the Ford’s longer nose, but plenty can be found in the ST’s 50% larger cargo hold.

Since I mentioned the Mustang earlier, that tight rear seat is one of the main reasons you’d select a Focus ST over a V6 ‘Stang. Despite being smaller than a GTI, the ST offers two extra doors, three more inches of leg room and a 5th seat belt. In addition to the added passenger room the Focus also boasts 10 more cubic feet of widget storage in the back.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002

Infotainment

Base ST shoppers get basic entertainment to go with their basic seating. All STs come standard with a 6-speaker audio system sporting a 4.2-inch color LCD, SYNC voice commands and a sea of buttons. The unit is housed in the same binnacle as the 8-inch system so there’s plenty of blank space to remind you that you didn’t pony up for the MyFord Touch system. The ST3 package that is my realistic base for the ST solves this by removing the button bank and inserting the screen you see above. Bundled with the resistive touchscreen is an upgraded 10-speaker Sony speaker system with a subwoofer and a center channel. Sound quality in the 6-speaker system was disappointing while the Sony system impressed. One thing to know if that the Sony system tends to have exaggerated treble and bass tuning by default but it is adjustable.

This is about the time when I usually comment on MyFord Touch being somewhat sluggish and suggest that the competition has an acceptable alternative. The alternative however is Volkswagen’s ancient infotainment lineup. All GTIs share the same 8-speaker sound system that slots between Ford’s base and up-level system in both speaker count and sound quality but everything else pales in comparison. The GTI has no SYNC-like voice command system in any model and the base GTI doesn’t even get a color LCD in the cabin. The Driver’s Edition GTI gets VW’s low-cost navigation unit which, when compared to MyFord Touch, is like taking a Palm Pilot to an iPad fight. Hopefully VW will up their game for 2015, but more than likely Ford’s only real infotainment competition will come from Mazda’s slick MazdaConnect system.

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002

Drivetrain

The last Focus ST was powered by Volvo, a logical choice since Volvo’s S40 and Ford’s Focus were cousins to begin with. This generation Focus is 100% Ford. Instead of the oddly-alluring 2.5L five-cylinder, we get a 252 horsepower tune of Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine cranking out 270 lb-ft of torque. (There is a bit of confusion on the HP numbers, in the video I mention Ford’s initial numbers of 247 HP and 266 lb-ft which was later updated to 252/270. Apparently running 87 octane gasoline in your ST will yield 247 while 93 will get you 252.) This is the same four-cylinder turbo used in the Ford Edge and Taurus except that the boost has been cranked up and it is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. (As far as we can tell this is no longer the Volvo M66 transmission manufactured by Getrag.)

Drive

Compared to the VW, the Focus is 52 ponies more powerful and serves up 63 more lb-ft while the Mustang V6 beats the Focus by 48 horsepower and 10 lb-ft. As you would assume with numbers like that, the Mustang is faster t0 60, but thanks to the turbocharger on the Focus the difference in our testing was just 1/10th of a second and is more down to driver skill and traction than vehicle output. The VW on the other hand can’t makeup for the power deficit by being 100lbs lighter and was 3/10ths slower.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006

The big difference between a Mustang and a hot hatch is of course which wheels are getting the power. Because the ST funnels all its power through the front wheels, torque steer is a genuine concern. Rather than limit engine power in 1st and 2nd like Mazda did with the old Mazdaspeed3, or use a limited slip differential like Honda uses on occasion, Ford decided to program the electric power steering to compensate. Coupled with the EPAS system is a stability control system programmed to torque vector power across the front using the car’s large front brakes. The system works passably well but not as well as the Ford’s “Revo Kunckle” which they use on their larger cars. Due mostly to the greater output, torque steer in the ST is more pronounced than in the GTI, but much less noticeable than in the old Mazda. I’ve always found mild torque steer in a fast front-driver an entertaining phenomenon so it never bothered me.

Helping the steering tendencies is a variable ratio steering rack that uses a quick 1.8 turns lock to lock vs 2.1 in the GTI, 2.8 in the standard Focus and 3.1 in the V6 ‘Stang. Thanks to the ratio the ST feels very nimble and eager to change direction. Unless you need to U-turn of course which is when you will discover that this tiny hatch has a nearly 40-foot turning radius.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009

Thanks to a light 3,200 pound curb weight (100lbs heavier than the VW but 300lbs lighter than a V6 Mustang), 235-width Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires and a well tuned suspension, the Focus ST sticks to the road like glue. TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad to confirm or deny the Mustang trouncing Gs the plucky hatch can pull, but after a week making passengers sick on winging mountain roads I’m a believer. What makes the Focus more impressive is how neutral the car feels despite being a front-heavy front-driver. It’s more lively, less civilized but more rewarding to drive than the GTI. The V6 ‘Stang does give you rear-wheel- drive dynamics and more shove in a straight line, but I’d be willing to bet I’d be faster around a track in the Focus ST.

What surprised me about the Focus the most however was how livable it is. The suspension is firm but never harsh and my spine didn’t revolt on a 5 hour drive to Los Angeles. Cabin noise was high at 76 dB but that’s not far from the last Golf I measured and average for the economy car segment. Thanks to an active noise generator that opens a valve to pipe sound into the cabin from when at full throttle, normal driving happens without the incessant droning of a Fiat Abarth. While the Tangerine Scream paint job and yellow trimmed seats scream “boy racer”, the truth is the Focus is quite the grown up. With a starting price some $1,300 less than a GTI the Focus delivers a solid value proposition. Fully loaded the difference narrows to less than a grand in cash but more than $3,000 when you factor in the Ford’s greater feature content. While I’m sure that 2015 will bring a VW GTI with more refinement and an improved interior, VW has confirmed the ST will still be the horsepower champion and likely the value leader as well. Compared to that RWD Ford on the lot, the pony car is less expensive but less practical as well. For the cost difference between the Mustang and the ST, you could buy all manner of performance mods for your pony to compete with the ST, but I have a feeling I’d still buy the Focus. For 2014 Ford’s hot hatch is without a doubt the hottest hatch on sale in America, but with Volkswagen planning on sending their 290HP Golf R to the USA and Ford’s own high-power Focus RS rumored, things are just starting to warm up.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3

0-60: 5.95

1/4 Mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 98.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.7 MPG over 1210 Miles

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 76.4 dB

 

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New Face of 2015 Ford Focus Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/new-face-of-2015-ford-focus-revealed/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 15:07:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693449 Three years ago, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus to the excitement of American enthusiasts who thought the second-generation model lacked “zazz,” to say the least. Come 2015, the Focus will have a new face, and that’s only the beginning. Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2015 Focus not only has a new, […]

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2015 Ford Focus

Three years ago, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus to the excitement of American enthusiasts who thought the second-generation model lacked “zazz,” to say the least. Come 2015, the Focus will have a new face, and that’s only the beginning.

Debuting at the Geneva Auto Show in March, the 2015 Focus not only has a new, more Aston-Martinesque mouth — bringing it in line with the Fiesta and Fusion — but also a reshaped hood, front spoiler, and rear bumper. Inside, the “mobile phone”-inspired morass of buttons on the current model will soon be replaced by a more sensible, conventional layout featuring updated climate controls.

For the big gun of the collection, the Focus ST is expected to have more aggressive bodywork than the rest of the Focus lineup, along with improvements to the suspension and steering for sharper handling.

Under the hood, however, engine options will be carried-over into the 2015 model year, ranging from the 1-liter EcoBoost pumping out a minimum of 98 horsepower at the low-end, to the 247-horsepower 2-liter monster under the ST. Russian, Chinese and Brazilian markets will see 1.5-liter gasoline and diesel compliance engines as part of their engine choices.

Green enthusiasts will be pleased to know that plug-in variant (in the vein of the C-Max Energi) is in the offing; thus, expect a similar total output of 192 horsepower from its combined electric/gasoline power with 20 miles of electric-only travel. The all-electric Focus will still be available, as well.

The price of admission should more or less hold for 2015, so expect to pay anywhere from around $17,000 to $35,000 depending on model of choice

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PRI 2013: Ford Shows Off its Ecoboost Crate Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-ford-shows-off-its-ecoboost-crate-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-ford-shows-off-its-ecoboost-crate-engine/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682610 Ford Racing quietly began offering its advanced, 2.0 liter Ecoboost turbocharged 4 cylinder crate engine earlier this year, without much fanfare. All that changed at the 2013 PRI Show in Indianapolis, however, with Ford’s Ecoboost powered 2015 Mustang twirling away on a giant lazy Susan directly under the giant “Ford Racing” banner mere steps away […]

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Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Racing quietly began offering its advanced, 2.0 liter Ecoboost turbocharged 4 cylinder crate engine earlier this year, without much fanfare. All that changed at the 2013 PRI Show in Indianapolis, however, with Ford’s Ecoboost powered 2015 Mustang twirling away on a giant lazy Susan directly under the giant “Ford Racing” banner mere steps away from the small crate engine, displayed proudly with its (relatively hefty) $8,000 price tag.

This was the first PRI outing (that I’m aware of) for Ford’s turbo 4, and the buzz around it was genuinely positive, with plenty of guys who cut their teeth on DSMs and 2.2 L turbo Chryslers in the- ahem!- 1990s suddenly interested in Ford’s muscular pony. Maybe for the first time, even- all of which bodes well for Ford, who needs to keep the Mustang brand relevant to the Gen-X and Millenial generations of enthusiasts if it hopes to enjoy another few decades of success.

As for specs, Ford’s littlest Ecoboost (crate engine) packs a 252 HP punch served up with 270 LB-FT of torque at just 3000 rpm- not bad for a company that couldn’t get that out of a production 5.0 liter V8 just 20 short years ago. You can check out a few more pictures of Ford’s racy 4-banger, below, and check out Ford Racing’s official 2.0 L Ecoboost page here.

 

Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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Ford to Idle Michigan Plant for Two Weeks Due to Growing Focus and C-Max Inventories http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-to-idle-michigan-plant-for-two-weeks-due-to-growing-focus-and-c-max-inventories/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-to-idle-michigan-plant-for-two-weeks-due-to-growing-focus-and-c-max-inventories/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 10:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632034 Ford Motor Company’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan will be idled for two weeks to reduce inventories of the Focus and C-Max. The plant will close for a week at the end of this month and then for another week in the middle of December.   The Focus started October with a 71 day […]

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Ford Motor Company’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan will be idled for two weeks to reduce inventories of the Focus and C-Max. The plant will close for a week at the end of this month and then for another week in the middle of December.

 

The Focus started October with a 71 day supply, slightly over the 60 day supply that’s considered ideal in the North American market, while C-Max inventories have ballooned to 122 days supply.

“We expect to take approximately two weeks of downtime at our Michigan Assembly Plant starting this month, as we continue to match production with demand,” said Ford spokesperson Kristina Adamski in a statement.

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Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-hyundai-elantra-gt-video/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 21:54:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497508 By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block […]

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2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?

About “them doors.”  We all know a sedan is a four-door because a trunk isn’t a door. (Despite our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index testing.) Likewise we call the Elantra Coupe a two-door but toss a hatch into the mix and, hey-presto, your cargo portal is a door. How does the Veloster fit in? It has three regular doors (two on one side, one on the other) and a hatch. Thankfully Hyundai killed off the awkward looking Elantra Touring wagon leaving nothing to go head to head with the Mazda3 hatch, Focus hatch and Golf. That’s where the GT fits in.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Adding the GT to the lineup puts Hyundai in the unusual position of having more variants of their compact vehicle than any other brand in the USA, and that’s even if you don’t count the Veloster as an Elantra. Part of this is to give customers options the other brands don’t, but it is also to extend the life of the aging Elantra. In 2010 when the Elantra splashed on the scene it was new and exciting, but this is a fiercely competitive segment. In the past three years, the Civic, Forte, Golf and Mazda3 have all been redesigned bringing new and exciting shapes to choose from. In this light the Elantra’s front end is starting to look a old to my eyes, especially when you park it next to the aggressive new Forte. Speaking of that elephant in the room, that 2014 Forte 5-door looks all kinds of hot.

Park the GT next to an Elantra sedan and you’ll notice this isn’t a sedan with a hatch glued on. Instead, the GT rides on a 2-inch shorter wheelbase shared with the Veloster. Along with the reduced wheelbase, Hyundai sliced nearly 9-inches off this sausage slotting the GT between the Veloster and Elantra sedan in overall size. The shorter dimensions made parking the GT easy in tight urban settings even though the GT retains the Elantra’s 34.8-foot turning circle. Despite the platform nip/tuck the GT is the heaviest Elantra variant at a still svelte (well, relatively speaking) 2,745lbs with the manual transmission.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

I took me a few moments to figure out what was going on with the GT’s interior. At first glance the dashboard and controls are familiar, yet this isn’t the same dashboard the Elantra coupé/sedan, or the Veloster. Gone is the “hourglass” center console in favor of a HVAC controls that are larger and easier to use. Our tester had the optional dual-zone climate control system which rearranges the buttons and adds a large blue-backlit display. Although the steering wheel has simply been tweaked with satin “metal” trim, the rest of the interior trappings are a notch above the Elantra sedan and coupe and, depending on where your fingers brush, a notch above the Veloster as well. This is fortunate because with even the Civic going up-market for 2013, the GT could have left the gates at a disadvantage. Thanks to the plastic upgrades, the GT is firmly “middle of the pack.”

Even though the GT is notably shorter and slightly taller than the sedan, folks up front won’t notice much difference. The seats are still supportive and comfortable, but not as easy on the back as the 2013 Civic. You might think the wheelbase reduction would play havoc with rear accommodations but the back seats have slightly more room than in the sedan. Some of that room is thanks to rear seats with a more upright and comfortable profile and some of it comes at the expense of the front seats which get a one inch reduction in travel for GT duty. Getting in and out of those rear seats is easy thanks to large and fairly square door openings. With 23 cubic feet of widget space behind the rear seats and 51 with the rear seats folded, the GT is the most practical Elantra since the dowdy Elantra Touring was mercy killed.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Infotainment, Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The GT may be new for 2013, but the technology is a few years old. Base shoppers may not mind the lack of progress because the standard 6-speaker audio system is one of the best standard audio systems in this segment. The 170 watt system comes with standard AM/FM/XM radio, a single-slot CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth speakerphone and USB/iPod integration. Sadly you won’t find SYNC-like voice command of your tunes or Pandora streaming, but the system has a natural sound and is easy to use.

High-rollers (like me) won’t be able to live without a touchscreen nav unit, but I was disappointed to find the GT doesn’t get the new 8-inch BlueLink system from the Santa Fe. Instead we find the 7-inch “last generation” system found in the regular Elantra. It’s not that the system is objectionable, it just lacks the snazzy new voice commands and smartphone integration ability you find in other Hyundai products. That new Kia Forte hatchback keeps popping in my mind because the 2014 Forte models get the latest Hyundai/Kia infotainment software with smartphone apps, 911 crash notification, vehicle diagnostics and full voice commands for your music library.

Hyundai Elantra GT 1.8L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Hyundai

Drivetrain

Under the GT’s short hood beats the same 1.8L four-cylinder engine as the Elantra sedan. Unfortunately this mill doesn’t get Hyundai’s direct-injection sauce so power is rated at a middling 148 ponies and 131 lb-ft. In an interesting twist Hyundai allows you to select the 6-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic regardless of your trim level. This puts the Elantra a cog ahead of the Civic and a few other competitors. When you factor the additional weight of the GT model over the sedan it’s obvious performance is muted. When weight goes up, fuel economy goes down and so it is with the GT. The Elantra sedan scores a respectable 28/38/32 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the manual or automatic while the GT drops to 26/37/30 with the manual and 27/37/30 with the automatic. Our real world economy ended up a few steps lower at 28.2 MPG overall, notably lower than the Elantra sedan’s 32.1 MPG score last time I had one.

I spent most of the week inside the 6-speed automatic GT but I was able to hop in a manual equipped version for a few hours because I was intrigued by Hyundai’s decision to sell a row-your-own option on all trims. The automatic is obviously going to be the most popular option and will suit most drivers just fine. Hyundai has continually improved the feel of their slushbox and is now among the best in terms of shift feel and programming. While I like the feel of this 6-speed over Nissan’s CVT, 131 lb-ft would more easily motivate 2,800lbs if it was routed via a CVT. Just sayin… The 6-speed manual still lacks the refinement you’ll find in the VW Golf and the clutch feel is a notch below the Focus that’s a moot point if you want all the tech gadgets and a manual transmission in the same hatch. This is your only option.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture COurtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The manual transmission is worth noting because the Elantra GT is much more of a driver’s car than any other Elantra, including the coupé. This is primarily because Hyundai significantly improved torsional rigidity when compared to its platform mates. Also tweaked were the springs and dampers for a tighter and more composed ride than its siblings. The changes are noticeable and make the sedan feel like a damp noodle in comparison. Hyundai seems to have found the right balance between sporty and soft when it comes to the ride with the GT feeling neither jarring nor marshmallowy soft. If road holding manners matter the most, the GT slots below certain Ford Focus models and VW’s Golf. On the rubber front we get 205/55R16 tires standard and an optional upgrade to 215/45R17s (as our tester was equipped) to improve grip. The larger rubber is part of the $950 “touch-and-go” package which nets you keyless-go, the larger wheels, aluminum pedals and a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob. Out on my favorite mountain highway the GT was a team player with more grip and composure than I expected. The steering? That’s another matter.

The Elantra GT gets Hyundai’s latest personalization option: adjustable steering assist. By pressing a button on the steering wheel you can select from three different steering effort settings on the fly. Yes, even mid-apex. Let’s get one thing clear: none of the modes will do anything to improve steering feel. In Comfort mode the GT is hopelessly over-boosted at speed but oddly doesn’t make give you feather-light steering in the parking lot. When in this mode it is all too easy to crank the wheel too far in a corner and end up constantly re-adjusting. Normal is a hair better. Sport is lifeless but firm. I spent my week in Sport.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I notice most reviews of the GT bemoan the “unusually loud” backup camera that pops out of the Hyundai logo on the trunk lid. Bucking the trend I don’t see a problem with this given the GT’s price tag of $18,545-$25,440. Similarly equipped the Ford Focus 5-door lands $1,800 more expensive and the VW Golf is $3,000lbs dearer. If however you factor in the Focus and Golf’s more powerful engines and better road manners, I’d call that difference much smaller. The smaller the delta becomes, the harder it is for me to look past the small things about the Elantra GT that bothered me during the week like the older infotainment software. If you can look beyond all of that, the 9.05 second 0-60 score is something you have to keep in mind because the Elantra GT is among the slowest hatches we have tested in a while.

Still, the GT is a cheaper option and that speaks to my budget-minded nature. But there are still two problems: the 2014 Kia Forte hatchback and the 2014 Mazda3 hatchback. The Forte’s newer underpinnings, more powerful engine, sexier sheetmetal and snazzier infotainment options are likely to be priced neck-and-neck with the Elantra GT. In addition to all that the Forte is likely to be the more engaging ride on the road based on our time with the Forte sedan. Then there’s that new Mazda3 with a two-engine lineup, available iLoop “almost hybrid” system, class leading 30/40MPG rating and a Mazda reputation for excellent road manners. Yes, those cars are still a few months off, but that just means the Elantra GT in the unfortunate position of being a value leader for a limited time only. What could Hyundai do to fix it? If they could jam their 270HP 2.0L turbo under the hood at a reasonable price…

 

Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 9.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.84 Seconds @ 81.7 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.2 over 549 miles

 

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Review: 2013 Focus SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-focus-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-focus-se/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 16:25:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492050 It would appear that your humble author has become quite the compact-car reviewer lately, with drives of the 2012 Sentra, 2013 Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3s (not reviewed at TTAC), Hyundai Elantra, and Chevy Cruze under my Allen-Edmonds belt. I’ve also driven the current Focus, proclaiming it as the best compact car available, but that […]

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2013focus

It would appear that your humble author has become quite the compact-car reviewer lately, with drives of the 2012 Sentra, 2013 Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3s (not reviewed at TTAC), Hyundai Elantra, and Chevy Cruze under my Allen-Edmonds belt. I’ve also driven the current Focus, proclaiming it as the best compact car available, but that was more than two years ago. Time to renew my acquaintance with the Focus, then.

The Focus SE I drove last time was a base-equipment, manual-transmission model, but the car I chose from the Alamo line up at the Orlando airport was an optioned-up double-clutcher. As we’ll see, that makes more than a little difference.

With just 8600 miles showing on the odometer, my white Focus SE (replicated through Ford’s build-your-own system in the above photo because my Droid4 didn’t survive the trip to Malaysia I took just prior to arriving in Orlando) still looked and smelled new. The PowerShift transmission, on the other hand, already felt tired. The spectacle of an overturned Ford Explorer and its four astoundingly overweight previous occupants created an hour-long traffic jam between MCO and DisneyWorld, giving the Focus plenty of chances to demonstrate the shuddering stutter with which it moved forward a few feet at a time. The ninety-four degree heat was just within the capability of the Ford’s A/C system to handle, but it did seem to be a bit too much for the PowerShift.

It’s a habit of mine while sitting in a jam to use both feet to advance the car through traffic. My Town Car works very well with that, as do most torque-converter automatics. The Focus, on the other hand, reacts to pressure on both pedals, however mild, with a variety of odd stalling-esque behaviors. The car only really works if you operate the brake and accelerator separately and deliberately. It’s easier than driving a true stick-shift car in stop-and-go conditions, but the Focus will grind on any mechanically sympathetic nerve you possess as it clutches in and out. Once past the Explorer and the gawkers, it took a few shifts before the Focus smoothed back out.

There are paddles mounted to the Ford’s four-spoke wheel, but they don’t operate the PowerShift’s manual function. Instead, they control the cruise control and radio. If you want to shift the Focus yourself, you’ll need to operate a rocker button on the console shifter. Keep in mind, however, that you’re simply making a request by doing so, one that the car might or might not honor. This isn’t a GT-R, banging instant shifts that rock the cabin and jump the tach; it’s a computer simulation of a slushbox, stretching the shift out over the better part of a second.

What this Focus really needs is the six-speed manual from the Focus ST; it’s a decent shift and there’s something a little unnecessarily cheap about putting a five-speed in a compact car that sells at the Ford’s stout MSRP. In theory, the payoff of the PowerShift is increased economy, but the Focus never self-reported anything above a 33.5mpg average, even during a hundred-mile freeway cruise. A little bopping around Clearwater Beach saw that average drop to 29mpg. The competition produces better fuel-economy numbers with six-speed torque-converter automatics. Hell, the old Corolla did better during my time with the car, using a four-speed automatic.

So. The Focus SE doesn’t have a great transmission and it doesn’t get class-competitive fuel economy in my real-world use. What does it have going for it? Quite a bit, actually. It’s quiet on the road, and it both steers and rides well. The control interfaces all look and feel high-quality. Steering feel is extremely light but it’s precise. The seats are good and there’s little evidence of cost-cutting. Which is good, because there’s little evidence of cost-cutting on the window sticker, either.

The SE model of the Focus comes with a small screen SYNC system that probably doesn’t cost much less to make than the MyFordTouch screen fitted to the Titanium but certainly offers less functionality and aesthetic appeal. The equipment package fitted to my rental SE closes more than half of the price gap to the Titanium. You’d be best served by going the rest of the way, because the $22,995 Titanium sedan feels like it’s worth the money and this $21,730 SE sedan doesn’t. This is particularly true if you really want the PowerShift, because it’s a cost option on the SE and a free one on the Titanium.

The matter of the diabolical double-clutcher aside, I continue to prefer the Focus to the competitors in the segment. Inside and out, it looks and feels more expensive than the competition. It’s the most “Euro” of the available choices, even when those choices include the Mexican-built VW Jetta. Although I got my seat time in the Focus through a rental agency, it’s the least rental-feeling car you can buy for this kind of money. It really only falls down on fuel economy and sticker price.

The problem is that fuel economy and sticker price are pretty much the main drivers in this segment. If you don’t care about either, you can buy a Camry SE for a couple thousand bucks more and, ironically, enjoy very similar real-world economy along with more power and space. I’d suspect the market is creating a gap in real-world transaction prices, and sure enough TrueCar thinks that the discount on the Camry should be 12.79% compared to the 17.55% on the Focus. The Honda Civic is only being discounted nine percent according to the same site, which is a further data point to consider.

If you can get a Focus SE at a price with which you can live, it’s worth considering, but I’d prefer it with a stick shift. Not for the usual purist/enthusiast reasons, but just because the PowerShift continues to strike me as being a trifle delicate in real-world use. Great car, not-so-great automatic transmission. Hey, it’s a formula that worked for Acura, right?

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Corolla, Not Focus, World’s Best-Selling Car, Toyota Says http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/corolla-not-focus-worlds-best-selling-car-toyota-says/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/corolla-not-focus-worlds-best-selling-car-toyota-says/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 11:35:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484187 Yesterday, Ford announced that its Focus “is officially the world’s best-selling passenger car,” with 1,020,410 units sold worldwide in 2012. That according to registration data compiled by Polk. “Wrong” Toyota said today. Toyota’s spokesman Ryo Sakai told Reuters that Toyota sold 1.16 million Corollas in 2012 and that “Toyota still sees the Corolla as the […]

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Yesterday, Ford announced that its Focus “is officially the world’s best-selling passenger car,” with 1,020,410 units sold worldwide in 2012. That according to registration data compiled by Polk.

“Wrong” Toyota said today.

Toyota’s spokesman Ryo Sakai told Reuters that Toyota sold 1.16 million Corollas in 2012 and that “Toyota still sees the Corolla as the world’s most popular car”.

Last year, Ford got into similarly hot water by quoting a report by HIS Automotive, setting off an intense discussion about the finer differences of models, body styles and name plates.

Global Corolla Sales CY2012
Country Corolla S/D Corolla H/B Corolla H/B HV
U.S.A. 286,560  Corolla 0 0
North America Total 345,033  Corolla 0 0
Europe (incl W. RU) 63,481  Corolla 59,320  Auris 23,693  Auris Hybrid
China Total 269,078  Corolla & EX 0 0
Asia (except China) 153,386  Corolla Altis 0 0
Oceania 14,417  Corolla 29,727  Corolla 0
Middle East 83,949  Corolla 0 0
Africa 29,410  Corolla 2,671  Auris 434  Auris Hybrid
Central & South Am 91,071  Corolla 538  Auris 47  Auris Hybrid
Japan 33,794  Corolla Axio 10,119  Auris
Global Total 1,083,619 29,727
Corolla W/G Corolla MPV MATRIX Corolla TALL H/B
U.S.A. 0 0 4,387  Matrix 19,787  Scion xB
North America Total 0 0 17,369  Matrix 21,274  Scion xB
Europe (incl W. RU) 0 37,335  Verso 0 0
China Total 0 22,331  E’Z 0 0
Asia (except China) 0 0 0 0
Oceania 706  Corolla Wagon 0 0 921  Rukus
Middle East 0 0 0 0
Africa 0 824  Verso 0 0
Central & South Am 0 28  Verso 0 0
Japan 39,705  Corolla Fielder 7,007  Corolla Rumion
Global Total 40,411 7,007
Global Corolla nameplate total 1,160,764
Including derivatives 1,381,842

TTAC obtained a spreadsheet from Toyota’s car counting department that shows the Corolla ahead of the Focus any way you look at it.  The Toyota Sedan alone racked up 1,083,610 in sales, handily beating the 1,020,410 of the Focus. Various other Corolla versions bring the name plate total to 1,160,764.

Would one count the many derivatives and other model names under which the Corolla is sold around the globe, the total would grow to 1,381,842 units.

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It’s Official: Ford Focus World’s Best-Selling Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/its-official-ford-focus-worlds-best-selling-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/its-official-ford-focus-worlds-best-selling-car/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 08:32:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484096 Ford says now what Matt Gasnier said months ago: The Ford Focus model was the world’s best-selling passenger car in 2012. Ford’s assertion is based on data from automotive consulting firm Polk. According to Reuters, Ford sold 1,020,410 of its Focus compact in 2012. More than one out of four Focus cars were sold in […]

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Ford says now what Matt Gasnier said months ago: The Ford Focus model was the world’s best-selling passenger car in 2012. Ford’s assertion is based on data from automotive consulting firm Polk.

According to Reuters, Ford sold 1,020,410 of its Focus compact in 2012. More than one out of four Focus cars were sold in China, where registrations climbed 51 percent.

Focus was launched in China in late March last year, and was on top of China’s sales charts for most of the months to follow, a remarkable achievement for late-to-China Ford.  Ford’s China sales rose 65 percent in March to 81,387 units.

 

According to Matt, the Focus was followed by Toyota’s Corolla in second place, and Hyundai’s Elantra in third.

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Piston Slap: Hocus Pocus…Focus??? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/piston-slap-hocus-pocus-focus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/piston-slap-hocus-pocus-focus/#comments Tue, 29 Jan 2013 12:10:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475449   Zack writes: Hi Sajeev, I’ve been following a series of discussion on a MK3 Ford Focus forum; in particular I’ve been following the technical discussion about how to squeeze more power from the MK3’s new 2.0 GDI motor. Of course, this involves talk of CAIs, Cat-deletes (inadvisable), and free flow exhaust. One of the more curious things […]

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Zack writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve been following a series of discussion on a MK3 Ford Focus forum; in particular I’ve been following the technical discussion about how to squeeze more power from the MK3’s new 2.0 GDI motor. Of course, this involves talk of CAIs, Cat-deletes (inadvisable), and free flow exhaust. One of the more curious things to emerge is…

…the notion that re-gapping the spark plugs can account for +5whp. I’m dubious to say the least that something seemingly inconsequential could generate that much power. It’s almost seems akin to slapping turbo badges on the rear lid expecting some similar black magic. This being an internet car forum there is much breathless back and forth, but few actually explanations. I was hoping you might have heard of this “trick” and whether or not there’s any validity.

I think for questions like this we need a carforum Snopes.com, but then again we have you. Thanks in advance!

Sajeev answers:

You sir, have made my day.  Putting me on par with Snopes is a high honor indeed. That said, now I wonder if Snopes is as horribly inaccurate and clueless as yours truly on many, MANY occasions. (sad trombone sound)

Now about the spark plugs: I won’t say that a re-gap cannot possibly increase horsepower.  I will say that it isn’t very probable.  At all. Two things:

  1.  Spark plug gap can make a huge difference, especially in forced induction (turbo or supercharger) applications where adding extra boost is on the table.  But that low hanging fruit (i.e. extra power) is usually not there in factory setups: they normally hide the power in tame air/fuel/timing parameters in the engine computer’s tune.
  2. If it isn’t backed by a dyno sheet from a local tune shop, this is pure, un-stepped on, pharmaceutical grade bullshit.

Look, I’ve been messing with Ford products for a looooong time. And while not everything I do has been proven with dyno results, there’s always that low hanging fruit proven many times over with other’s dyno sheets: conservative factory computer tunes, intake boxes with inlet tubes significantly smaller than the engine’s throttle body and mediocre (i.e. quiet and restrictive) mufflers on inadequately shaped crush bend exhaust tubing (older models only).  The first is solved with an SCT tune, the second is free (remove something) or requires a trip to Home Depot for a slice of PVC pipe/glue/black paint,  and the latter is not a big deal with an exhaust shop and a muffler from a 2005-present Mustang GT.

But spark plug gap? The forums never show that as a credible performance modification.   Perhaps GDI motors are a game changer, but I doubt it.  That will be optomized to perfection by Ford’s engineers, the low hanging fruit will be the things mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Best and Brightest, you go right ahead and prove me wrong. Snopes ain’t got nothin’ on me. Or not.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:55:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467787 Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price […]

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Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price tag and the last time we tested one we revealed a lowly 32MPG average when running gasoline only. This brings us to the blue oval. Despite Ford using essentially the same technology as Toyota for their hybrid systems, Ford resisted creating a dedicated hybrid model. Until now. Meet the 47MPG 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. Of course we’ve all heard the news that the C-MAX doesn’t hit 47MPG, so click-through the jump to find out what we averaged and whether or not that should matter to you.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

What Ford didn’t do was create a futuristic wedge-shaped car on a dedicated platform crafted from light-weight ultra-eco-friendly materials in an attempt to create the most efficient car in America. Disappointed? Don’t be, because the benefits may just outweigh the drawbacks. Instead Ford took the existing (since 2011) Focus-based C-Max from Europe, stuffed Ford’s most powerful hybrid drivetrain under the Euro sheetmetal and slapped some wide (for a hybrid) tires on what might just be the first hybrid hot hatch.

Speaking of that sheetmetal, the C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The resulting hatchback has a tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and some crossover styling cues no doubt to confuse entice the suburban set. Measuring in at 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than the Focus hatchback on which it is based, but 3 inches shorter than a Prius and 8 inches shorter than a Prius V.

Of course none of this really explains the strange “C-MAX” name. Yes, that’s what it’s called in Europe, but why? Still, it’s no stranger than “Prius” and whatever you think of its name, the C-MAX is considerably more attractive than Toyota’s bulbous hybrid wagon.

Interior

The C-MAX doesn’t just look like a wannabe crossover on the outside, it does on the inside as well. There’s a reason for this. Instead of sharing heavily with the Focus hatch as you might assume, the C-MAX shares parts and interior styling with the 2013 Escape. The only major style change to the dash is a unique instrument cluster similar with twin 4.2-inch LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Unlike the Prius, you won’t find any thin, hard, weight saving plastics in the cabin. There are no blue-tinted transparent button arrays, no shifter joystick and no center-mounted disco dash either. Instead you will find a premium cabin that would pass muster in any $30,000 vehicle and looks notably more premium than the Lexus CT 200h. The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

The C-MAX seats can be had in your choice of charcoal or a “greyish” tan fabric or leather but regardless of your choice, the majority of the interior is black-on-black. The overly black theme is both very European (in a good way) and a bit cold (in a bad way) for my tastes. Front seat comfort is good thanks to a relatively upright seating position, wide seat cushions and a good range of motion when you get the power driver’s seat. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel made finding a comfortable driving position quick and easy. The upright seating is what allows the C-MAX to have Prius matching rear leg room, an improvement of three inches over the Focus hatchback’s more reclined thrones.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adult passengers but are the right height for most children and young teens. Despite looking tall and narrow, the C-MAX is more than three inches wider than the Prius and this allows three to sit abreast in the rear in greater comfort. The rear seat backs fold completely flat with the 24.5 cubic foot cargo area. Because the C-MAX wasn’t designed as a hybrid from the start, the battery pack occupies all the spare tire space in the C-MAX as well as a few inches on the cargo area floor. The reduced cargo space is a few cubes larger than the Prius liftback but smaller than the Prius V. Despite the cargo hauling reduction vs the European gasoline-only model, the C-MAX easily swallowed four roller bags with room to spare.

Infotainment

Like the Android vs iPhone debate, “infotainment systems” spark fierce debate. No system other than iDrive has received as much bad press, fan-boy rave reviews and healthy imitation as the strangely named “MyFord Touch.” (Really, what was wrong with SYNC?) The system (optional on SE, standard on SEL trim) combines your climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds via voice commands to your every whim. When it landed in 2010 it became obvious the software was rushed to market complete with more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Still, the system is still unique in the market for allowing you to voice command just about everything from your destination to your temperature and what Madonna track you want to listen to from your iPod.

The C-MAX benefits from a major software update released in March of 2012 (for all Ford products) to make the system more responsive. While the system never had a melt-down during my testing (a first for MFT), the slowness the system is known for persists. Like most MFT equipped vehicles, the C-MAX teams a snazzy in-dash touchscreen with twin 4.2-inch LCDs on either side of the speedometer. Perhaps a first for a hybrid vehicle, you won’t find a single screen on the main MFT screen that displays hybrid system information. No animated screen with a battery/motor/engine scree, no wacky driving hints, no fuel economy charts. Aside from the efficiency leaves that replace the climate option on the right-side 4.2-inch LCD and the intuitive kW gauge on the left LCD, there is nothing to identify the C-MAX as a trendy gasoline/electric people mover, and I think I like the move. Despite the system’s obviously flaws, MFT is far slicker and user-friendly than the Prius or Volt’s infotainment options.

Is Ford’s transmission a Toyota transmission?

The short answer is no. Long before Ford produced a hybrid vehicle, Ford and Toyota put out plenty of prototypes and concept cars. Both companies recognized the similarities of their competing hybrid designs and geared up for lawsuits. (Both designed shared plenty of cues from a TRW system from the 1960s.) Ford and Toyota did something rare in our litigious society, they settled and cross-licensed each-others technologies but (and most importantly) NOT their specific designs. Ford continued developing the Escape Hybrid solo and Toyota went on their way with Hybrid Synergy Drive. Some confusion was caused by Ford choosing Aisin build their hybrid transaxle for the Escape and Fusion hybrids because they didn’t have the capacity or expertise internally. Fast forward to 2012. Ford decided that in order to reduce costs and drive hybrid sales (for some CAFE credits of course) they had to take the design and manufacturing of hybrid systems in-house.  This means that Ford’s hybrid system’s level of vertical integration is vastly similar to Toyota.

Drivetrain

Under the stubby hood of the C-MAX you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine in the old Fusion and Escape hybrids, but considerably higher than the Prius’s 98HP mill. In order to achieve the 188 system horsepower (11 more than the old Ford system and 54 more than the Prius) and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of twist, Ford put a hefty 118HP motor/generator into their in-house designed HF35 hybrid transaxle. If you want to know more about how the Ford and Toyota Hybrid systems work, click here.

Beneath the cargo area in the C-MAX sits a 1.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The lithium battery chemistry allows the hybrid system to charge and discharge the pack at rates higher than the old nickle based battery pack (used in the Escape and the Prius). This new battery allows the C-MAX to drive electric only up to 62MPH vs the 34MPH of the Prius. In addition, the C-MAX doesn’t need you to be as gentle on the throttle as the Prius or the older Ford hybrids.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style and topography are the biggest factors involved. I would caution readers to never compare my numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. The 2012 Prius, when driven gently on my commute, (120 miles round trip with a 2,200ft mountain pass) averaged 46-47MPG which is fairly close to its 51/48/50 EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined). The C-MAX on the other hand averaged 41.5 during our 568 miles of testing and the lowest one-way figure on my daily commute was 39MPG. Sound good so far? There’s a problem, even on a level freeway at 65MPH the C-MAX struggled to get better than 45MPG in 60 degree weather. The Prius in the same situation averaged 50MPG. The Prius V suffered a similar shortfall in my week of testing coming in four MPG below its EPA combined 42MPG rating. We need to put these numbers in perspective. Driving 15,0000 miles a year with gas at $4 a gallon the C-MAX would cost $144 a year more to operate than a Prius and $148 less than a Prius V.

On the road

There are a few reasons the C-MAX fails to meet Ford’s fuel economy claims. The first is the portly 3,600lb curb weight, the second is the wide 225/50R17 tires which have a 23% larger contact patch than the Prius’ 195/65R15 rubber. On the flip side, the wide low-profile rubber pays real dividends when the road bends and the heavy curb weight helps the C-MAX to feel lass “crashy” than a Prius over broken pavement. Coupled with a Focus derived suspension, the tires help the C-MAX set a new benchmark for hybrid handling easily besting the CT 200h. While the electric power steering robs the hybrid hatch of 99% of its road feel, it still manages to be more engaging than a Prius. Admittedly not a hard thing to do.

Stomp on the C-MAX’s accelerator pedal and something surprising (for a hybrid) happens: acceleration. If the road surface is right you’ll even get some one-wheel-peel. Despite weighing a whopping 600lbs more than a Prius, the C-MAX sprints to 60MPH 2 seconds faster posting a solid 7 second run to highway speeds. I’d like to compare it to the Prius V and  Lexus CT 200h, but I gave up after 9.5 seconds. This makes the C-MAX as fast as the Focus ST and faster than a Volkswagen GTI.

In addition to being more powerful, the C-MAX’s hybrid system is capable of operating in EV mode at higher speeds and in a broader range of conditions than the Prius. While it doesn’t seem to help the C-MAX hit its advertised 47/47/47 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) it is a novelty that entertained drivers and passengers alike. Thanks to a more powerful motor, faster discharging battery, and aggressive software, it’s possible to accelerate up to40 MPH in EV mode without pissing off the cars behind you. Doing so brings the C-MAX’s other selling point to light: Ford’s sound deadening measures are extensive and make the C-MAX the quietest hybrid this side of the insane LS 600hL.

Ford has wisely priced the C-MAX aggressively starting at $25,200 and there’s already a Ford $1,000 cash back offer dropping the price to the same as the 2013 Prius’ MSRP and $2,450 cheaper than a Prius V. The up-level SEL model which comes standard with leather, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, backup sensors, ambient lighting, keyless entry/go for $28,200. Should you desire some plug-in love, the Energi model will set you back $32,950. The deal gets even better when you consider the C-MAX has more standard equipment and features and options unavailable in the Prius at any price.

The week after Ford lent me the C-MAX hybrid Consumer Reports’ “bombshell” about the C-MAX’s fuel economy numbers dropped. But does it matter? Is a 41MPG C-MAX a failure? No, and here’s why. The only measurable way the Prius is better than the C-MAX is real world fuel economy where the Prius will save you a few Grants a year. In every other way the C-MAX is superior to the Prius and even the Lexus CT 200h. Does this compensate for the “lackluster” fuel economy? It does in my book. If you’re willing to spend $144 a year in higher fuel costs for a more entertaining ride, this Ford’s for you. The C-Max isn’t just a shot across Toyota’s bow, it’s the first honest-to-goodness competitor on the market. Better yet, it’s not a me-too Prius, it’s a unique and compelling alternative.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.5MPG over 625 Miles

 

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, hybrid logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Video Review: 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/video-review-2012-ford-focus-se-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/video-review-2012-ford-focus-se-sedan/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:40:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459711   Today, we’re trying something new. Alex is doing his review in video-only format. Let us know how you like it. Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas for this review. Specifications as tested 0-30: 2.93 Seconds 0-60: 7.61 Seconds 1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 86 MPH Average Fuel Economy: 30.5 MPG […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Today, we’re trying something new. Alex is doing his review in video-only format. Let us know how you like it.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.93 Seconds

0-60: 7.61 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 30.5 MPG over 679 miles

 

2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Exterior, tail lights, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, tachometer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, speedometer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, rear seats , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, rear seats , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Engine, 2.0L DI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Engine, 2.0L DI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Engine, 2.0L DI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Piston Slap: The 3rd Clutch’s the Charm? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/piston-slap-the-3rd-clutchs-the-charm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/piston-slap-the-3rd-clutchs-the-charm/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 12:25:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459585   Patrick writes: Sajeev, My winter car is a 2001 Focus, 170k, duelcam, with a stick. At about 155k the original clutch was replaced. A year and a half later the replacement clutch was replaced. Now the car is in my hands, roughly a year from the previous replacement, and the clutch is in dire […]

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Patrick writes:

Sajeev,

My winter car is a 2001 Focus, 170k, duelcam, with a stick. At about 155k the original clutch was replaced. A year and a half later the replacement clutch was replaced. Now the car is in my hands, roughly a year from the previous replacement, and the clutch is in dire need of being replaced. My local trusty mechanic does not do engine and tranny work because he doesn’t want business to back up with tear downs. That’s fine, but I asked his advice anyway.

The first symptom was a clunk from the drive wheel when engaging first from a stop. Feathering the clutch and slow on the gas prevents this but is annoying. The second symptom started on the highway, in cruise control, on a rise, the clutch would start to slip. It would rise about 1500 rpm, and then slowly fall back into place. The first has not gotten any better or worse in the last month or so, and the second has gotten to be much worse.

So, my question. 3 clutches in 3 1/2 years? I have had a ’97 Probe GT and the clutch lasted 130k, ’01 Miata replaced at 120k as preventative maintenance with the water pump. My only guess about this is that the seals were not replaced when the clutches were replaced and that oil is leaking onto the clutch and prematurely burning it out. However, I smell no burning oil, I have no oil leaks, and the oil level remains steady. I have no evidence that it is oil on the clutch but I cannot explain why the clutch on this car has needed to be replaced repeatedly in such a short amount of time.

My mechanic was non-committal on is answer, but he didn’t think it was oil on the clutch. I’d like some advice before wheeling into an unknown mechanic.

Thanks,

-patrick

Sajeev answers:

Did the flywheel ever get machined?  Did someone put on a new pressure plate?  How bad is the throwout bearing?  Why do I get a brain freeze when I shovel ice cream down my throat?

All those questions are important, and I assume you cannot answer any of them…except for the brain freeze one. Since it sounds like you can’t go back to the installer of the last clutch, the only way to know is to make sure the next person installs it correctly: machining the flywheel and replacing the pressure plate if needed.  Maybe the throwout bearing needs replacement too…might as well do it all when you go in there.

Whomever does the work next time ’round, make sure they give you a good diagnosis of all the critical parts of the clutch system.  If they do, odds are the problem will disappear.  Fingers crossed on that.

Best and Brightest, off to you.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Ford Flubs Focus First, Fixes, Fails, Falls Flat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/ford-flubs-focus-first-fixes-fails-flat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/ford-flubs-focus-first-fixes-fails-flat/#comments Sat, 01 Sep 2012 05:35:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458613 These F-words were brought to you by Ford. Yesterday, Ford’s 350 millionth vehicle rolled off the lines. It was a Ford Focus, and an occasion to celebrate an even more auspicious record: The Ford Focus “is the world’s best-selling car for the first half of 2012,” says a Ford press release. Media from Associated Press […]

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These F-words were brought to you by Ford. Yesterday, Ford’s 350 millionth vehicle rolled off the lines. It was a Ford Focus, and an occasion to celebrate an even more auspicious record: The Ford Focus “is the world’s best-selling car for the first half of 2012,” says a Ford press release. Media from Associated Press to Autoblog obediently announced the record. The record went down in a hail of protests.

The Wall Street Journal deemed it below its ethics to parrot a press release and asked questions. Answers in hand, they write:

“The company announced on Friday that through seven months of 2012, the car had sold 522,000 units around the world, making it the best-selling single nameplate vehicle, ahead of the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. Outselling the Corolla, which similarly is a model sold around the world, would be a great accomplishment for Ford.

But according to Toyota, the Focus actually hasn’t outsold the Corolla. Through that same seven-month period, it said it has sold 722,000 vehicles. Ford, when notified about the difference, said they made a mistake and issued a new press release, saying they actually sold 489,616 units in a six month period – not seven months – and the Toyota Corolla had sold 462,187 units. They also, in the new release, attributed those numbers to IHS Automotive, an independent auto research and forecasting firm that tracks data like global sales.”

That should settle it, no? No, says the WSJ.

Toyota says it sold 603,840 in that same six-month period. Which would give the Corolla a slight lead of 114,224 units over the Focus. IHS and Ford overlooked what is familiar to TTAC readers: The Corolla goes by different names in different countries, where it is known as the Matrix, Corolla Axio, Corilla Fielder, Corolla Rumion, and we possibly missed some.

Even if you only count global sales of the Corolla sedan and Auris hatchback, the two body styles available on the globally-sold Focus, that would give 524,000 units to the Corolla, which would still be ahead of the Focus, says Toyota.

Ford should know better than to rely on IHS Automotive. Its predecessor, IHS Global Insight, once received the nickname “Global Oversight” in the business for consistently erroneous numbers. In November 2009, IHS Global Oversight infamously crowned Volkswagen as the World’s largest automaker. A month later, Volkswagen ended the year correctly in place 3.

IHS concedes that its worldview is a bit blurred, as its numbers cover only 90% of the world and “the 10 percent that we miss out on may be in countries where Toyota is strong,” Christopher Hopson of IHS told the Journal.

In the end, muses a gracious Wall Street Journal, “it’s fair to say both companies are selling a lot of cars, even if no one can agree on how many.”

Bloomberg, after first buying into Ford’s 489,616 Focus vs. 462,187 Corollas story,  has second thoughts.  In a new story, the wire correctly reports that Ford and Toyota  “are each saying they produce the best-selling car in the world in the first half. Their definitions are the key.”

PS: Flagwavers, take note: The 350 millionth Ford and allegedly best-selling Focus rolled off the assembly lines in Thailand, at Ford’s Rayong plant.

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New or Used: Yo Dawg, Listen Up this Time! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/new-or-used-yo-dawg-listen-up-this-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/new-or-used-yo-dawg-listen-up-this-time/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 11:15:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445402   Mark writes: Hi Sajeev and Steve, Sajeev tried to save me once before but I didn’t listen. Maybe this time I will. Last year, I bought a bomb of a project and he did his best to scare me away. He saw the monstrosity in person. That monster being the 1995 Ford Bronco I […]

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Mark writes:

Hi Sajeev and Steve,

Sajeev tried to save me once before but I didn’t listen. Maybe this time I will. Last year, I bought a bomb of a project and he did his best to scare me away. He saw the monstrosity in person. That monster being the 1995 Ford Bronco I bought on a whim. We talked on the phone before I purchased the OJ Bronco. Sajeev told me to avoid it like the plague. Yet, I didn’t listen. I got burned. I owned it for less than 6 months (3 of those months being spent in my garage) before selling it to an offroader in Ohio.

But, now I am in a different situation…

I am back in Canada where gas is significantly more expensive (very unlike cheap Houston Texas gas). My girlfriend and I will be in the market soon for a vehicle and we have the following criteria:

1) Fun to drive: must be a manual, preferably RWD or AWD, and a bit chuckable (not in the “chuck it in the garbage” sense of the Bronco).
2) Practicality: I don’t need a gas guzzler. Something efficient. Two doors are doable. Four doors are better. Wagon or hatch is best. However, it must have enough room for my girlfriend and I, plus two black Labrador mixes (see cute doggy brothers picture).
3) Utility: It needs to be able to tow two motorcycles (~400lbs each) and trailer. Also, we need another room for camping gear, even when the dogs are with us.
4) Realistic: We have finite funds (like most people) so we would definitely be going for something used, under $8000. I couldn’t care less what badge is on the front.

Thanks,
Mark

Steve answers:

If you fold down the rear seats, most any modern-day AWD wagon should do the trick.

Subarus tend to be fully priced. A Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed version would be rare and priced too high for your budget. Hondas have stiff price premiums and no real wagons in that price range… at least in the states. Nissan only offers wagon-like SUV’s with AWD, although a Versa hatchback may be just enough to fit the two pooches with the rear seats down.

But that Versa is front wheel drive as well. To be frank, most of what I usually recommend would be front wheel drive because precious few hardcore enthusiasts would ever get the virile satisfaction of actually using the capabilities that come with a good RWD or AWD setup.

This is not an easy deal. You need to figure out whether FWD coupled with a great set of tires can already take care of your sporty needs. If so, let me offer a real dark horse to this race. A 2007 Ford Focus ZXW. Surprisingly chuckable. Great fuel economy. Cheap to maintain. Plus with the seats down in the back, it should be enough to transport the two labs. You should be able to get a very low mileage one and keep it until the Blue Jays win a pennant.

Yes, I am aware that it probably fails the ‘fashion du jour’ test. If you must have AWD and a stick there is always a Subaru Legacy, a Saab 9-3 or a Volvo S60. But I have owned and/or driven all of these cars from the 07′ – 08′ time period and I believe the better bang for the buck can be had with a domestic. Consider the Astra XR AWD as well. Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Oh man, did I ever try hard to show you the reality of your situation!  Then again, I shoulda known better.  Nobody learns their lesson until they burn their finger on the waffle iron. Many people like the notion of owning a cool old vehicle and think they can make it work, but even I had to give up on that notion and buy a new vehicle to get to work.

I like Steve’s recommendations, except for the towing part.  Then again, you are probably towing 1500lbs or so, and any of these vehicles can make it happen…stopping at highway speeds is another concern.

If you insist on a stick, a Subaru Forester does it all.  Find one with your manual trans, a long service history and scan the forums for potential problems with that particular year and powertrain. Also keep your fingers cross it wasn’t abused.  Not that I’d recommend this option, especially they can be awful thirsty…but it does make sense considering your requirements.

A Focus wagon is great for your budget.  Maybe a Toyota Matrix XRS or a Mazda 6 wagon, too.  None of these are great for towing, but maybe you can overlook that. Just like you and the laughably horrible Bronco I saw many moons ago, you want a vehicle that doesn’t exist at your price range.  Time to make some compromises (fuel economy, manual transmission, budget, tow ratings) and see what you REALLY need in a vehicle.

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New or Used: Nagging Wife thinks I need a New Car! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/new-or-used-nagging-wife-thinks-i-need-a-new-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/new-or-used-nagging-wife-thinks-i-need-a-new-car/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 13:09:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434316   Zach writes: Dear Sajeev and Steve, My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car.  While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total.  With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really […]

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Zach writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,
My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car.  While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total.  With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues.  I drive 130 miles round trip everyday with practically all of it on the interstate.  The civic gets 34-38 mpg which is the part I like, but I am starting to question the reliability.

So now I am looking for a good commuter car.  The only option that I am dead set on is cruise control for the obvious reason.  While initially an 08 Impreza hatch grabbed my attention, 26 mpg was unacceptable for me.  So now I am left searching again.  I have test drove the Mazda2 and Fiesta and either would meet my needs as far as size goes.  They both seemed pretty peppy for all 100 hp.  I have plans to test drive an Accent but havent made it that far yet.

So now for the question, what else should I consider?  I have no issues with buying CPO or used.  We have an extra car in case something did happen to the civic so I am really in no hurry except for the nagging about how much dislike there is for the civic.

Needs:

  • Price <25k, preferably <=20k
  • Cruise control
  • Comfortable
  • Throw kids (7&9) in back in a pinch
  • good radio
  • >=35 mpg highway, city doesn’t matter

Wants:

  • heated seats
  • leather
  • bluetooth
  • hatchback
  • cheap/easy maintenance

Sajeev Answers:

I dunno what’s worse: the fact that there’s no proper successor to a 1990s Honda Civic (the 6th generation was the last I really cared for) or that your wife makes you feel that way. Then again, I understand how pressure from a loved one makes something as mundane as a new Civic be more like torture to own.  This V8 Luxo Barge fanatic finally gave into such pressure and decided a little four banger truck was all I needed.

Quite honestly, the latest Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra get the mileage you need, have the stuff you want and get pretty amazing mileage.  And they’ll be far more refined than an old Civic on the highway.  While I have problems with your need for leather (think of the depreciation!), these will be the right way to go.  But I am still feeling nostalgic for the good old days of Hondas, and wonder if we’ll ever get a light-ish weight runner like ye olde Civic ever again.

Steve Answers:

I would go at least one step up in size to a compact vehicle.

As Sajeev has mentioned, the Focus and Elantra would easily fit your budget and priorities. I have yet to drive the Ford. But the Hyundai seems to be an absolute gem of a new car with the exception of the leather seats (average) and interior materials (ditto). Compared to a 97 Civic though, it’s definitely a step up. I would consider the Elantra, along with the Cruze and Focus as leaders in today’s compact market segment.If it were me I would simply look for an older used car that attracts your interest. CPO’s are ridiculously expensive these days, and I always tell folks that it is the prior owner who ‘certifies’ the genuine condition of the vehicle. So find someone who is either tired of their vehicle, needs to  move, needs the money, or simply yearns for something else.

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New or Used: THE PRICE IS WRONG! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/new-or-used-the-price-is-wrong/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/new-or-used-the-price-is-wrong/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 12:02:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428229 Bing writes: I am a financially stable 27 year old engineer living in the Bay Area, where it seems BMWs and Audis are about as pedestrian as Camrys.  I’ve been getting the car itch, but I don’t like the idea of getting an entry level luxury car like everyone else. Almost by accident, I stumbled […]

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Bing writes:

I am a financially stable 27 year old engineer living in the Bay Area, where it seems BMWs and Audis are about as pedestrian as Camrys.  I’ve been getting the car itch, but I don’t like the idea of getting an entry level luxury car like everyone else.

Almost by accident, I stumbled upon the idea of buying a early 2000s Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante, which can be had in the low to mid $40s.  Aside from the car being gorgeous and powerful, I get to pretend that I’m not just another boring Silicon Valley yuppie (which, believe me, I am) while not being overly flashy (it’s old enough to have a “classic car” vibe).  Financially, I would also like to think it has steadied out in depreciation, and if I sell it a few years from now, I may be able to recoup more of my investment compared to getting a much newer car.  Finally, there’s something attractive about the idea of having your dream car while you’re young, rather than waiting until you’re 65.  So the question is: is this a stupid idea?

1: Am I wrong about the depreciation?  Is this car likely to keep falling in value?  Will there be a demand for it in a few years?

2: Will this be too impractical of a car to drive on a regular basis?  I live less than 2 miles from work so the low mpg is less of an issue.  Will maintenance eat me alive?

3: Is this car too much for me to handle?  My current car is a Ford Focus (which I won on the Price is Right, incidentally) I’d be getting a Touchtronic auto, which should be relatively tame, right?

4: Should I get a normal car now and wait another few years for the DB9 (which is just stunning) to depreciate to a similar price level?  If I got the DB7 now, I may still end up secretly yearning for the DB9.

This is very unfamiliar territory here, so any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

Steve answers:

Let’s answer your questions point by point…

1: Am I wrong about the depreciation?  Is this car likely to keep falling in value? Will there be a demand for it in a few years?

Depreciation is always a big question mark. But that’s not so much of a make or break issue if you want an exotic. The real question is whether you fully understand the potential costs involved and the complete maintenance history on the vehicle.

If you don’t understand both, skip the exotic.

2: Will this be too impractical of a car to drive on a regular basis?  I live less than 2 miles from work so the low mpg is less of an issue.  Will maintenance eat me alive?

That gives me caution. Less than 2 miles means that your car is not going to fully warm up by the time you get to your business. You can make up for this by going on a nice pleasurable weekend ride. But a couple thousand small drives over four years would likely have an impact on your engine.

3: Is this car too much for me to handle?  My current car is a Ford Focus (which I won on the Price is Right, incidentally).  I’d be getting a Touchtronic auto, which should be relatively tame, right?

No, it may be a good fit for your desires. By the way, have you price about maintenance and known issues for this vehicle? The four figured price may be ‘over or under’ your expectations.

4: Should I get a normal car now and wait another few years for the DB9 (which is just stunning) to depreciate to a similar price level?  If I got the DB7 now, I may still end up secretly yearning for the DB9.

Your commute gives me a bit of pause. If you have the means or are willing to pay the premium, then go for it. But I would personally opt against driving the two miles, and just walk whenever it’s practicable.

Sajeev answers:

I literally LOL’d at the word “investment” for a 10-ish year old Aston Martin. You are not looking at this right, not by a long shot. Or, put in terms of your Focus, “The Price is Wrong!” Yes, you can make money on anything if you buy it “low” enough. And Steve did a good job explaining the pitfalls of owning an exotic vehicle. All of which makes the word “investment” a bit of a massive lie.

What Steve forgot to mention is that you’ll be a tool for owning a flashy, 100% Not A Classic, not a current body style Exotic with mediocre performance. If someone in a new V6 Mustang challenges your stunt and floss…well, you see where I’m going with this. And your snotty yuppie friends will agree, if one of them has the balls to call you out. Or say it behind your back.

That’s because you have to really like a DB7 to own it. And as the inherently cooler DB9s and V8 Vantages drop in price, so does the DB7.  This isn’t a Ford GT, it still has another good decade or so before the depreciation curve hits rock bottom. Then again, if you buy it for pennies at a police auction…

So keep the Focus if you get a DB7.  And be ready to spend a lot of money on upkeep, none of which you will get back when you sell it for the car you really want: the DB9. Or sell the Focus, get a normal sports car (cough, Corvette) and deal with the lack of prestige while owning a real performance vehicle without the excessive maintenance costs. More to the point, LS7-FTW.

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: Avoid “Titanium” Grade Depreciation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2011 16:37:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422360   Shawn writes: Hey Sajeev and Steve, I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to […]

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Shawn writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to the shop. Its got about 125,000km on it, and I’ve been getting offers ranging from $6000-8000 for it on trade. The cars I am considering are in the compact to mid-size class, but there are benefits to each car, and I can’t seem to make up my mind. I am seeking a car with decent fuel economy that is fairly engaging to drive. However, I DO NOT want a harsh ride. The GTA is filled with pot holed roads, and I know the stiff ride would get tiresome. Manual transmission is preferred, but not necessary. I do carry four people occasionally, so cross out any coupes. On the Mazda I’ve taken quite a hit in the residual value, so this time around, I am looking to buy something that is a couple of years old. That way, someone else takes the largest depreciation hit. Here is the list so far:
  1. 2007 or 2008 Acura CSX w/premium package and manual tranny: Essentially a Civic with a nicer front and rear end, leather, a bit more sound deadening, and the motor from the RSX. Really fun to drive, but the manuals that I’m seeing in the GTA carry a price premium… The 2008 that I test drove with 58,000km is going for $18,900. At this point, does it not make sense to just buy a brand new one for $23,000?
  2. 2008 Honda Civic EX-L w/ manual: The CSX, while it only has 15 more hp, does feel noticeably more powerful than the Civic. My main problem with the Civic is that it feels a little gutless on the highway. However, it does deliver great fuel economy. Going in the $15-17,000 range.
  3. 2007 or 2008 VW Rabbit: These are surprisingly cheap in the GTA… There are quite a few 2007 and 2008s with low mileage going in the $12-15,000 range. I don’t find this car as engaging to drive as the Acura, and the VW shifter just doesn’t compare to the Honda’s. I do love the “solid” VW feel, but I am concerned about the reliability of the Volkswagen. Fuel mileage is also disappointing. Jettas carry a price premium and I prefer the hatch.
  4. 2007 or 2008 Ford Fusion SEL: This is the lazy commuter choice. It was surprisingly good to drive, but I am not a huge fan of the looks, which I find to be a little bland and cheap looking. I would be looking at a 4 banger with auto in this case, because the manuals are just about impossible to find. Quite cheap as well, with low mileage examples going in the $13-16,000 range. Not the greatest on gas either.
  5. 2007 or 2008 Honda CR-V: In Canada, only the LX was offered with front-wheel drive. If you step up to the EX, you need to get AWD, which I am hearing is a little problematic. Apparently, there is a grinding issue in reverse? Either way, I had this car as a rental for a week when the Mazda was in the shop and found it to be quite easy to live with. The steering and brakes were just right and the car was roomy. Downsides? LOUD on the highway, and the ride is a little harsh. Fuel mileage is so-so. Holds it’s value really well, so we’re talking $18-24,000.
Lastly, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium: Ford has really outdone themselves with this one. I found that the car felt like it was worth the admittedly steep price tag. The car has a refinement to it that is not matched in the compact class, and I found the MyFordTouch to be pretty easy to use. Downsides? Rear seat legroom is a joke. Also, I am assuming that this car is not going to hold it’s value well, since most Fords do not. Probably best to wait a couple of years for a lightly used one?
Well, Best and Brightest? What to do? Am I forgetting something that I should be driving? I have intentionally left out the TSX and GTI as I do not want to purchase a vehicle that takes premium when regular is already at $1.38/L.  Help Sajeev and Steve!

Steve Answers:

I used to live in upstate New York which also has rather nasty roads. So I can appreciate your desire to couple comfort with sportiness.

Back when I lived there in the early 90’s, the car to bridge both divides was a Volvo. 240, 740, 940, etc. All those bricks were underpowered. But they offered excellent durability in a nasty climate and a feel for the road that was unique unto anything short of a Mercedes W124.

So what up today? It depends on where your comfort and sportiness intersect. Everything you mentioned would be brutal for me after 50k miles. I would opt for a midsize vehicle that can offer a nice thrust of acceleration, a healthy level of comfort, and a good feel for the road.

My choice? 2007 Honda Accord EX with Leather, V6 and a five-speed. If you can’t find a good one (and yes, that is a tough find in this market), I would just enjoy a four-cylinder version. The Acura versions are overpriced and the price for Subaru Outbacks and Foresters in the northern country makes them poor values compared to a new purchase of the same model.

If you are willing to buy new… ask Sajeev. That’s his domain.

Sajeev Answers:

I can see why you’d want the Focus Titanium, but depreciation on a top drawer compact (just about ANY of them) will be worse than a middle of the road unit. So you should steer clear of Titanium, wait a couple of years for them to show up on the used car market. A new Focus SEL is a wiser move, and you should also test drive the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata…just for funzies!

More to the point, anything can be fun with a touch of aftermarket suspension bits. Sure, the last-gen Focus is fairly hideous, but all the SVT/aftermarket goodies just bolt right up! Ditto a non-SS Chevy Cobalt with all the suspension bits from that “Hot One.”Relatively speaking, of course: none of these modifications will hurt the ride enough to upset your commute to work. Probably.

Well, that’s only food for thought. Also consider the Mazda 6, last generation. They aren’t the best on gas, but I truly enjoy driving them. You might too.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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And You Thought The Ford Focus Titanium Was Expensive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/and-you-thought-the-ford-focus-titanium-was-expensive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/and-you-thought-the-ford-focus-titanium-was-expensive/#comments Wed, 02 Nov 2011 16:49:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416623 Did you think $27k was a steep ask for a non-premium-brand compact car? How does a $40k Focus grab you? That’s a good four grand over what Nissan wants for a Leaf (and about $2k more than a loaded Leaf), and about $12k more than the Mitsubishi i (all before available tax credits). On the other […]

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Did you think $27k was a steep ask for a non-premium-brand compact car? How does a $40k Focus grab you? That’s a good four grand over what Nissan wants for a Leaf (and about $2k more than a loaded Leaf), and about $12k more than the Mitsubishi i (all before available tax credits). On the other hand, we don’t yet know if Ford can claim an EPA-certified range advantage over the Leaf (both Ford and Nissan initially claimed 100 miles, but the EPA dropped the Leaf to 73 miles). In any case, if you want the most expensive Focus ever built, or the first Blue Oval-badged plug-in, Ford’s started taking reservations online… but like any good insanely-expensive-for-what-it-is product, you need more than money to bring home an Electric Focus. Specifically, a little patience and an address in one of the following communities:

 Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Orlando, Florida,Phoenix, Tucson, Portland (OR), Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Virginia, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.

But only California and New York will get a Focus EV this year… the rest will be waiting until Q2 of next year. And the remainder of the US market could be waiting even longer, as Ford has not yet announced a full rollout date. But then, a little exclusivity never hurts when you get above the $40k price point.

 

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Under Forum Fire, Ford Reveals Limited Initial Focus EV Rollout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/ford-limits-focus-ev-rollout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/ford-limits-focus-ev-rollout/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2011 20:42:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406364 You know it’s time to say “Toto, I don’t think we’re in traditional journalism any more” when fanboys get better access than industry rags. In a story picked up by Automotive News [sub], myfocuselectric.com commenter whitgallman showed the auto media what can be done if you just send a few emails… as long as you […]

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You know it’s time to say “Toto, I don’t think we’re in traditional journalism any more” when fanboys get better access than industry rags. In a story picked up by Automotive News [sub], myfocuselectric.com commenter whitgallman showed the auto media what can be done if you just send a few emails… as long as you make it clear that you are only interested in buying a car, not embarrassing the program. Because then, instead of languishing in some disinterested inbox, your emails actually draw a response, like this from David Finnegan, Electrified Vehicles Marketing Manager at Ford:

For the first few months of production, we will be concentrating on California and New York. Our dealers in those areas will be the first to have their retail orders scheduled and receive the Focus electric. We will be rolling out to the remainder of our initial markets starting in spring 2012.

Well, that was news to Automotive News [sub], which had been told (along with everyone else) that the Focus Electric was supposed to launch in “late 2011″ in 19 US markets. So what happens to Focus EV intenders in Chicago, Detroit and Seattle (among others)? Per AN [sub]:

As for the rest of the country’s markets, no word yet from Ford, so the best advice is to be patient.

Uh-huh. We’ll send some emails ourselves, but we aren’t holding our breath for Ford to admit that, say, buying the Focus EV wholesale from a supplier may not have been a great idea. Or that there are problems with the batteries (again, hypothetically). But there I go thinking like a “traditional journalist” again…

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What’s In A Name? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-in-a-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-in-a-name/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2011 18:21:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406276 When should a redesigned car get a new name? Whenever the old one wasn’t a success? Or virtually never? Can car companies count on the excellence of a new car to reverse whatever damage was done to the public perception of the model name in the past? GM, as Paul Niedermeyer noted a few years […]

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When should a redesigned car get a new name? Whenever the old one wasn’t a success? Or virtually never? Can car companies count on the excellence of a new car to reverse whatever damage was done to the public perception of the model name in the past?

GM, as Paul Niedermeyer noted a few years ago, has a tendency to give a redesigned car a new name when the old one fared poorly in public perception. Which has been every time with its compact cars: Corvair, Vega, Monza, Cavalier, Cobalt, Cruze. Most recently, GM opted to abandon the Aveo name in North America in favor of “Sonic.”

Ford started to replace the names of many of its cars a few years ago. Not because the cars hadn’t sold well, but because someone had the brilliant idea that all Ford car names should start with the letter F. The Windstar became the Freestar, partly in an attempt to escape the minivan’s bad reputation. And there was also a Freestyle crossover. My wife wondered if they might replace “Thunderbird” with “Freebird.” After all, there was already a song to serve as the car’s theme. Then new CEO Alan Mulally, an outsider with virtually no knowledge of the auto industry, decreed that the “F” fixation was stupid. (Though for some reason he let the even more confusing MK_ mess continue at Lincoln.) Despite the damage Ford had done to the old names, they retained broad recognition by car buyers and thus equity. The Taurus name, after being reduced to fleet queen status, was returned to Ford’s current large sedan, from which it progressed to the current semi-premium car. And Ford’s redesigned compact remains a Focus despite a huge upgrade in both its specification and price.

I’ve always possessed a visceral dislike for GM’s willingness to flit from nameplate to nameplate. But this is because (apparently unlike GM) I refuse to admit defeat and give up. I also don’t like to throw anything away (luckily I have a wife to counterbalance the latter). But these reasons aren’t rational. Perhaps giving up on a nameplate when a model has failed in public perception and starting over with a new one is the smart thing to do?

Thanks to Ford, we have an answer. Until recently, Dearborn didn’t think it could sell a Euro-spec car at profitable prices in the U.S. So while Europe received better and better C-segment cars, the North American Focus soldiered on with minimal updates, and with even these focused on taking cost out of the car more often than they improved it. Then Mulally decreed that Ford would make and sell the same cars in Europe and North America. So the next Focus (a 2012 model which arrived earlier this year) would have to command much higher prices from American car buyers. A challenge in itself, retaining the Focus name for the new car should have made this even more difficult. Americans had learned to think of the Focus as a cheap car for people who couldn’t afford a better one, right? Would those seeking a premium small car even consider one with this tarnished nameplate attached?

As much as I don’t believe it replacing nameplates, I don’t think I’d have made this bet. But Ford did, and they’ve won. The Focus’s average transaction price year-to-date in 2010 was $15,424. This year, despite a few months with the old model, it’s $20,684. Despite this massive jump in the car’s price, in percentage the largest I’m aware of, the cars have been in short supply. They’ve been attracting an entirely different group of buyers, people who could afford a larger car or any direct competitor, but who are choosing the Focus because they like it the best, not because of “the deal.” Six percent of those sold are even the Titanium trim, which can list for over $27,000.

Conversely, look at GM’s experience. Many of the new cars gifted with new nameplates were mediocre, so it’s not clear how blame for lackluster sales should be apportioned. The Cobalt and G6 were significantly better than the Cavalier and Grand Am, but perhaps not good enough to sell without heavy incentives even if the old names with their broader public awareness had been retained. But what about the G8? Might it have sold better, and perhaps saved Pontiac in the process, if it had been labeled a Bonneville or Grand Prix? One possible exception: the Cadillac CTS, though it likely would have done just as well if the Catera nameplate had been retained. Then there’s the height of stupidity: scrapping a strong nameplate. Acura replaced “Integra” and “Legend” with “RSX” and “RL.” Today the former is gone and the latter might as well be.

Judging from the success of the 2012 Ford Focus, when the car is good people quickly forget any negative associations attached to a nameplate by the previous generation. On the other hand, GM has rarely if ever benefited from scrapping old nameplates in favor of new ones. The upcoming Chevrolet Sonic might well succeed—initial media reports have been positive—but this will be despite rather than because of its new name.

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Review: 2012 Ford Focus SE Take Two (With Sport Package) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-ford-focus-se-take-two-with-sport-package/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-ford-focus-se-take-two-with-sport-package/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2011 19:52:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404949 As recounted in an earlier review, the new Focus in Titanium trim is good enough to justify a price tag over $27,000 for a compact Ford. But what if you don’t want to spend that much, or want a manual transmission, which is not available with the SEL or Titanium trim levels? How much do […]

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As recounted in an earlier review, the new Focus in Titanium trim is good enough to justify a price tag over $27,000 for a compact Ford. But what if you don’t want to spend that much, or want a manual transmission, which is not available with the SEL or Titanium trim levels? How much do you give up with the SE? I requested a $21,380 Focus SE hatchback with the Sport Package to find out.

With small cars, hatchbacks are often more attractive than their related sedans. To my eye, the Focus is an exception. With the hatch, the rear quarters appear scrunched and drawn out, with a bit too much going on. The oversized tail lamps don’t help. I also found myself wondering about a cutline below the tail lamp, before realizing that was someone’s overly clever way of locating the fuel filler door. The smaller Fiesta hatch is a cleaner, more attractive design. All of this said, current competitors are either less attractive, less stylish, or both. The Focus at least lacks the sort of deal-killing aesthetic flourishes found on the Mazda3. A possible exception: black wheels that attend the $495 17-inch tire upgrade. Easily fixed: don’t tick that box and go aftermarket (more on this later). Wheels make a big difference on either bodystyle: both sedan and hatch look much better with the Titanium’s optional five-spoke 18s than with the other, smaller rims on the menu.

Inside the SE loses the padded upper door panels and trades some of the Titanium’s titanium and “piano black” trim bits for more prosaic silver ones. I thought I’d miss these, and find the SE interior dreadfully cheap in comparison. But during the week I had the car I didn’t. Not one bit. Everything looks and feels solid and precise. The SE’s rugged black cloth with gray accents looks and feels both sporty and upscale. This is the way BMW used to do cloth back in the 1980s, before leather (or something that resembled it closely enough to fool the masses) became de rigeur in ultimate driving machines. Need more color inside the car? For $795 Ford will substitute red and black leather. With the sun out and outside temps in the mid-90s, I was happy the tested car lacked this option.

As noted in the earlier review, the instrument panel is quite large, its height and depth pushing the limits of what I consider a sufficiently open forward view. I once again cranked the seat up a few clicks to get a good view over it. You can’t get MyFord Touch on the SE. Instead, as in the Fiesta there’s a confusing, unconventional array of buttons to contend with for the audio and communications systems. I figured out the basics after a few days, but full use of the system requires either extensive, often frustrating trial and error or (horrors) a trip through the owner’s manual.

The Sport Package includes a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and aggressively bolstered sport bucket seats. These are both comfortable and supportive. The headrests don’t jut too far forward to be obtrusive. The non-adjustable lumbar support fit my back well, but others will no doubt wish for a larger and/or higher bulge. At 5-9 and 160 pounds, I’m not a big guy, and had plenty of room in the front seat. Larger drivers might find the instrument panel and center console overly constricting. Perhaps the seat’s side bolsters as well–they were about perfect for me.

Ditto the back seat. I could very comfortably sit behind myself with an inch of air ahead of my knees, an inch over my head, and a high well-shaped cushion supporting my thighs. A six-footer would be more of a squeeze.

Cargo volume is typical of a compact hatch. The 60/40 second row seats fold to form a perfectly flat floor, but not easily. Instead:

1. Unless the front seat is already pretty far forward or upright, move it out of the way.

2. Tip the rear seat bottom forward.

3. Remove the rear seat headrest.

4. Fold the rear seatback.

5. Return the front seat at least part of the way to its original position. (The seat can no longer slide all the way back, but enough for drivers up to about six feet.)

I’m guessing that there was a choice between ease of use on one hand and a flat floor and full-sized rear seat on the other, and the latter priorities won out. It would help if the rear headrests folded like those on the Explorer, but this was likely ruled out for cost reasons.

Get the car moving, and the Focus SE instantly impresses as much as the Titanium did. This $20,000 Ford has the thoroughly refined slickness, solidity, quietness, and composure you used to have to buy a hyper-expensive German machine to get. This is evident during the first fifty feet, and remains impressive after a week in the car. Even over Michigan’s pockmarked streets the Focus rides well, with tightly controlled body motions. Some cars absorb bumps a little better, but they have the advantages of a longer wheelbase and wider track. A Chevrolet Cruze isn’t far off in overall refinement. But the Hyundai Elantra trails considerably, and the new-for-2012 Honda Civic is hopelessly far behind.

The usual downside of this level of refinement: curb weight. At 2,920 pounds the new Focus has plenty of it (though still about 200 pounds less than a Cruze). One impact: even a strong, smooth 2.0-liter engine like the direct-injected, 160-horsepower, 146-foot-pounds unit employed here isn’t going to generate gut-wrenching acceleration. Don’t slip the clutch a bit off the line, and the first few seconds turning onto a busy road can seem to take forever. Especially if the AC is on. At other times performance is easily adequate, but well short of thrilling.

A sixth cog would help. The five-speed manual is geared to provide grunt off the line and economy on the highway, so the ratios are spread a little too widely for an engine with a 4,450 rpm torque peak. On the other hand, operating the shifter and clutch couldn’t be easier. Throw length and effort are both moderate, and their feel is as thoroughly refined as the rest of the car. One contributor: a fairly heavy flywheel that blunts some of the potential of the engine.

An upcoming Focus ST with a 247-horsepower turbocharged four and a six-speed manual should cure these performance ills, and then some, at the cost of, well, a higher cost. For those who want more than 160 horsepower, but who don’t need or want to pay for license-threatening looks and speed, Ford should consider offering a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four with roughly 200 horsepower. This would hit a sweet spot.

The 2.0-liter engine is economical, especially considering the weight of the car. The EPA estimates 26 city / 36 highway. The trip computer reported low 30s in suburban driving with the AC on high.

The Sport Package does not alter the suspension tuning, which is currently “sport tuned” for all trim levels (per Q&A with Ford). Handling is very good, but again short of thrilling. The steering, while well-weighted and generally better than most buyers will be used to, could feel sharper, more precise, and more nuanced. The Mazda3 retains a clear edge in this area, and even the previous Ford Focus felt more direct. Partly this is the cost of refinement, but also that of an economy-maximizing full electric system instead of the electro-hydraulic hybrid employed by Mazda. The Focus SE’s chassis will do just about everything you ask of it well (except feel light on its feet), with sharp turn-in, minimal understeer (partly due to electronic wizardry involving the brakes), good communication, and excellent composure—until you approach the outside front tire’s limits. Then things get a bit mushy, if very safe.

Step up to the Titanium, and an extra $595 for the Handling Package gets you moderately firmer struts and 235/WR18 Michelin Pilot Sport3s that grip harder and feel sharper in aggressive driving. Or just do as suggested earlier: don’t spend $495 on the factory’s 17-inch Contis, and go aftermarket.

As mentioned in the intro, the tested car lists for $21,380, while the equivalent sedan lists for $20,780. You can save $495 by doing without the 17-inch wheels and tires, but in this case you’ll definitely want to spend considerably more on an aftermarket set. You could also save $800 by doing without the SYNC system’s USB and Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, but you won’t unless you’re still living in the twentieth century.

Similarly equip a 2011 Mazda3s hatchback, and it’s a $110 less. Adjusting for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool finds the two are nearly even. So the decision between these two isn’t going to be based on price. Rather, on refinement and fuel economy (the Mazda is rated only 21/29) vs. acceleration and steering feel. For most people the Ford will easily win this match-up.

A Kia Forte5 SX is the budget buy in the segment, with a list price of $19,090. With a larger engine, it’s quicker than the Focus, and has a longer warranty, but is less economical (22/32) and far less refined in just about every way (materials, powertrain, ride, handling). Features are about even here as well. Is it worth saving $2,000 to get a car that looks and feels $5,000 less expensive?

To get the premium look and feel of the Focus in a semi-affordable car, it’s necessary to go with a Volkswagen Golf—and even the not-yet-decontented VW hatchback isn’t at the same level as the Ford. You also cannot get the sporty look and feel of the Focus SE Sport without stepping up to the much more expensive (and much quicker) GTI. Compare a base 2011 Golf with Bluetooth to a Focus SE with SYNC but without the Sport Package and 17s, and the VW is about $400 more. So close to both the Focus and the Mazda3, but without their sportiness.

The 2012 Ford Focus isn’t a hooner’s delight right out of the box, but I’m nevertheless amazed by just how good it is. Even in SE trim it has the look, feel, and refinement of a much more expensive car. And it drives better than 90 percent of the population will ever expect it to. So, if you simply want a really good, nicely trimmed compact car, but don’t want to spend $27,000+ for it, $21,000 or so (before dealer discounts and taxes) will do the trick.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Hoon's delight? Focus SE instrument panel Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Focus SE interior Focus SE engine Focus SE cargo Focus SE side Focus SE sport buckets Focus SE rear quarter Focus SE rear seat Focus SE view forward Focus SE front

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Piston Slap: What’s a Ford Employee to do? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/piston-slap-whats-a-ford-employee-to-do/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/piston-slap-whats-a-ford-employee-to-do/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2011 17:30:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404131     TTAC Commentator tresmonos writes: OK.  So I used to work for Ford and am now gainfully employed by them (again).  My dilemma is as follows: I am rolling on a Z24 cavalier that I bought brand new in 2001.  It has 160K on the clock and the only thing I can see that’s […]

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TTAC Commentator tresmonos writes:

OK.  So I used to work for Ford and am now gainfully employed by them (again).  My dilemma is as follows:

I am rolling on a Z24 cavalier that I bought brand new in 2001.  It has 160K on the clock and the only thing I can see that’s wrong with it is a AC compressor that’s been on limp mode since 2007 (bearing), bad drum brakes due to my laziness (LMAO – SM), and interior fan’s lowest two resistors being shot.  The twin cam has a bad coil as it misses at idle, but I could care less.  The car’s exterior filth has literally out lasted my marriage. It’s been a hell of a financial savings for me.  But we all know the twin cam dream won’t last much longer.

I temporarily moved to SC and blew my car savings load on a 100% rust free 1984 lincoln continental turbo diesel.  I repainted it and have slaved over some wiring nightmares on it.  I’ve got 6K invested in the thing.  And I need a new mode of transportation.  Foolish purchase, I know… but if you would look at the clean, rust free body, and sit in that Corinthian plush leather seats whilst romping on the gas to behold two dual plumes of diesel particulate whooshing in the rear view, you’d understand.

The Focus ST is coming out and working at my current employer has me torn between a new ride and being cost effective with a used one.  When you work around the product, you want it.  I love the fact I know every little thing about my cavalier.  I know immediately when I need to address something, and luckily, it’s been just electrical issues thus far (I’ve rewired the entire acc harness in the engine bay due to cheap mexican made delphi spliced together sh**).  So, with that preference (being weary of a used vehicle), do I spring on the ST if the Cavillac stays alive long enough?  Or do I buy a lightly used Ford/Lincoln for 10K less?  I already have a Lincoln, but I cannot find a desirable used Ford sans a SVT focus, though the SVT isn’t known for quality.  What do you think I should do?  I have an easy 10-15K that I can put down on a purchase.  Used SVT focus or new ST?  Or make my household 100% lincoln?  I’m torn between my cheap habits and the desire for something fun, and I want something as trouble free as my Z24 has been.

I think you know one of my friends. (Yup, I do. – SM) I’m one of his college buddies and he mentioned you would love my new Foxbody Lincoln.  Next time you’re in Detroit, let me know and you can drive the shit out of it.

Sajeev answers:

Your college buddy called me out of the blue to tell me about your Foxy Conti.  He was there when I towed my Fox-Conti to a ranch in central Texas where it rotted for almost a decade, so he knows those cars. And now that I will be spending an ungodly/vulgar/stupid amount of cash to restore mine, I would be honored to drive your little BMW-Steyr-Foxbody-Continental at some point.  And maybe give you a spare part or two for the trouble. Thank you.

Now on to your quandary:

I wouldn’t trust a used Focus SVT, mostly because I worry about a lack of upkeep and a ton of hooning under it’s belt.  And because you are a Ford employee, you are almost obligated to lease a new car every two years. Not for corporate advancement or to “fit in”, although those undercurrents creep up in any company in some way/shape/form…but let me tell you a story:

I lived in Metro Detroit when I was a student at CCS.  One of my friends, who was very aware of private school tuition, totally surprised me when I saw a brand new Chevy S-10 (that’s how old I am) in the student parking lot.  I thought this guy MUST be a fraud, a brand spankin’ new truck?  Turns out his Dad was a GM Engineer.  And GM offered employees a sweet deal on 4-cyl 5-speed trucks…to keep their CAFE standards up?

Whatever, my point was that this little truck was only $98 a month for a two-year lease.  No money down either, I think.  So here’s my plan of action for you.

  1. Lease whatever little compact car they have on heavy incentives.
  2. Use the money saved over buying a Focus ST/fixing an SVT to tweak it with an SCT tune, bigger swaybars, Eibachs, +1 tires,  whatever you want. It’ll still be slow-ish, but it will do if you make it to your tastes.
  3. Use the money saved to buy a house, if you didn’t already come up with a down payment for one in the Detroit area using the change in your ashtray.
  4. Use the money to address problems on the Foxy Conti…you see where I am going with this?
  5. Sell the Cavalier on craigslist before it dies.
  6. Worry about getting an ST Focus or any other hot button purchase after your short term lease on a shitty car is over. Because, much like the Taurus SHO, Focus SVT and Contour SVT before it, I see this vehicle getting discounted heavily…once the small market that demands it is saturated by it’s excellence.
  7. Have your cake and eat it too, via delaying your gratification.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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