The Truth About Cars » ford focus The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (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 » ford focus Ford’s Got A (Focus) ST-D Fri, 27 Jun 2014 01:33:50 +0000 forfoc100


Ford’s Focus lineup has got an ST-D. D for diesel, that is.

The Focus ST Diesel gets a 2.0 diesel making 182 horsepower and an 295 lb-ft of torque. On the European cycle, it gets 64.2 mpg and emits 114 grams per km of CO2. 60 mph comes up in 8.1 seconds, compared to 7.5 seconds for the VW Golf GTD.

The gasoline powered Focus ST gets a new start-stop system, while both cars get an updated interior with Ford’s revised SYNC system.

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Ford To Debut Focus ST Diesel Mon, 23 Jun 2014 20:02:10 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

A new Ford Focus ST is set to be debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend.

In addition to a facelift (to better align it with the facelifted 2015 Focus), Just-Auto is also reporting that a diesel variant will be offered alongside the 2.0L Ecoboost engine. Any bets on whether it will arrive in North America? I’ll say “no”. The ST Diesel wagon is sure to be the new “most lusted after” hot hatch on the interwebs. You can bet on that.

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Geneva 2015: Facelifted Ford Focus Thu, 06 Mar 2014 00:07:28 +0000 2015-Ford-Focus-04


Making its first appearance at Geneva is the facelifted Ford Focus, which gets the corporate schnoz, as well as the 1.0L Ecoboost three-cylinder for the North American market.


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Geneva 2014: Ford Focus ST Gets Diesel Variant Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:48:18 +0000 450x278x2014-Ford-Focus-ST-Exterior-450x278.jpg.pagespeed.ic.bgHJlXRdKP

With the Ford Focus ST due for a mid-cycle refresh in Europe, Ford apparently announced a diesel version of their hot hatch at a dinner after Day 1 of the Geneva Auto Show.

AutoExpress reports that the oil-burner will be powered by a

a 2.0 TDCi engine, the diesel ST will have 182bhp (1bhp more than the GTD) and cover 0-62mph in eight seconds – 0.5 seconds slower than the Golf. CO2 emission will be 114g/km, while the chassis will get the same suspension and steering tune as the petrol-powered Focus ST. A ‘heavily revised steering mount to reduce wheel hop and eliminate steering thump’ has been added, along with new wheels and tyres and further tweaks to improve steering feel. 

Photos of the new ST have not been released yet.

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 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.


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


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


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


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.)


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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Rental Review: 2013 Ford Focus SE Sedan Thu, 14 Nov 2013 13:14:42 +0000 focus

D. Alexander is back with another reader review. If you’d like to be where he is — and I don’t mean flexing your maxed-out biceps in the company of a bunch of attractive people, as he’s always doing on Facebook, but rather on these hallowed pages — let me know! — JB

Nothing makes you appreciate your own car quite like giving it up for a day. I recently put about a hundred miles on a 2013 Ford Focus SE sedan. Since my daily is a late-model Nissan Maxima, the gilded Altima that I once reviewed for this site, that’s my (unfair) benchmark for this review.
Powertrains and handling tend to blow my skirt up, but let’s start with the interior.

I’m very much in the mold of ‘give me good seats or get off my lawn.’ Ford scores points here: not too wide, exceptional lumbar support, and attractive leather. A two-hour stint behind the wheel left my persnickety back much as it started. Cushioning is up to Volvo’s standard, though for lack of vertical lift, some folks might find the seats too low. I was more enamored with the steering wheel shift, a criminally underequipped feature that keeps the long-legged and short-armed among us from fiddling with the seatback every two miles.

Passengers too slow to claim the front won’t be left with a penalty box. I’m six feet and change with 50 Cent’s driving posture. Setting the driver’s side to preference imposes on rear seat room, so I was surprised to discover that I could actually fit behind myself. The headliner bopped me getting in and my knees bumped into the side of the front seat, but I had an inch to spare when they were centered in the seatback.

The rest of the interior reminds me of a Sonata in style and quality of execution: consistent, avant-garde, and with no egregiously cheap pieces. Mash the dash (something only a car reviewer or crash-launched occupant would do) and soft foam pushes back. I was disappointed only by the hard plastic on either side of the driver’s footwell, because I splay my legs out in seats without side bolsters. The knee contact points became unpleasant after an hour or so.

This particular Focus was, despite the stitched leather (or faux-stitched; who knows, it looks real), just one notch above the base model. No navigation. No fancy electronics. I was all primed to jump on the bandwagon lambasting the MyFord Touch system that this car lacks. Instead, I’ll just complain about the two LCDs it does have. Both are miniature and cut-rate, with the contrast ratio of my decade-old Garmin. It’s odd to me that manufacturers save money on parts you rubberneck and spend it on the feel of surfaces you never touch. Likewise the indifferent UI programming: the driver information interface is awful. Once I lost the mileage readout screen, it took three minutes of button-pushing on the side of the road to find it again. The base stereo is comparatively goofproof and compensates for lackluster sound by having both USB and Aux inputs.

Onward to the fun part: how the Focus drives.

No, wait. Let’s talk about how it idles. This thing shimmies like a big-block Corvette with cams from a powerboat. I couldn’t think why; the transmission isn’t even in gear at a stop, so the engine couldn’t have been lugging. A very strange first impression for a car with 24,000 miles. It was about 45F outside when I started it; maybe that contributed? It was still shaking away after five minutes. Later that trip, either it stopped or I tuned it out.

That quirk aside, this engine has to be my new favorite naturally-aspirated four in this price class, and among the few that actually improves as it winds up. While soft in the low range, it’s a turbine from 4K to redline with a rather beastly power curve. I don’t say that lightly coming from a car with an oversized six. I’m sure the temperature and the modest passenger load contributed, but on the freeway, the Focus put me on cop-watch in a hurry.

And yet, no engine is an island. The question mark for this test was Ford’s dual-clutch transmission. I wasn’t even sure this model had one until I looked it up. If you drive on autopilot, it’s butter. Instant and smooth shifts, engineered (and rather fast) creep from a stop, and endless coasting free of engine-braking. The only manual-esque attribute is a bit of drivetrain judder if you hold a gear at high RPM at a constant speed. Otherwise, it’s not far removed from a CVT or anything else.

The provisos come when you pretend to be Ken Block. ‘Drive’ mode doesn’t like to downshift, so flooring the fast pedal yields a long pull from 2.5K while you count Mississippi’s until the engine wakes up. Rarely do you find that sweet high range. ‘Sport’ mode will downshift, but seems to lock out sixth gear and keeps the revs on boil, so you’re buggered on efficiency. Choosing your own gears with the rocker on the stick (the sole method because the flappy paddles only adjust the phone controls) is just barely useful for aggressive driving. There’s over a second of lag before each change. Whatever voodoo Mitsubishi used to sportify the Evo’s dual-clutch box is totally absent here. This one’s running on scotch and valium, chased with lethargic throttle response and a lazy power cut between gears. Why hurry? You look tired. Rest yourself.

And what of the handling? She’ll move, but she doesn’t care to. The suspension is stiffer than I would have expected for this sort of car, transmitting heaps of road texture no matter the speed. Which is odd. Because that tune is coupled with the steering character of an Accord sedan. The wheel is dead and heavy on-center, so the car tracks a highway lane like a luge course, but there’s no motivation to turn. Vibration through the steering column is constant. Steering feel, not so much, particularly as the lateral forces rise. There’s no hard ‘limit’ with this SE trim, just a wishy-washy mess as traction gives up. Blame stock tires with the sidewall stiffness of a bouncy castle.

The chassis is otherwise unflappable. In high-G turns, the car takes a smooth and controlled set. No drama at all with fast transitions: a round of applause for the damping, please. Likewise the brakes. ABS engagement was immediate over sequential stops. For the purpose of avoiding that thing in the road, this is a top-drawer performance. And lest I forget running costs, economy was another high mark. I was doing pedal-to-firewall acceleration between freeway runs and constantly twiddling with Sport mode and manual shifts. Speeds between 40 and 70, I pretty much ignored. The ‘average mileage’ readout (if there was a live readout, I couldn’t find it) at the conclusion of this hooliganism reported 27 MPG. I’ll bet I could crack forty with steady-state driving near the speed limit.

Really then, a strong effort in aggregate from Ford. I think this car is good value for money. But there’s a problem. I found it a touch uncomfortable at high speeds. Relative to the Maxima, and despite the placid steering, the Focus seems like it’s going 20 MPH faster than it is. Road and wind noise are intrusive and weirdly variable above fifty or so. That and the stiff ride pushed my pulse ten or fifteen ticks higher than usual. When I’m blasting Kenny G on a commute and striving not to become road gristle between semi-trailers, a car that can emulate the tranquility of a koi pond is worth a premium. This one doesn’t quite qualify.

Put another way, despite a fine interior and confident underpinnings, the Focus still feels like a creature of its market segment. And it really doesn’t have to. I wonder about these half-hearted attempts at ‘sport’ with mainstream sedans. Save for the engine, there’s nothing about this car that encourages spirited driving, so why compromise the ride? And why not reserve a few more pounds for sound insulation? I can see why Chevrolet went another direction with the Cruze. But then, if you looked far back enough in my family tree you’d probably find that I’m somehow related to a ’95 Buick. So what do I know?

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Capsule Review: Ford Focus ST Tue, 18 Jun 2013 13:00:04 +0000 focusst

I wish I had more time with the Focus ST, but circumstances conspired to cut my loan short; I was off on the West Coast, driving a hot hatch older than I am, as well as two competitors, the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. Driving those two back to back gave me some context before I drove the first truly hot Focus since the first-generation SVT version. In Europe, that car was also an ST, dubbed the ST170, because the RS was top dog in Ford of Europe’s hatch hierarchy. I hear that we’ll be getting the next Focus RS as well, complete with the 2.3L Ecoboost, but of course, my Ford sources will neither confirm or deny that.

Squint really hard, and the Focus ST looks just like the Corgi Cosworth toy that my Grandma bought for me at Asda and which I ended up smashing against a Corgi Metropolitan Police Range Rover while engaging in a youthful re-enactment of “The Sweeney”. It must be the Performance Blue paint and the hatch spoiler, which resembles the orca-esque monstrosity that came on the Cossie hatches.

The rest of the car is fairly agressive-looking without being over the top. I would be a little embarrassed to show up for a date or a lunch meeting with the Mazdaspeed3′s goofy mug smiling back at my would-be passenger, but at least with the ST, the front fascia looks appropriate. Hopefully nobody notices the overly large fascia-bumper panel gap.

Exterior styling aside, it’s the interior that will pose the greatest challenge for any occupants. Americans can opt for standard seats, but Canadian market cars only come one way; with the ST3 Package, including the Sony-branded MyFord Touch system and the Recaro seats. As nice as the Recaro’s look, they are absurdly confining; I’m 5’10 and 175 lbs with a 32″ waist, yet I’ve felt more comfortable in one-piece racing buckets. My brother and father, who are around my height but much stockier, were visceral in their criticism of the constricting bolsters. My father in particular raised an interesting point; guys like him (middle-aged, carrying a few extra pounds thanks to a white collar job) are the ones who buy performance cars, but the seats alone would DQ the ST from his list.

After a few days, I was able to look past them – in fact, it’s hard to imagine putting up with the regular Focus seats. This is what the Brit mags would call a “very quick point-to-point car”. At one end of the spectrum, we have the Volkswagen GTI. It’s not quite as performance oriented, but it does drive well while providing an appropriate amount of comfort and refinement. At the other end of the spectrum is the ‘Speed3, which feels like a garage-built tuner car with a warranty. In between those two is the Focus ST.

There’s more power than the GTI, but less than the Mazda. There’s less torque steer than the Mazda but more than the GTI. The ride and handling, steering feel and braking capability are a happy medium between the two. Every reviewer with a keyboard and an HJC DOT helmet seems to have coaxed some kind of “lift off oversteer” from this car. I can’t say I ever really pushed it that hard on public roads, but I also save my most aggressive driving exploits for wheel to wheel competition, a domain notoriously devoid of auto journalists.

On paper, the ST sounds a bit dull and wishy-washy, a true “warm hatch” that’s not much more exciting than a Honda Civic Si. But this car has charm. Mash the gas pedal and keep the wheel pointed straight and you will experience acceleration free of turbo lag and the masculine growl of the ST’s engine note; I don’t care if it’s piped in via a “sound synthesizer” or whatever Ford calls it. It does the job without alerting the outside world (or John Law) of your presence with an obnoxiously loud muffler. Each and every one of the 252 horsepower on tap is useful in the real world of cutting through traffic or taking an on-ramp just a little too quickly, unlike most of today’s steroid-enhanced sports cars, where driving them on the street makes you feel like you’re firing a Ma Deuce from the 5 yard line of an indoor gun range.

Of course, the ST has its flaws. The shifter is abominable, with an action that feels like rowing a broomstick through a tub of Greek yogurt. The pedal placement for heel-and-toeing was also all wrong, though that may be a function of my size 11.5 shoes. The Sony-branded MyFord Touch system wasn’t nearly as infuriating as previous iterations, but I’d rather not have to unplug my iPhone three times just to be able to access my music. I never got close to the EPA ratings of 23/32 mpg either, but again, caveat emptor.

There’s a lot to like about this car; the power, the looks, the fact that I could fit my Costco groceries and a bicycle in the back of the hatch with ease. But in Canada, the ST comes out to about $34,000, plus 13 percent sales tax, which is a crapload of money for a guy like me. For comparison, a Mustang V6 with the Performance Package and Recaros (which may not be as lithe, but would lay waste to an ST in any objective performance category) is about $4000 cheaper and probably gets equivalent or better gas mileage. Even financing a Focus ST over 84 months means payments of about $450 a month, and I’d be paying off a complex, electronics-laden car long past its warranty period. And OEMs wonder why young people aren’t buying new cars anymore.

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A Snapshot Of What Sub-Prime Buyers Are Driving Wed, 24 Apr 2013 15:30:33 +0000

Sub-prime finance has attracted a bit of interest (no pun intended) over at TTAC lately, and the segment itself has experienced phenomenal growth in the post-bailout era.

Auto lending site released a list of the top 10 most popular new and used vehicles as purchased by sub-prime buyers over the last six months. While it’s not the most complete list by any means, it does give us a glimpse into the choices of sub-prime buyers. As far as we know, no such list has ever been compiled prior to this.

Top 10 New Cars for sub-prime buyers according to (from October to March 2013)

1. Dodge Avenger

2. Kia Forte

3. Kia Optima

4. Chrysler 200

5. Dodge Journey

6. Ford Focus

7. Ram 1500

8. Nissan Sentra

9. Nissan Versa

10. Kia Sorento

A few things jump out here. First off, this list has almost no crossover with the usual top 10 selling new vehicles in America. Only the Ram 1500 appears on both lists. Second, Chrysler products make four appearances on this list, with the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler 200 well know among the B&B for being very aggressively priced, to the point where it makes buying a Dodge Dart seem nonsensical. Chrysler has also been ramping up their own sub-prime lending program, through Santander and was the leader in sub-prime lending last year.

Also interesting are the relative dominance of Nissan and Kia. The latest Sentra and Versa have also been priced with a view to undercutting the competition, and the Versa has had success in the sub-compact market with its extremely cheap offerings (nonwithstanding the loss leader $9,995 Versa S, which is meant to get people in the showrooms and little else). Kia comes as a bit of a surprise, as very little is ever heard about them in connection with sub-prime purchasing. Any commenters with information or data that can help provide a better picture, please feel free to contribute.


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The Top 10 Best-Sellers World Wide In 2012 Tue, 16 Apr 2013 11:00:30 +0000

Polk released their list of 10 best-selling nameplates in 2012 - and while the list led to a bit of a spat between Toyota and Ford over who won had the race – the rest of the list gives us a picture of what’s popular around the world. While Bertel is claiming that Toyota came out on top, I am merely reporting the Polk data. Any disputes or accusations pro or anti (insert nationality here) bias can be meted out in the comments. I’ll go grab the popcorn.

1. Ford Focus:  1,020,410 units sold



2. Toyota Corolla: 872,774 units sold

3. Ford F-Series: 785,630 units sold

4. Wuling Zhiguang: 768,870 units sold

5. Toyota Camry: 729,793 units sold

6. Ford Fiesta: 723,130 units sold

7. VW Golf: 699,148 units sold

8. Chevrolet Cruze: 661,325 units sold

9. Honda Civic: 651,159 units sold

10. Honda CR-V: 624,982 units sold

autoblog_cn_img_8770 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Focus-SE-front-quarter-550x412. Photo courtesy TTAC Corolla-Axio-11-450x300 Photo courtesy TTAC 2011f1504-550x307 Photo courtesy TTAC Wuling Sunshine. Photo courtesy Camry-SE-4-side-550x412 Photo courtesy TTAC Ford_Fiesta_Mk7_seit_2008_front_MJ-450x269 Photo courtesy wikipedia 2015-vw-golf-opt-450x298 Photo courtesy wikipedia side-550x315 Photo courtesy Chevrolet 2013-honda-civic-450x275 Photo courtesy Honda IMG_51901-550x366 Photo courtesy Brendan McAleer ]]> 15
Ford Pushes Congress For Vehicle Standards Harmonization Thu, 11 Apr 2013 16:39:12 +0000

A U.S. House of Represenatives subcommittee meeting became a forum for Ford to advocate on behalf of harmonized vehicle standards, as the US and EU continue to discuss a possible free trade deal.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, said that harmonized standards would allow Ford to cut costs in areas like design, manufacturing and engineering. Ford is aiming to homogenize its lineup across the globe under its “One Ford” plan, eliminating regional models where necessary. Vehicles like the Edge and Mustang will be engineered for world markets in their next generation, while regional models like the rear-drive Falcon, sold in Australia and select world markets, will be killed off.

Automotive News reports bi-partisan support for the measure. Rep. John Dingell, whose Michigan congressional district encompasses Dearborn, where Ford is based, offered support for the measure, while Rep. Terry Lee, who chairs the subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade noted “positive effects that pursuing a regulatory mutual recognition standard could have on the domestic automotive industry.” Translation: if this goes through, we may just get the Focus RS.


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Analysis: Three Different Approaches To Maximize Scale Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:00:20 +0000

We’ve discussed the importance of scale countless times on this website. La Tribune takes a brief look at Ford, Volkswagen and PSA and the different ways they are working to achieve economies of scale in one of the toughest markets in the auto industry; the C-Segment.

As you’re all well aware by now, Volkswagen’s MQB platform represents the most radical approach to a modular platform. The distance from the front axle to the pedal box remains the sole fixed dimension. Everything else is modular, capable of being snapped into place like Lego. MQB will underpin everything from the Polo to the Passat (B-D segment) and will be built in North and South America, Europe and even China. Annual volumes are expected to be 3.5 million units by 2018, roughly 35 percent of VW Group’s entire global sales.

Slightly more conservative is the path taken by PSA. Not long ago, we published a side-by-side analysis of MQB and PSA’s new EMP2 modular platform. EMP2 is a bit less ambitious, covering only C and D segment cars, MPVs, light commercial vehicles and crossovers. These segments represent a significant portion of PSA’s sales, but the lack of B segment capability is a question mark, especially given the popularity of this segment in global markets, and Peugeot’s own 208. Instead, PSA will leave B-segment development up to Opel, as part of the GM-PSA alliance. While VW touts MQB as a holistic approach to manufacturing, parts procurement and component sharing, PSA’s message with EMP2 has been focused around weight reduction, cutting CO2 emissions and providing flexibility in terms of vehicle size and packaging. Given PSA’s status as Europe’s leader in low emissions vehicles (an average of 112.5 grams/km, 0.1 gram better than Toyota), this is somewhat understandable. Unlike MQB, only the rear sections of the car are interchangeable. Vehicles can be had with a short or long wheelbase, a low or high driving position and a solid rear axle or independent suspension (useful for marketing low-cost variants in emerging markets). Volumes are much more modest; 1.8 million units EMP2 based cars are expected to be sold by 2018.

And what about Ford? Despite the Global C platform being confined to one segment, and thus not exactly modular, Ford has apparently acheived volumes of 2 million C-segment cars annually. The global C platform, which underpins cars like the C-Max, Focus and Escape/Kuga and will likely add a couple Lincoln variants as well. They key difference between Ford, VW and PSA is that Ford is the sole automaker to sell their car globally, as part of the “One Ford” strategy. Rather than adapting models, or even the output of whole brands to regional needs as VW does, or simply not compete in some large markets like PSA, Ford’s entire product line has significant global exposure in a way that the aggregate model ranges of VW and PSA don’t. Ford hasn’t hinted about moving towards a more modular framework in the future. Even in the face of declining sales in Europe and declining market share in North America, Global C’s volumes are impressive enough on their own.

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The 2012 Honda Civic – The Industry’s Most Successful Turd Thu, 10 Jan 2013 15:38:51 +0000

The most satisfying parts of this job isn’t the constant flow of new cars or the luxury vacations with colleagues who never learned how to hold a kinfe and fork properly. It’s watching them look for a sacrificial lamb to offer up to the Gods of The Wobble and then see it survive the slaughter, only to maintain its death grip on the market. In this case, I’m referring to the banner year that the 2012 Honda Civic enjoyed, prior to its quick mid-cycle refresh.

Before we embark on an essay full of self-congratulation and disdain, let’s examine the context. Mark Rechtin of Automotive News talked to a Honda product planner in his story on the Civic’s refresh, who detailed how Honda made the wrong bet initially, with respect to the packaging of the Civic

“After the Lehman shock, we thought there would be different consumer behaviors. We knew that unemployment would last a long time and that there would be recessional trends. We thought consumers would be more sparse in their needs and be tightening their belts. The Civic was going to reflect that world.”

Just as Honda went downmarket, Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet all decided to go upmarket with fancy turbo engines, direct injection, backup cameras, heated seats galore and much more attractive styling. The press was going ga-ga for these opulent compacts, especially the Golden Calf Euro Focus, and just as eager to poop on the lowly, peasant-grade Civic.

Except things didn’t quite turn out that way. The Civic outsold them all. Without any fleet sales. Yes, there were some aggressive lease programs on Honda’s part, but unlike the Focus, they didn’t dump nearly half of their inventory into fleets on any given month like Ford did.

The first inkling of the Civic’s success came when my Grandma had a week-long loan of a 2012 LX model while her pristine, 55,000 mile 1999 Civic was in for maintenance. Despite her last-of-the-double-wishbone car being considered the holy grail for Honda fanatics  she couldn’t get enough of the new car. The one flaw in her mind was the lack of an illuminated ignition switch. Otherwise, the 2012 car is, in her mind faster, smoother riding and has a better stereo.

I consistently invoke my grandmother because not only is she fairly knowledgeable and passionate about what she drives (having owned everything from a Skoda, an MG Magnette, a 289 Mustang and an original 1973 Civic), but she is representative of the typical Civic buyer, unlike those who wear Piloti driving shoes to the Hyundai Tuscon launch. Her primary interests are safety, fuel efficiency and price. Not only does the Civic deliver on all three, but it hasn’t suffered the same hiccups as its highly lauded rivals, like bogus mileage claims and transmissions made of glass. For those of us who sample cars a week at a time, these are trivial concerns, but someone keeping their car for a couple hundred thousand miles may take these matters more seriously.

Want a truly dated, obsolete product from Honda? Try the Fit, the darling of the automotive enthusiast press, it fails to measure up to the rest of the crowd, most notably the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.



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Review: 2013 Ford Escape Titanium Take Two (Video) Mon, 07 Jan 2013 14:00:35 +0000

Like their products or not, Ford has been on a roll. It all started when the blue oval financed their metamorphosis by mortgaging everything that wasn’t nailed down a year before the bankocalypse. Next came a wave of new products like the Astonesque Fusion, Prius fighting C-MAX and the Euro-derived Fiesta and Focus. Ford’s recovery plan hinges on unifying their worldwide lineup rather than making unique vehicles for every market. Ford calls this plan “One Ford,” while I call it “Ford’s Euro love affair.” The latest warrior in the Euro invasion is none other than the Ford Kuga, you’ll know it as the new Escape. It would appear Ford’s timing couldn’t be better since they just lost the small-SUV sales crown to Honda. Can the European soft-roader take back the crown? Or has Ford gone too far by ditching the boxy Escape for world-wide homogeny?

Click here to view the embedded video.


The old Escape attracted as many buyers because of its practical functionality and efficiency as it’s mini-truck appearance. Several Escape owners I know felt they could step down from an Explorer to an Escape without being emasculated by a “cute-ute.” If this describes you, consider a boxy Jeep Patriot while they last. When Michael Karesh took one for a spin last year he found the design pleasing to the eye, but in a modern crossover kind of way. The new exterior is full of crossover curves and overall looks like a jacked up Focus hatch with AWD. This description isn’t that far off base since the Escape rides on a heavily modified Focus platform. Although it looked smaller to my eye, the new Escape is nearly four inches longer, one inch wider and rides on a longer wheelbase than the last generation. Ford’s baby crossover has also been lowered from a Jeepesque 8.4-inches of ground clearance to a decidedly CUV-like 7.9-inches to improve on-road manners. In a segment dominated by fuel economy claims (and with Ford trumpeting the “lightweight” new Explorer) it is surprising that the Escape has gained 350lbs over the last generation now topping the scales at 3,840lbs as tested. Ouch. (The 2013 RAV4 looses 470lbs for 2013.)


The new Escape doesn’t just share the majority of its interior with the Euro market Kuga. Most of the dashboard is used in the new C-MAX Hybrid, and all three share heavily with Ford’s new world Focus. What does this mean to you? It means the Escape shares no styling cues from Ford’s truck line, a sharp departure from the last model. On the plus side, the parts bin Ford raided to create the Escape is full of high quality switch gear and squishy dash bits. While the earlier Escape’s cabin sold on mini-truck charm, the new Escape ties with the 2013 RAV-4 for the nicest interior in this segment.

Despite growing on the outside, passenger room is largely unchanged with a slight reduction in headroom (1/2 inch in front and 2/10ths in back). The drop in headroom isn’t really a problem since the old Escape has such a high roof-line to start with. Taller drivers will notice that Ford decided to reapportion legroom in the Escape by taking 1.2 inches from the front seats and moving it to the rear. Front seat comfort proved excellent on longer trips thanks to an upright seating position and comfortable padding but shoppers should keep in mind that only the SEL and Titanium models get a power driver’s seat. While there is no power passenger seat at any price, the Escape offers something never seen in this segment: optional full leather upholstery for $895.

Escape S, SE and SEL models come with an old-tech manual liftgate standard. Should you need some assistance, SE buyers can opt for an optional $495 power liftgate. Included as part of an $1,895 package with an up-level audio system and keyless ignition, the SEL model can be had with Ford’s new “hands-free” tail opener. The system (standard on Titanium) uses a sensor under the rear bumper that detects your foot. As long as the car’s key is with you, a gentle upwards kicking motion under the rear bumper will cause the liftgate to open or close. While the feature sounded gimmicky, I found it fairly handy when you have your hands full. Once inside, you’ll find three more cubes of space than the old Escape, but the cargo hold isn’t as square as the old CUV, making bulky item schlepping a bit less convenient.


The Escape S targets fleet shoppers and allows Ford to advertise a low $22,470 starting price. To make sure sales of the base models are limited outside of fleet sales, there is only one option: $295 for the SYNC system with Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, SYNC is standard on the $24,070 SE model along with XM Satellite radio and Ford’s “keyless” entry keypad on the door sill. If you dislike MyFord Touch, stop here since the system is standard on SEL and Titanium trims.

If you’re a tech lover like me, the optional (on SE, standard on SEL) $775 MyFord Touch system is a must have. The system uses a high-resolution 8-inch screen in the dash divided into four sections for entertainment, climate, phone and navigation. (If you don’t spent $795 for navigation, the system displays a compass in the upper right.) Rather than the dual 4.2-inch LCDs flanking a speedometer found in other Ford products, the Escape uses a single LCD like the Ford Focus. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a 5-year-old bag of flour. Thankfully, the latest version is more responsive and less problem prone, but MFT is still less reliable than the display audio systems from Nissan, Toyota and Honda. Despite the still-present flaws, this is still the sexiest system in this segment. Unlike the Fusion, Ford has decided to offer their excellent 12-speaker Sony branded audio system in the SEL model, although it only comes bundled with keyless ignition, the power tailgate and backup sensors thanks to the trend of packing features into option packages.


Instead of the typical four-cylinder and V6 engine lineup, the new Escape’s engine bay is home to a four-cylinder only lineup. The base 2.5L engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Escape and good for 168 horses and 170lb-ft of twist. As you would expect, this engine is only found in the FWD Escape S, a model that Ford expects to be sold almost exclusively to fleets.

Next up is the same 1.6L direct-injection turbocharged “Ecoboost” engine used in the Fusion. Proving yet again that turbos are the replacement for displacement, the 1.6L mill produces more power (178HP) and more torque (184lb-ft) at lower RPMs than the 2.5L while delivering 1 more MPG in the city and 2 more on the highway (23/33 FWD, 22/30 AWD). (Ford has opted not to offer the Fusion’s MPG-boosting start/stop system with the 1.6L for some reason.)

Optional on SE and SEL models ($1,195) and standard on Titanium is Ford’s ubiquitous 2.0L Ecoboost engine. The 240HP boosted four-pot replaces the old 240HP 3.0L V6. While the old V6 cranked out 223lb-ft at 4,300RPM, the 2.0 spools up a whopping 270lb-ft of torque from 1,750-4,500 RPM. In addition to the twist bump, fuel economy rises from 19/25 (FWD) and 18/23 (AWD) to 22/30 and 21/28. Trust me, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. What you will hiss however is the hybrid system. Ford has decided that the closely related C-MAX now replaces the Escape Hybrid in the lineup. It’s important to note that if you decide to feed your Ecoboost engine regular unleaded, you’ll experience about a 10HP power drop vs Premium.

If you need to bring that Ski-Doo or pop-up camping trailer with you, the 2.0L Escape has an optional towing package allowing up to 3,500lbs of trailer pulling. Ford’s AWDsystem is a $1,750 option on all models of the Escape (except for the base S model) and uses a JTEKT multi-plate clutch pack between the front and rear differentials. The system is capable of connecting or disconnecting the clutch pack any time it chooses to direct up to 100% of the power to the rear, assuming the front wheels have zero traction. If all wheels have traction the system can only vary power to the rear rubber from 0-50%.


The old Escape didn’t just look like a little truck, it drove like one too with plenty of body roll, brakes that didn’t inspire confidence and plenty of wind and road noise. Despite the weight gain, the new Escape feels far more nimble than the outgoing model thanks as much to the lowered ride height as the new suspension setup. Drivers will also enjoy a much quieter ride as the Explorer has benefited from the same extensive sound deadening treatments applied to the Fusion and C-MAX. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, and perhaps that extra curb weight, the new Escape never lost its composure on broken pavement.

Thanks to the turbo engine’s torque plateau, straight line performance is improved notably in spite of the 350 extra pounds. We hit 60 in 6.42 seconds, which is 1.5 seconds faster than a 2012 Escape V6 4×4 we got our hands on and about the same speed as the 2012 RAV4 V6. Of course all comparisons to a V6 CUV from Toyota are now moot since Toyota dropped the V6 for 2013. Ford’s 1.6L Ecoboost engine will be the base engine for most Escape buyers and this is the engine that should be compared with the competitions four-cylinder offerings. Regardless of engine choices, Ford’s 6-speed automatic is up-shift-happy and reluctant to downshift unless you bury the throttle. This shifting behavior is nothing new as most manufacturers resort to this kind of programming to improve fuel economy. On the bright side, the broad power band provided by both engines masks the transmission’s shift programming by allowing you to hill climb in high gear.

Our Titanium tester came equipped with all the features you need to traverse the urban jungle, from blind spot monitoring with cross traffic detection to a self-parking system. Ford’s “Active Park Assist” system is easily the most intuitive and easy-to-use system on the market. If you want to see it in action, check out our video on our YouTube page.

Ford claimed our 2.0L AWD Titanium model was rated for 21MPG in the city, 28 on the highway and a combined rating of 24MPG which is an improvement of 4MPG over the outgoing V6. During our 710-mile week with the Escape, we did see an improvement over the V6 tester, but it was only about 2MPG. The reason for this is obvious, in real-world mixed driving where you’re climbing hills and sitting in stop-and-go traffic, curb weight has a big impact since there’s more car to motivate. This the same reason the C-MAX performed below expectations in our tests as well. No matter what your Ford sales person might tell you, no, the 1.6L Ecoboost engine won’t give you the same economy as your old Escape Hybrid. Sorry.

Aside from no longer looking like a butch trucklet, the Escape is better in every way than the outgoing model, and isn’t that what progress should be? Of course, progress rarely comes free. The base Escape is $1,000 dearer than year’s model and our fully-loaded Titanium tester busts the budget at $35,630. With a three-engine lineup, more gadgets than many luxury cars and optional full-leather upholstery, the Escape is both a Kia Sportage competitor and gives the Acura RDX a run for its money. Until we can get our hands on the refreshed RAV4, the Escape is at the top of my shopping list and it should be on yours as well. Let’s just hope Ford doesn’t recall that 1.6L Ecooost engine again.


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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.36 Seconds

0-60: 6.42 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.95 Seconds @ 91.2 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 22 MPG over 710 miles

2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Ecoboost Badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, memory controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 58
Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (Video) Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:55:44 +0000

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ]]> 82
QOTD: What Does Premium Mean Anyways? Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:00:14 +0000

“Take BMW. In the near term, they will have nine entries in the compact segment. This is basically our heartland,” he told me on the sidelines of the Paris auto show. “With the brand reputation they have, you start to have a massive problem.”

-Gunnar Herrmann, Ford of Europe’s Vice President of Quality

Roughly a decade ago, BMW Canada started advertising how their new 320i (Canada-only, not for the USA) was retailing for $34,000, about the same price as a generously-equipped Honda Accord. The implied question was, what would you rather have? A Honda Accord, or a Beemer.

The first shot in the paradox of aspirational marketing may have been the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, a Golf competitor from the brand that made the 600 Großer. Rumor has it that Ferdinand Peich was so incesnsed by this, it spurred him to create the Phaeton, a Volkswagen that could compete with the S-Class. We all know how that turned out.

As the Automotive News article notes, a base model turbocharged BMW 1-Series is only 500 euro more than a mid-range Ford Focus with a similar powertrain. The quality gaps between the two must be nil, otherwise Ford risks losing customers to BMW. But what happens when the brand equity of BMW is so devalued that it ceases to mean anything? Mercedes answer to this question was an enormous flop. But if this strategy continues to be pursued, then prole drift is inevitable, and the only way for the wealthy to distinguish themselves via consumption will be Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Ferrari and the like. ‘

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More Bounce To The Ounce Ford 3-Banger Ecoboost Wed, 19 Sep 2012 14:00:48 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The introduction of three-cylinder (and even parallel twin) engines in subcompact and compact cars is a much needed dose of whimsy and engineerng prowess is a segment that is crippled by terminal homogeny. Although we don’t get the Fiat TwinAir powertrain, Ford’s 1.0L 3-cylinder Ecoboost will be coming to our shores, and by the time it goes on sale here, we’ll already have the tools to extract some more juice from the sub-1000cc engine.

EVO magazine has tested a 1.0L Focus with a Superchips ECU flash; power is up from 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft to 145 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque. You’ll have to wind the engine out to over 6000 rpm to make peak power – on the other hand, peak torque is available at 500 fewer rpm, meaning the 167 lb-ft comes in at around 2600 rpm.

The reflash costs about $737 USD, and there’s no indication of whether we’ll be able to get our hands on it Stateside. If it were made available, it would certainly liven up the theoretical Ecoboost Focus, and one can only imagine how it entertaining it would be in an Ecoboost Fiesta compared to the dour, lethargic 1.6L engine in the current car.

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Video Review: 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:40:38 +0000  

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 ]]> 73
Review: 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:03:46 +0000

You’ve got to give Sergio Marchionne credit for at least one thing: he’s a masterful negotiator. The Italian-Canadian FIAT exec bluffed General Motors into paying $2 billion for the right to NOT buy the Italian company. He went on to acquire a controlling stake in Chrysler for no cash. Instead, FIAT agreed to provide the auto maker, hollowed out by Daimler and Cerberus, with powertrains and platforms. Three years after that deal, Chrysler has introduced the first car developed for North America around FIAT innards, the compact Dodge Dart sedan (pre-production review).

Take an Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback, stretch it and widen it, add a trunk, and you somehow end up with a car that, aesthetically, would have fit right into Dodge’s late 1990s lineup. The distended front clip and clean, rounded surfaces recall those of the Avenger coupe, with a hint of second-generation Neon. But the height of the car is pure 2012, so there’s a lot more metal over the wheel openings than you’d have found on a circa-2000 Dodge. Perhaps the Dart will look right in R/T form (coming this fall). The SXT Rallye’s wheels, though 17 inches in diameter, appear undersized. This said, those who find the styling of Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra overwrought might prefer the Dart’s simpler forms.

Parts of the Dart’s interior appear similarly dated, with the center stack and console marked by the organic shapes and non-flush faceplates of a 1990s Pontiac. Other parts, most notably the reconfigurable LCD instruments in the upper trim levels and the large 8.4” “Uconnect” touchscreen, could not be more current. Then there’s the grating over the speakers, which looks like it belongs in a different car on a different continent, if not a different planet. This hodgepodge cleans up fairly well in the upper trim levels, where the hood over the instruments is upholstered, the upper IP surround is lit in red, and additional splashes of color are available on the door panels and seats. The exterior is available in a dozen colors, while the interior is offered in 14 trim combinations, both numbers well above the current segment norm. For some reason, though, all of the cars I saw on dealer lots were drably outfitted in black or, worse, gray. Materials quality is fairly good, with cushy armrests among the many soft-touch surfaces, but isn’t quite up to that inside a Ford Focus or a Chevy Cruze.

Drop down into the driver’s seat and the first thing you notice is that you don’t drop down very far. Compared to the Focus or Cruze, you sit high in the Dart—another aspect of the car that’s more 2000 than today. Even the base Dart has manual height adjusters on both front seats, but only the shortest people will likely employ them. This would be good for visibility—if the instrument panel were not very deep and the A-pillars were not somewhat thick and steeply raked. I drove the Dart on a hot day, and the amount of heat radiating off the top of the IP strained the A/C. The view to the rear could be Exhibit A in the case for mandatory rearview cameras. A good one with lines that trace the car’s path is packaged with the 8.4-inch screen.

The Dart’s front seats, though not entirely bereft of lateral support, feel slightly overstuffed rather than form-fitting. The German flavor of recent Ford and GM compacts is absent here, perhaps because FIAT, though European, isn’t German. Like those in the Focus and Cruze, and unlike that in the Americanized VW Jetta, the Dart’s rear seat offers barely enough headroom and legroom for six-foot-tall passengers and its cushion feels undersized.

The new Dodge Dart’s base engine is a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine good for 160 horsepower. Spend another $1,300 and you get a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine good for…160 horsepower. But the boosted engine is considerably torquier at middling engine speeds, 184 pound-feet at 2,500 rpm vs. 148 at 4,600. Even the 2.4 that will power the R/T has less twist (171 pound-feet @4,800) if more power (184). This is what the spec sheets say, anyway. On the road, the 1.4T feels soft south of 3,000 rpm. The car’s portly, midsize sedan-like 3,200-pound curb weight doesn’t help, but a variant of the same engine also must be spun north of 3k in the 2,500-pound FIAT 500 Abarth for any semblance of alacrity. This engine will be available with a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual, but at intro was offered only with the three-pedal variety. The third pedal leaves much to be desired, grabbing with scant feedback only near the very top of its long, spongy travel. The shifter is similarly long of throw and somewhat clunky, but is passable aside from a metal knob that heats to finger-scorching temps in the sunlight.

The Dodge Dart earned FIAT five percent of Chrysler by managing over 40 miles-per-gallon in the EPA’s tests—before the adjustments to make the numbers on the window sticker realistic. The window sticker numbers aren’t terribly impressive with the 2.0: 25/36 with the manual transmission and 24/34 with the automatic. The 1.4T with the manual does better, 27/39, but still falls short of the segment’s best.

The Dart’s chassis behaves well, with decent balance, moderate lean, and minimal float or slop. Still, damping isn’t as tight as in a Ford Focus or even a Buick Verano. Between this, a feedback-free electric-assist steering system, and the ever-evident aforementioned heft the Dart lacks the character of a precision instrument. A connection between car and driver proves elusive. Those seeking isolation will be more satisfied. The Dart rides softer than either the Focus or the Elantra. If and when the HVAC blower isn’t working like mad, interior noise levels are very low. Credit the triple door seals that Lexus helped make popular in the 1990s but that bean counters have often cut in the years since.

Dodge has much ground to regain in the compact sedan segment, so you might expect the Dart to be priced aggressively. But is it? Much like Hyundai, the Dart doesn’t so much have a low price as a slightly lower price paired with more stuff. The tested middle-of-the-range SXT Rallye with 1.4T and nav listed for $22,965. About $800 of this can be chalked up to the Rallye’s sportier exterior and interior trim, probably not the best value.

Like with the Ford Focus, stepping up to a higher trim level adds more to the feature list than it does to the price. When loaded up with high-watt Alpine audio, nav, heated leather, and a sunroof, the Dodge Dart Limited 2.0 lists for $24,865. A similarly-equipped 2013 Ford Focus SE, among the most expensive cars in the segment, lists for $25,505. Adjust for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, though, and the Dodge Dart ends up with a roughly $1,000 advantage thanks to features you can’t get on the Focus. These include four additional airbags, a heated steering wheel, rearview camera, rear cross-traffic detection, auto-dimming headlights, reconfigurable LCD instrumentation, and power four-way lumbar. Add the 1.4T engine to the Dodge, though, and they’re back near parity.

A 2013 Hyundia Elantra Limited with nav lists for $24,070, so less than the Dodge but not dramatically so. Adjust for feature differences and the Dodge ends up with a $500 advantage—until you add the 1.4T engine to get EPA numbers approaching the Hyundai’s.

Overall, the new Dodge Dart is a good car, even among the best in the segment, but some others are better looking, better constructed, roomier, more fun to drive, or more economical. An almost all-new car based on FIAT bits, its reliability very much remains to be seen. Its price is in the same ballpark as the Ford’s and the Hyundai’s, so until big rebates arrive, its window sticker isn’t compelling. Why buy one? A few features you can’t get anywhere else in the segment (but that won’t be found on most Darts on dealer lots) seem the most compelling reason. Is this enough? If the Ford Focus didn’t exist, I’d rate the Dart more highly. But the Focus does exist.

Brad Marshall of Suburban Chrysler in Novi, MI, provided the car. Brad can be reached at 248-427-7721.

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

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Comparison Review: 2013 Elantra GT vs. 2011 Elantra Touring Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:14:26 +0000

New exterior

Last year I recommended the Hyundai Elantra Touring for those who “want a simply designed car that’s easy to see out of, capable of toting a bunch of stuff, solidly constructed, and fun to drive.” A replacement was on the horizon, and I wondered if it would retain the ET’s increasingly uncommon strengths. Well, the 2013 Elantra GT is now here, and it performs well enough to rank above other new compact Hyundais. But what about its predecessor?

Old exterior

The Elantra Touring’s styling was “subtle” and “clean” if we’re being charitable, “plain” and “generic” if we’re not. Neither set of terms applies to the new Elantra GT, which adapts Hyundai’s current design language (XL hexagonal grille, headlights that stretch much of the way to aggressively raked A-pillars, undulating body sides) to a compact hatch package. Far more people will notice the new car, and many will find it attractive (at least from the side). But fans of the old car might think it overdone.

New interior

The interior of the Elantra GT is more stylized than that of the Elantra Touring, with a “piano black” faceplate on the center stack and far more Acura-like silver plastic elsewhere, but it’s more restrained than that in the Elantra sedan. The controls aren’t as close at hand or as simple to operate as those in the Touring, but this is partly because the 2013 car has far more infotainment features, including Hyundai’s new “Blue Link” telematics system.

Old interior

The view forward from the still comfortable driver’s seat, all but guaranteed to change dramatically with the redesign, has. The old car’s relatively upright windshield, compact instrument panel, and large side windows are gone, gone, gone. The Elantra GT’s instrument panel doesn’t appear as deep as it is. And Harrison Ford doesn’t look like he just cracked 70. The view rearward? Well, if you spring for the top option package you’ll get a rearview camera niftily concealed under the badge on the hatch. Not that any of this is worse than the current class norm. But I recommended the Elantra Touring specifically because it wasn’t au courant. Instead, it was a throwback to the days when compact hatches were easy to see out of and visually didn’t put a lot of car in between the driver and the road.

Like the Elantra Touring, the Elantra GT is heavily based on the European-market i30. The i30 is offered in two lengths, a hatch and an estate (the Queen’s English for “wagon”). Last time around we got the estate. This time, because not enough of you bought an Elantra Touring (yes, it’s your fault), we get the hatch. Combined legroom shrinks by over three inches and cargo volume drops from 65 to 51 cubic feet. The rear seat remains adequately roomy and, owing to a healthy height off the floor, more comfortable than most, but adults no longer have room to stretch. Cargo volume is competitive with other hatches but no longer rivals that of compact crossovers.

The Elantra Touring’s 138-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine didn’t win any straight line competitions, but paired with a five-speed manual transmission it delivered sufficient midrange grunt to seem peppy in day-to-day driving. Despite ten more peak horsepower charged with moving two hundred fewer pounds (2,745 vs. 2,937), the Elantra GT’s port-injected 1.8 feels downright gutless. At one point my co-driver turned to me and asked, “Did you have any idea I’ve had my right foot planted to the floor for the past five seconds?” No, no I did not. The manual shifter picks up one cog, and the automatic picks up two, such that both now have six. But at least in the case of the stick the benefits accrue entirely to fuel economy (up from 23/31 to a far more competitive 27/39). Between the engine, the ratios, and the deletion of the ET’s B&M-supplied short-throw shifter, there’s little grief but also little joy to be had rowing your own gears in the Elantra GT.

Hyundai USA CEO John Krafcik promises we’ll be happy with a future engine upgrade. He provided some hints: no turbo and no 2.4. My money’s on the 165-horsepower 2.0-liter four currently offered in the Tucson and Kia Soul. Hardly a lusty engine, but far better than the 1.8, which doesn’t remotely deliver on the promise of the “GT” appellation.

The Elantra sedan rides so busily and handles so vaguely that I can’t fathom what Hyundai’s chassis engineers were trying to optimize. The Elantra Touring’s Euro-tuned suspension provided more athletic handling and a much more composed ride. Add firm and well-weighted (if less than quick) steering to the mix and the car entertained. The Elantra GT’s Sachs-supplied dampers are likewise better tuned than the Hyundai norm, and in purely technical terms the new car likely handles better (though the Touring’s independent rear suspension has been replaced with a torsion beam). But the GT’s steering supplies less of a connection despite the new ability to vary the level of assist. The firmer “sport” setting doesn’t feel firm…until you try the other two.

Hyundais are no longer downright cheap, but they continue to be priced below the competition. The Elantra GT starts at $19,170. Add $2,750 for a Style Package that includes 17-inch wheels, a huge panoramic sunroof, 10-way power driver seat (not available in a Genesis Coupe), and heated perforated leather. Add another $2,350 for a Tech Package that includes nav, rearview camera, and automatic climate control. The Elantra Touring listed for $1,650 less than a Style Pack 2013. But adjust for the new car’s additional features (infotech, larger sunroof, power driver seat) using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and it emerges with a nearly $400 advantage. Similarly equip a Ford Focus SE, and it lists for about $1,300 more than the Elantra GT with Style Package. Adjust for remaining feature differences, and the Hyundai’s advantage doubles. A Mazda3 Grand Touring costs about $2,000 more than the Hyundai.

The Elantra GT is far more stylish than the Elantra Touring, and includes many additional features. But while there’s more show, there’s less go. The suspension remains well-sorted, but the steering and shifter feel less direct and the driving position is less confidence-inspiring. Rear seat legroom and cargo room are both less generous. In sum, the new car is better looking and better equipped but less fun and (aside from its superior fuel efficiency) less practical. I’d rather look at the new car, but I’d rather drive the old one.

But, again, not many people bought the Elantra Touring, so Hyundai rejoined the crowd. Consequently, the new car potentially appeals to a much larger group of buyers, but faces much more direct competition for them. The Elantra GT doesn’t drive as well as the Ford Focus, much less the aesthetically-challenged Mazda3, but it’s close enough that a GT-worthy engine would greatly reduce the gap. Until then, it does most things fairly well and you get a lot of style and stuff for the price.

Hyundai provided the cars, fuel, insurance, and two meals.

Michael Karesh operates, an online source of car reliability information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Elantra GT front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh New exterior Old exterior Elantra GT side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh New interior Old interior Elantra GT rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT view to rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Cannot reach base of windshield, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT cargo, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Elantra GT engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh ]]> 67
The Truth About Ford Focus Sales Thu, 01 Mar 2012 19:17:37 +0000

We’re still waiting to get the final February sales numbers on all automakers, but one emerging story is that the Ford Focus has finally outsold its domestic rival, the Chevrolet Cruze.

Throughout 2011 and January 2012, the Cruze led the Focus, with the Chevy beating the Ford last year by a substantial margin (231, 860 units for the Cruze versus 175,709 for the Focus). Last month the Cruze did 15,049 units versus 14,440 for the Focus. This month, independent analyst Timothy Cain is reporting that the Focus finally bested the Cruze. Chevrolet moved 20,427 Cruzes versus 23,350 for the Blue Oval’s small car.

Ford is touting a 115 percent year-over-year gain for the Focus, having sold 10,879 Foci in February 2011, but their fleet percentage back then, according to TrueCar, was just 1.6 percent.. One year later, it’s closer to 20 percent. February wasn’t even over when Ford started sending out press releases claiming that Focus sales are on pace to double this month compared to February of 2011. With reports of Ford Focus fleet sales hovering around 45 percent, we thought that it would be worthwhile to look at the fleet/retail breakdown for the Focus and Cruze in 2011, as a means of providing a bit of context .

Fleet sales, as we all know, cut into margins and hurt resale value. The Cruze and Focus weren’t that far off in the fleet race, but the big gap was in retail sales.

While Ford was complaining about not having enough Focus models to sell last year, the timing of Ford’s decision to dump Foci into their fleets (Ford wouldn’t give us a breakdown of daily rental sales either, stating that their total mix is around 12 percent) is also curious. Was this an attempt to move cars that were prone to quality issues (the MyFord Touch and dual-clutch gearboxes in particular) away from consumer hands? Even when Ford reached a “sales high” of 22,303 units in May of 2011, they were still sending 41.4 percent of Foci to the fleets. Check out the month-by-month charts below for a better breakdown. The first chart represents total sales in 2011 broken down by fleet and retail, while the second chart represents inventory levels from January 2011 to February 2012.

When Focus inventory was at its lowest points, its fleet sales were relatively high. This trend starts to reverse itself as inventory becomes higher. Focus retail sales, assuming the 20 percent fleet number is correct, would be at 18,880. Of course, the missing links here are the Cruze fleet sales numbers for 2012 and the incentives being doled out on both cars.

Looking at the bigger picture, inventory overall bouncing back and the Japanese automakers finally shrugging off their production woes, numbers for the Civic and Corolla should be even higher – the Civic was far and away the leader last year, and Honda barely moved any of them to fleets – by contrast, in June of 2011, Ford sent 50 percent of its Focus volume went to fleets. We’ll know more as the day progresses, but the compact segment as a whole is looking very strong for this month.

Thanks to TrueCar and Timothy Cain for the sales numbers



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Why Is Mazda Marketing a 58MPG Mazda3 SkyACTIV In Canada? Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:58:47 +0000

It was around April of 2011 when I noticed an ad in the Toronto subway for the 2012 Ford Focus, touting fuel economy of 59 MPG. I dwelled on that outrageous figure for a second, made a mental note to check if they were using Imperial MPG measurements and then promptly fell asleep on the train home and missed my stop. A Google search for the Ford Focus mpg claims didn’t yield anything from the Blue Oval, but did reveal a Google ad showing Mazda touting the same figures for its 2012 Mazda3 SkyACTIV, rated for 40 mpg on the highway. Even so, this would only be 48 mpg Imperial. So what gives? 10 mpg is not an insignificant difference.

The wildly exaggerated fuel economy claims came up again,while doing research for my Dodge Avenger story. Dodge’s Canadian website shows at 29/42 mpg city/highway, along with some other comically high figures, like the Challenger and Charger returning 24/39 mpg. Dodge notes that as far as fuel economy ratings go “Transport Canada test methods used. Your actual fuel consumption may vary.” Of course, when you convert the Avenger’s L/100km rating into US MPG (9.9 and6.7 respectively), the conversion works out to 23.76 mpg in town and 35.11 on the highway, which still doesn’t jibe with the notion that they are using Imperial MPG figures.

So, what exactly are the Transport Canada test methods? Canada’s Fuel Consumption Guide offers a long-winded explanation involving cars being broken in for 6000 km, and then tested on a dynometer using a standardized procedure. The only problem is that all fuel economy ratings are voluntarily reported to Transport Canada by the OEMs. A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company found that the Consumption Guide regularly overstated fuel consumption figures, sometimes by as much as 22 percent. The Canadian guide even offers a warning on page 10 advising consumers that

“Fuel consumption ratings in Canada and fuel economy ratings in the United States will differ significantly. Beginning with the model year 2008, the United States implemented additional testing cycles and procedures for its fuel economy ratings.  Furthermore, U.S. fuel economy ratings are listed in miles per U.S. gallon and are averaged based on U.S. sales and adjustment factors.”

The CBC report also stats that Canadian tests are done under “ideal conditions”, while the EPA’s 2008 revisions to their fuel economy standards “…added tests using air conditioning and during cold temperature at city speeds and harder acceleration and braking at highway speeds…” Canada’s methods, on the other hand, date back nearly 40 years.

What makes this so nefarious is that the L/100km metric is rarely understood by a population that ignored Canadian car publications for U.S. rags, making MPG the most common fuel economy heuristic in people’s minds. The cavalier attitude towards the marketing of mpg figures, in a country with a high cost of living, pricier cars and more expensive gasoline is quite frankly deceitful if not nefarious.

On Monday, I will be picking up a Mazda3 SkyACTIV, and while I had originally intended to do a Take Two Review of the car, I will be keeping a very close eye on fuel consumption. Canada’s fuel guide lists the car as returning 37/56 mpg for the sedan with a 6-speed manual, and 40/58 for the automatic equipped version – likely the Mazda reported numbers under “ideal conditions”. This works out to 7.7/5.0 L/100 km and 7.1/4.9 respectively. Converted to US MPG, this would be 30/47 or 33/48 mpg respectively. A discrepancy between the numbers is still present. Let’s see what I come back with at the end of next week. The Globe and Mail’s Michael Vaughan wrote a report about the matter this week, but nobody from AJAC, Canada’s Auto Journalist guild, has raised the issue so far.

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Pricing Analysis: 2012 Ford Focus Thu, 31 Mar 2011 16:25:37 +0000

When Chevrolet announced a few months ago that its new Cruze compact sedan would start at $16,995, more than a few people (who likely had not had a chance to personally experience the new car) were shocked. The Cobalt, which the Cruze replaced, had been priced nearly $1,300 lower—and had required incentives to sell at that price. Now Ford has announced pricing for the totally redesigned 2012 Focus, and it starts at…$16,995.

So it seems that Ford has matched Chevrolet’s pricing. But an interesting thing happens when you compare the two cars (along with the Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Jetta) using’s car price comparison tool:

MSRP Feature Adjustment Adjusted MSRP Difference
2012 Ford Focus S 16,995 0 16,995
2011 Chevrolet Cruze LS 16,995 -1,485 15,510 -1,485
2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS 16,800 -1,285 15,515 -1,480
2011 VW Jetta S 16,765 -435 16,330 -665

It turns out that the base Cruze has about $1,500 in additional content. Features standard on the Chevrolet but not the Ford include:

  • a sixth cog in the manual transmission
  • power rear side windows (front only in the Focus S)
  • knee airbags
  • satellite radio
  • OnStar
  • trip computer
  • center armrests front and rear
  • manual height and tilt for both front seats (driver height only in the Ford)

Most of these features are minor, but they add up. Not factored into these calculations: an additional 24 horsepower in the Focus from its larger (2.0-liter vs. 1.8) four-cylinder engine.

Once you add the Popular Equipment Package to get A/C, the Hyundai Elantra isn’t priced much lower than the other two. Adjust for features, though, and it ends up VERY close to the Chevrolet, and well below the Ford. Its 148-horsepower engine neatly splits the difference between the other two.

The base Jetta manages to undercut the Hyundai by a few dollars. Adjust for features, and it splits the difference between the Hyundai and Chevrolet on one hand and the Ford on the other. With only 115 horsepower, the Jetta’s antiquated base engine is easily the weakest of the bunch.

The picture changes when comparing fully-loaded (over $26,000!) compacts:

MSRP Feature Adjustment Adjusted MSRP Difference
2012 Ford Focus Titanium 26,985 0 26,985
2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ 26,780 +840 27,620 +635
2011 Hyundai Elantra Ltd. 22,795 +3,140 25,935 -1,050

Why the $2,000 swing with the Chevrolet? Three major reasons. First, upper trim levels of the Focus includes SYNC, which bundles more features than OnStar while similarly impacting the bottom line. Second, Chevrolet charges $1,995 for nav, while Ford charges a much more reasonable $795. Third, while all four Focus trim levels share the same engine, the Cruze LT and LTZ have a turbocharged 1.4 liter instead of the LS’s normally-aspirated 1.8. The uplevel engine makes about the same amount of peak power, but is considerably stronger at lower rpm. It also adds about $800 to the car’s price. Apparently turbos aren’t free.

A fully loaded Elantra is much less expensive than a fully loaded Focus or Cruze, but this is mostly because far fewer features are available on it. They Hyundai does have one feature the others don’t: heated rear seats. But it doesn’t have many things the Focus does, including a parking guidance system, front and rear obstacle detection, dual-zone automatic climate control, SYNC, and a power driver seat. Adjust for these features and the Elantra is $1,050 less at MSRP and a mere $258 less at invoice, which can be more indicative of actual transaction prices. The Hyundai is less expensive, but the difference isn’t nearly as large as it initially appears.

MSRP Feature Adjustment Adjusted MSRP Difference
2012 Ford Focus Titanium 24,995 0 24,995
2011 VW Jetta SEL 24,865 +1,350 26,215 +1,220

It’s not possible to include the Jetta in the same table with the others because far fewer features are available with it. When the Focus is equipped as close as possible to a loaded Jetta the list prices are very close. But the Focus has about $1,350 in additional features, including dual-zone automatic climate control and SYNC. Compare invoice prices and the gap widens to nearly $2,000.

At first glance, the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze look very expensive. And they do cost quite a bit more than the cars they replaced.  But compared to two cars known for low prices, the Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Jetta, the differences aren’t so large once feature differences are adjusted for. Hyundai and Volkswagen, recently known for the number of features included in their cars, have been decontenting while Ford and Chevrolet have taken a big step in the opposite direction. The Cruze looks especially good when comparing lightly equipped cars, while the Ford looks best when comparing loaded ones. A $27,000 Ford Focus that turns out to be a good value—who saw this coming?

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

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The Next Focus Comes With (Better than) Cruze (Body) Control Fri, 24 Sep 2010 02:52:12 +0000

This video wandered onto one of Ford’s YouTube sites today. It shows a Focus ripping around the Dearborn Development Center…

Having driven a Cruze in, if not anger, at least mild annoyance, I can tell you that if this video is any guide, GM’s Korean takeout isn’t likely to hang with this German bratwurst. While it’s very easy for any car to look dynamic around what is a highly technical test track, as I watch the body control I see a degree of competence that the Cruze simply doesn’t have, or perhaps doesn’t want.

The proof will be in the production-car pudding, but if you’re a subcompact-car intender, you might want to wait a few more months.

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This Is The 2012 Ford Focus ST Wed, 15 Sep 2010 04:01:28 +0000

We received this information only a few hours before the embargo, and there isn’t a lot of it. This is supposed to be the “Global” 2012 Ford Focus ST. How global? How fast? What exactly are those brakes? Read on.

Rather than retype the press release and claim it as our own work, we’ll just copy the relevant section in said press release for you to read:

At Paris, Ford is delivering on that promise by revealing an early preview model of the exciting next-generation Ford Focus ST. Targeted for launch in all global markets from early 2012, the all-new Ford Focus ST will be Ford’s first high-performance model developed under its global Performance Vehicles strategy.

The new range-topping Focus – which features a unique 250PS version of the 2.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine – will be completely true to Ford’s ST heritage, offering driving enthusiasts an intoxicating cocktail of exhilarating performance and handling accompanied by an addictive sound.

Visitors to the Paris display also cannot fail to notice the show car’s highly distinctive sports exterior, which is finished in ‘Tangerine Scream’, a dramatic new body colour that reflects the new ST’s exciting and energetic character.


250 horses from the two-liter EcoBoost should be a walk in the park, since it’s already boosted nearly that high for the Edge and Explorer. No word on whether that’s coupled to the “PowerShift” dual-clutch transmission that we have on the Fiesta now. I’ve raced the Ford Spec Focus cars that have about 210hp at the crank, using the standard Ford five-speed Focus transmission, so that’s a possibility as well. SVT Foci of the first generation (ST170 overseas) had six-speeders.

In Europe, “ST” is not the most hardcore Focus. There’s usually an “RS” above it. Don’t look for that rather expensive model to show up in the States, though.

The last question: What are those brakes? They’re clearly meant to look like ATE opposed-piston calipers, but I suspect they are sliding-caliper big brakes as found on the Audi S5. After three hours looking at the “cutout” surrounding the ATE logo on the high-res variant of these pics, I believe it’s a large-diameter slider. We will see tomorrow if I’m correct.

I’m excited about this one: with the departure of the better-than-you’d-think Cobalt SS and wayyyy-better-than-you’d-think Neon SRT-4, it’s time for Ford to carry the domestic compact performance flag for a while.

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