The Truth About Cars » Titanium The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +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 » Titanium 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 Focus ST Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:22:34 +0000

When you’ve reviewed over 600 cars, few new ones surprise you. With the polished road manners and granitic structure of a far more expensive car, the 2012 Ford Focus was one of the few. But its 160-horsepower engine, while easily adequate for daily driving, doesn’t provide the thrust many driving enthusiasts demand. For 2013, this should no longer be a problem. A 252-horsepower Ford Focus ST has joined the line.

Some people find the exterior of the Focus overdone, but when shod with large five-spoke alloys it’s the most attractive car in the segment to my eye, with an athletic stance, excellent proportions (for a front-drive hatch), and hardly a line out of place. For the ST, Ford has enhanced the egg with a cleaner front fascia with a black grille, a centrally-located exhaust, and a larger spoiler. Big buck AMGs should be this tasteful.

Inside, Recaro buckets included with either option package are the most noteworthy upgrade (the base ST is fitted with the supportive buckets from the regular Focus). With the ST3 Package, the seating surfaces are entirely covered with charcoal leather. I prefer the partial leather seats in the ST2 Package, as their center panels are covered in a niftily textured fabric and their bolsters inject some much needed color (yellow, blue, or silver). With either option the Recaros provide both excellent lateral support and long-distance comfort (unless you’re too broad for them). The ST also gains some auxiliary gauges atop the center stack. As in other upper trim Foci, interior materials appear of high quality and feel solid.

My least favorite aspects of the regular Focus cannot be altered without a major redesign of the car. The instrument panel remains tall and deep beneath a severely raked windshield. A more open view over a more compact instrument panel would make for a more engaging driving experience. The center console is also more intrusive than most, but this doesn’t bother me like it does some people. If you like a lot of room behind the wheel, the Focus isn’t the car for you.

Move to the back seat, and if you or the driver is much over 5’9″ you’ll wish you hadn’t. Legroom remains short of the segment average. If you aren’t very tall, though, you’ll likely find the rear seat comfortable.

While the regular Focus is available as a sedan and a hatch, in North America the ST is available only in the latter body style. This does make for a practical car, if not as practical as the wagon offered in Europe.

The engine in the Focus ST is no low-volume bespoke mill. It’s also available beneath the hood of most other Ford models, in the larger cars serving not as the high-performance option but as the high-MPG option. For the ST it does kick out another 12 horsepower, for a total of 252 at 5,500 rpm, but this is entirely due to a less restrictive intake and exhaust. The engine itself is physically unchanged. Good things follow. First, as we’ll discuss in more detail below, Ford charges surprisingly little for the ST upgrades. Second, refinement is worthy of a mainstream $30,000+ car. Third, fuel economy is much better than with the most direct competitor. The MazdaSpeed3 has EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway. The Focus ST does far better, with guilt-free EPA ratings of 23/32. (These estimates aren’t hard to replicate in the real world if you go easy on the gas.)

As it often does, refinement cuts both ways. There no kick or even a solid shove as boost kicks in. Instead, thrust builds very smoothly, and before you know it, the car is traveling well over 80 mph. Ford fitted a “sound symposer” to pipe intake noise into the cabin at high rpm. Nevertheless, the engine remains sufficiently quiet that a few times while powering out of a turn I felt the engine go limp, briefly wondered if a safety nanny had kicked in, then noticed that I was riding the 6,800-rpm rev limiter. It’s not easy to time shifts without keeping a close eye on the tach. First tops out very quickly. Between this and the tires’ inability to transfer all the engine’s torque to the pavement at low speeds, and ideally first would be a little taller.

While the ST’s peak power figure is actually a little low for a boosted 2.0-liter (likely due to its mainstream role), the engine excels in the midrange, with peak torque of 270 pound-feet at 2,700 rpm. An overboost function unique to this application plumps out the midrange another eight percent for up to 15 seconds. With this much torque channeled entirely through the front wheels, the question isn’t whether there’s torque steer, but how much. Well, there’s enough to mildly tug the steering wheel this way and that during hard acceleration, but not nearly enough that you have to fight to keep the car on your desired line. Hard shifts from first to second also effect a little wheel hop. The shifter and clutch for the mandatory six-speed manual transmission aren’t the best–you’ll read no rifle bolt analogies here–but they commit no notable sins.

There’s enough thrust that hard acceleration provides thrills despite the wet blanket of refinement and the family sedan-like 3,223-pound curb weight. But Ford offers the Mustang for those seeking straight line kicks. The Focus ST is really about handling. Even the regular Focus tackles curvy roads with aplomb. For the ST, Ford has added a variable-ratio steering rack, lowered the suspension a centimeter, firmed up the springs and dampers, totally revised the rear stabilizer bar, enhanced the suspension electronics, and fitted Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric three-season tires (in the same 235/40R18 size also offered on the Titanium). Thanks to these upgrades, the hatch’s handling goes from surprisingly good to amazing. The feel is much the same, with the body control of a much more expensive car, just taken up another couple notches. Between the tires’ extremely high limits, the revised suspension hardware, and the electronic torque vectoring, you’ll have to push the car harder than I was willing to push it on public roads to encounter more than a hint of understeer. On the other hand, lift off the gas at corner entry and the rear end slides outward enough to help the car through the turn (but not so much as to be scary). The Focus ST’s steering doesn’t provide nuanced feedback, partly because it uses an electric power steering system and partly because the tires simply aren’t slipping much. But thanks to its tuning and variable-ratio rack this system manages to feel both very solid on center and very responsive when the wheel is turned.

A bevy of electronic controls supplement the suspension hardware. Unlike in the regular Focus, the stability control can be switched to a sport mode or disabled entirely. As with any well-designed front-wheel-drive chassis, it’s not much needed. Ultimately, at some point I failed to reach, the front tires are going to scrub, and then backing off the throttle will safely reduce speed. When the stability control is disabled, curve control (which modulates the throttle and brakes to maintain a safe speed and line through turns) is also disabled. Curve control arguably doesn’t belong in the ST to begin with, but even when enabled it’s less of a nuisance than in models more likely to need it. Torque vectoring, which modulates the brakes to counteract understeer, is never disabled. As noted above, it’s quite successful in its mission. But it’s not entirely transparent. You can feel the brakes at work, forcing the chassis to take a different line than it inherently would. As a result, the Focus ST’s handling doesn’t feel entirely natural, and your control of the car seems less direct. Cars with balanced weight distributions retain an advantage here.

Some people find the ride of the regular Focus to be overly firm, but I find it nearly perfect, with precisely damped body motions over imperfect pavement. Despite its firmer suspension, the Focus ST didn’t seem to ride significantly worse than the regular Focus. I say “seem,” because the route prescribed by Ford didn’t contain any awful roads. During my first mile in the driver’s seat I thought the ride felt a bit busy, with some small sharp reactions, but this thought never entered my mind in the hours that followed. Even based on this limited experience, the Focus ST’s ride is clearly much more livable than that of a truly hardcore machine like the Evo, or even a VW Jetta GLI, Scion FR-S, or Genesis Coupe R-Spec. On top of this, noise levels from all three sources (wind, road, engine) are so low when cruising that the Focus ST feels like it’s traveling 20, even 30 mph below its actual velocity.

The sticker price on a regular Focus can exceed $27,000. So how could Ford possibly add a turbocharged engine, sport suspension, and Recaro seats without pricing the car out of reach? Well, they have. Run a Focus Titanium and a Focus ST through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool (with both loaded up to make their content as similar as possible), and you’ll find that the latter’s unique features only add about $2,100, a shockingly small amount given what you get in return.

Consequently, the Ford Focus ST starts at a very reasonable $24,495. For the Recaros in partial leather, Sony premium audio, and the MyFord Touch interface, add the $2,385 ST2 Package. Nav adds another $795, a sunroof (not on the tested car) another $895. The “tangerine scream” tri-coat paint on the tested car (more orange and dynamic in person than it appears in these photos) costs $495. Don’t believe in paying extra for paint? The “performance blue” resembles my favorite shade on the 2002-2005 Focus SVT.

Compared to the ST2, a MazdaSpeed3 is $1,885 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $1,100 less afterwards. The Mazda provides a somewhat more visceral driving experience but looks and feels like a far less expensive car. A Volkswagen GTI costs about the same as a similarly-equipped Focus ST, but doesn’t perform or handle nearly as well. Very much comparing an apple with an orange, the rawer, far less livable, and far less practical—but rear-wheel-drive and inherently balanced—Scion FR-S costs $460 more before adjusting for feature differences and about $2,300 more afterwards.

You can buy a more thrilling car than the Focus ST. You can also buy a more stylish car, a smoother car, or a more practical car. But if you’re seeking style, performance, handling, refinement, and everyday practicality all in same car, the Focus ST hatchback isn’t approached by anything else under $30,000 (as long as the wagon isn’t offered west of the Atlantic) and it isn’t often matched above this level. The stratospheric prices of Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes have never seemed less justified. If (like me) you’ve been thinking that the Focus ST might be the car for you, it is.

Ford provided insured, fueled cars along with lunch at a media event.

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

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Focus ST front, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST side, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST performance blue, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST interior, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST instrument panel, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST seats, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST view forward, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST rear seat, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST cargo area, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST engine, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Focus ST engine undressed, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ]]> 127
New or Used: Avoid “Titanium” Grade Depreciation Wed, 14 Dec 2011 16:37:28 +0000


Shawn writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

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

Steve Answers:

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev Answers:

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

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

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

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

]]> 71
Review: 2012 Ford Focus Titanium Wed, 04 May 2011 19:46:43 +0000

Yes, this is a $27,340 Ford Focus. And nav would add another $795. How could a Ford Focus possibly be worth this much? Read on.

As with the smaller Fiesta, there’s a whole lot going on in the exterior design of the 2012 Ford Focus. But all of the curves and creases manage to come together to form a coherent whole the looks both upscale and sporty—especially in the top Titanium trim with the $595 18-inch alloys and $495 “yellow blaze metallic tri-coat” paint. Some would prefer cleaner, simpler lines, but among the current crop of compacts this one looks the best to my eyes. Unlike many complicated designs, it shouldn’t age badly, as the proportions are good and none of the many details seems excessive or extraneous. (The large tail lights come closest to crossing this line.)

Inside the Focus, aesthetic complexity continues, and not quite as successfully as with the exterior. The design struggles to successfully combine both gunmetal and piano black trim, chrome highlights, contrasting stitching on the seats, and a prominent multicolored display. Like the exterior, the interior looks both upscale and aggressively sporty. In the upper trim levels materials and construction are as good as they get in this segment, and far, far ahead of those in the new Honda Civic. But on repetitive commutes or long drives it can help for an interior to be calming. This one is always sharply dressed for a night on the town. It’s not a place to kick back and relax.

Reviews of Ford’s latest-and-greatest controls have been mixed, at best. The touchscreen display looks fantastic—competitors’ control systems appear dated in comparison—and it’s fun to play with. But it isn’t easy to operate while driving. A very good voice control system reduces the need to use the touchscreen, but this isn’t a valid excuse. Luckily, well-designed knobs and buttons are provided for the HVAC controls and heated seats. There’s a physical power control for the audio system, but I couldn’t initially find it—it’s the small button beneath the left side of the CD slot.

As in the new Honda Civic, though for different reasons, the instrument panel is surprisingly tall. I had to crank the drivers seat up to comfortably see over it. Thankfully, the windshield isn’t laid back as far as some, and the pillars flanking it aren’t overly thick. Spotter mirrors aid rearward visibility; a good thing, as the rear deck is high. The front seats are outstanding, with both abundant padding for comfort and large, firm bolsters for lateral support. Perhaps Ford learned a thing or two from Volvo?

A disadvantage of the large front seats: there’s barely enough room behind them for the average adult. This could be a deal killer for some. A shame, as the rear seat is mounted high off the floor—for good thigh support and forward visibility—and nicely shaped. The trunk is a little larger than the class average, though conventional hinges do cut into the usable space.

Fire up the four and get going, and the initial impression is of a heavy, well-insulated car. As speed climbs the car feels lighter and more compact, but never quite tossable. Even with the Titanium’s sport suspension and the optional ultra-low-profile high performance tires ride quality is very good, only getting a touch abrupt over some minor bumps. The quantity and quality of the noise that enters the cabin suggest a premium car. The new Focus sounds and feels like money.

Even optioned for best performance, the handling of the new Focus isn’t overtly sporty. Like some high-end European sedans the new Focus feels a bit lazy in casual driving, but rises to the occasion on a challenging road. The 235/40WR18 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 summer treads that attend the optional 18-inch wheels provide a ton of grip, and the well-damped chassis has composure to spare. Perhaps due to the sport suspension there’s none of the on-center squishiness that afflicts the Fiesta. The steering feels quick and well-weighted around town—but borders on twitchy at highway speeds. As is almost always the case, feedback through the thick, heavily-padded rim could be better. For a direct, delicate feel and nuanced feedback, a Mazda3 remains the way to go. Though certainly fun to drive, the Focus Titanium is a luxury sedan first and a sport sedan second.

The powertrain could be the car’s weakest link. The direct-injected 2.0-liter four kicks out a very respectable 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, but it has to contend with over 3,000 pounds of curb weight. Consequently, while acceleration is easily adequate, it’s short of thrilling. The sound of the engine is also a bit out of line with the rest of the car. Though not unpleasant, and largely suppressed, the high-pitched whir is clearly that of a smallish four, and would seem more appropriate is a less luxurious, lighter-feeling car.

While a five-speed manual is offered in the lower trim levels, a six-speed dual-dry-clutch automated manual is mandatory with the SEL and Titanium. This transmission didn’t behave well when I sampled it in a Fiesta, with overly frequent, sometimes clunky shifts. This time around Ford’s new box behaved much better, more or less mimicking a conventional automatic. What it didn’t do: contribute to a sporty driving experience with lightning quick, firm shifts the way Volkswagen’s dual-wet-clutch DSG does. Unlike in the Fiesta, it is at least possible to manually select gears via a rocker switch on the shift knob. While this should do for grades and such, shifting via the lever would be better and paddles flanking the steering wheel would be ideal.

With the manually-shiftable dual-clutch transmission, the Focus earns EPA ratings of 27 city and 37 highway, very good numbers for such a well-equipped, rock-solid, reasonably quick sedan. The Hyundai Elantra does a couple mpg better, but it has a less refined, less granitic feel to it. The Focus weighs a couple hundred pounds more, and this has benefits as well as costs.

Reliability could be an issue. Based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, the smaller Ford Fiesta has gotten off to a rocky start. Many of the reported repairs involved a poorly functioning electrical ground, because of which the car would not start or the transmission would not go into gear. In a few cases the dual-clutch transmission shared with the Focus suffered a major failure. Hopefully Ford spent more time working the bugs out of the 2012 Focus.

Then, of course, there’s the price. The sticker only tops $27,000 if you get the top-level Titanium trim and load it up with options—many of which are not even available on competitors. For the features included and the car’s premium look and feel, the price isn’t out of line. Equip the new Focus SE like the $21,255 2012 Honda Civic EX, and it lists for $21,165. The main outlier: an Elantra Limited lists for $20,700, and includes heated leather in both rows. Even after adjusting for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, the Hyundai is about $1,300 less at MSRP and $700 less invoice-to-invoice (Ford dealers have larger margins to play with). The Ford’s higher price seems justified: it rides and handles better than the Hyundai, and simply looks and feels like a more expensive car.

Overall, the new Ford Focus is very impressive, with the look, feel, and features of a premium car, but also very good fuel economy. By most metrics it’s the best car in an increasingly competitive segment. The Mazda3 remains more fun to drive, and the Elantra costs a little less. But most people care more about ride than handling, and will be willing to pay a little more for the Ford’s advantages over the Hyundai. The big question mark: reliability. Time will tell. With owners’ help, TrueDelta—and TTAC—will have initial reliability stats for the new Focus in November.

Frank Cianciolo, an excellent salesperson at Avis Ford in Southfield, MI, provided the car for this review. Frank can be reached at 248-226-2555.

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

2010 Focus exterior 2012 Focus trunk 2012 Focus rear quarter Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Keeping Focus? 2012 Focus instrument panel 2012 Focus side 2012 Focus front 2012 Focus view forward 2012 Focus interior 2 2012 Focus rear seat 2012 Focus rear 2012 Focus front quarter 2 2012 Focus engine 2012 Focus interior Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2010 Focus interior

]]> 147