Ford Focus Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
ford focus review

Pop the hood of the new Ford Focus and you'll see an infestation of duct tape worms. Every wire is wrapped in black duct tape. And the thing is, Ford didn't even try to hide it. There's no flash-casted plastic cover to hide the Focus' handmade electrical insulation. I mean, how much would that have cost FoMoCo? Five bucks? What's more, the duct tape I discovered in the economy car's engine bay was already unfurling. That's worrying. But it's nowhere near as disquieting as the overarching Scrooge You cynicism informing every nut, bolt and rock hard panel of this po-faced makeover. What’s worse, the new Ford Focus looks atrocious.

When Ford reskinned the Focus to take-on the bevy of B-class beauties prospering from the patronage of economy-minded American car buyers, who’d a thunk they’d use the Medusa-esque Chrysler Sebring as a template? The resemblance is uncanny– and ungodly. The domestic sedans share the same dopey proportions; simmer surfacing, inelegant side and hood strakes; flared and squared wheel arches and what-the-Hell-do-we-do now? rear side glass. Encountering the Focus for the first time is like discovering that a short, fat, balding Elvis imitator has a less attractive twin.

The second time you clap eyes on the “new” Focus the detailing delivers the disastrous denouement. The front end is a dog’s breakfast; incomplete with a two-blade grill (the Fusion, Taurus and Edge get three) and a front bumper sculpted with a Play-Doh knife, that stands proud of the body only in the literal sense. The Focus’ side air vents are an unintentionally hilarious affectation hearkening back to the days when rear wings adorned econoboxes. And I’m not saying the back end is frumpy and ungainly– just in case you think Ugly Betty is a babe.

If Sam’s Club made an interior, this would be it: all the right bits in the right places without any color, style or comfort. Mind you, my tester was an SE stripper: no ambient lighting, all-weather floor mats or fancy SYNC™ system to tell your pacemaker to connect with your iPhone, stat. More importantly, the Focus’ steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach and there’s so little rear seat legroom that the front seat backs are stuffed with ground-up Nerf balls.

All this would be forgivable– no wait, it isn’t. Save Chevy's Aveo, every other economy car's cabin has a little something to recommend it. The Focus doesn’t. Sure, Ford’s erstwhile designers have eliminated the previous model’s egregious ergonomics, but the old gauges were more practical and attractive, and the stereo and climate controls weren't identical. The new Focus’ interior may be wildly inoffensive, but it reeks of cheap.

Nobody who’d buy a Focus would expect it to be anything other than frugal. And it isn’t. Yes, the Focus’ 2.0-liter Duratec is a smooth and parsimonious mill (helped by spare tire deletion). But the four banger is plenty loud, with a sonic signature that’s about as appealing as a motel vacuum cleaner. (At 4:30am.) The hard-as-nails Hankook all-season rubber adds to the din, which includes an unpleasant graunching noise (and burning brake smell) whenever you beat the Focus’ rear drums.

On the positive side, the Focus’ steering rack is a delight, with perfect weighting, a well-judged turning ratio and more-than-merely adequate road feel. Whether you’re crossing four lanes of highway traffic or fighting for supremacy in the supermarket parking lot, the car goes exactly where you point it. The Focus’ eight-year-old chassis’ motions are also well controlled, with minimal body lean or nose dive. As a result, the sedan isn’t entirely corner-aversive.

But with such little pep on tap, cheap shoes and more understeer than a freight train, who cares? By the time you get a Focus up to speed, the tires have already answered the Deliverance-style inquiry into porcine imitation. In case you were wondering, buying a Focus SE for driving pleasure is like purchasing a Ferrari 599 for mechanical reliability.

The Focus’ ride quality is the more important consideration; Ford’s normally masterful chassis tuners have got the balance between “Euro-inspired” handling and American-style comfort exactly wrong. You don't tip over, but you feel every lump and bump. The physical sensations are muffled, but there they are, entering the cabin like the report of distant cannon fire. There’s no glossing over the fact that the Focus’ aged underpinnings have outlived their usefulness; they give the car’s dynamics the mien of mean.

My biggest problem with the new Ford Focus isn’t the new Ford Focus. It’s the Mazda3. For a couple grand more than the box-fresh Ford, you get coherent exterior style, a classy cabin, an adult-compatible rear compartment, a better sounding powerplant, vastly superior handling, greater residuals and an engine bay without a trace of duct tape. Considering Ford’s relationship with Mazda and their long history of badge-engineering… Oh well. I guess Ford just couldn’t admit they’ve lost Focus.

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  • Nikkicoco Nikkicoco on Aug 31, 2011

    my 2007 ford focus has had nothing but problems with it i looked up online and they have problems with the transmission and alternator going bad around 40-50 thousand miles it is only 4yrs old. so i called bill pierre ford in lake city and i told them how many problems i have had with the car and heard they would fix it for free since there were so many people this was happening to well they were nothing but rude and not willing to help even though they have replaced other peoples transmissions when theirs went out I am so beyond myself right now I am forking out over $3,000 to repair my car. NEVER again will I buy a ford and I will make sure to tell anyone I know to never buy one. worst car I have ever had

  • Nikkicoco Nikkicoco on Aug 31, 2011

    My ford focus has had nothing but problems i would never recommend anyone to buy a ford

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
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