By on August 6, 2008

Ford\'s best-selling passenger car.Selling an SUV in today’s market is financial suicide. Residual values have dropped by double digits— and that was just last week. Buyers who somehow managed to complete the SUV exodus better watch out for the next auto da fe: fully-loaded versions of entry-level whips. Expect a serious depreciation hit for these luxury econoboxes at trade-in time. Still, checking the options list wisely works wonders for your driving pleasure. To wit: the lame duck Ford Focus.

Too bad the new Focus doesn’t come standard with beer goggles. Farago insists the Blue Oval’s smallest player hails from the same mold as the Chrysler Sebring. I beg to differ. Ford recovered from the car’s ungainly proportions by beating them with a beautification stick. Sure, the sedan’s tall and goofy profile remains, but the band saw-trimmed bumpers and yacht-like swage lines add enough aesthetic flair to keep my lunch down.

The options help too: the chrome-plated door handles, mirrors and tailpipe add visual justification for the (faux) fender vents’ existence, stopping short of true integration of form. The trim taillights are a clever step away from most automaker’s amoeba-fetish, and the headlights’ geometric details provide a safe refuge for displaced GORF junkies. Even the Focus’ rear bumper relief-cum-trunk handle justifies the hood’s obscure Mister T homage. I pity the fool; the Sebring wishes it was this cool.

Hey!  What are you looking at?While the base by name and nature Focus is no place like home, the upgrades make it a modern interpretation of the 1970s Bro-ham fetish. Now the center stack’s silver trim extends to the dash’s corners, gauges get a Scionistic attitude adjustment and the smooth-operator vent registers move up market with chrome accents.

Adding a thumpin’ subwoofer and in-car SYNCronization to a respectable entertainment system may not have been a stroke of genius, but it’s an arrhythmia of extra attitude. Surprisingly enough, the extra fun includes a button-intensive, leather-wrapped tiller. It’s a much-appreciated distraction, helping the grieving process for upscale SUV escapees.

Then again, the Focus is the Explorer Incarnate. And small cars riding high in the saddle are nothing but CUVs with non-climate controlled cargo holes. Maybe that’s fine: getting stuck in bumper to bumper traffic gives new appreciation for the Focus’ tall seating position.

Silver is the new woodgrained plastic.Ditto the fairly quiet cabin. The Focus’ up-gauged side glass is a page (silently) taken from Buick’s gospel of Quiet Tuning, while its lightweight (2700 lbs.) frame smoothes over the harshest pavement lumps, bumps and undulating waves.

Adding to the respectable cruising stance is a 2.0-liter Duratec four-pot with 140 horses. The smooth revs are class-mandatory, but the extra kick above 5000rpm is almost VTEC in delivery. Then again, there’s still a wide ratio four-speed autobox holding the revs down (and keeping mpgs up), delaying crucial downshifts and effectively dropping the Focus out of its powerband. So it comes as no surprise that the runs to 60 are in the respectable but unflattering 8.5 second range.

Here’s the real shocker: the sky-high Focus stays “tall” in the twisty stuff. Body roll won’t defy the laws of physics, but understeer doesn’t kill the fun. While the last-gen Focus (MacPherson) strutted its way to glory on the promise of fun on the cheap, the new generation’s cadence is slower but more confident. The steering is still intuitive, never lacking road feel in its reassuring helm.

Another case of a good engine sacrificed to a bad transmission on the altar of the almighty MPG.That said, the Focus’ dynamics depend on buying the right model and checking the right box. And the mandatory option for anyone young enough to read this site on a regular basis, or old enough to remember the original GTI, is the “European Inspired” rear sway bar. It’s standard on the SES models, optional on the SE trim level and unavailable on the base S.

If you do without, the Focus pitches and dives in anything harder than a congestion-soaked roundabout. With the bar, the fun-to-drive factor of the last-gen Focus is somewhat present and accounted for. Next, add the optional 16” wheels and upscale Pirelli rubber. The combo– which adds reasonable grip to the roll control– is only available on the SE models.

American pistonheads are collectively crying for the Euro-spec Focus, hoping it won’t be dumbed-down. Meanwhile, the stateside Focus has enough going for it to keep Sebring references at bay. But the upgrade known as the “SE Deluxe” package is compulsory. This combo includes all the exterior sizzle, interior accommodations and those sorely needed hi-po tire and suspension bits.  So what of high-content, small car depreciation?  At just $395 for the package, the bullet is dodged.

The taillights are kind of small, but size doesn\'t really matter, right?No doubt: these additions to focal fortitude make the Focus work. They help keep craptastic competitors like the Sebring and Cobalt at arms length, and stop the sniggering from Civic LX and Corolla LE owners. Why Ford didn’t make this package standard on the mid-grade SE is beyond me. Live and learn?

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117 Comments on “2008 Ford Focus SE Review...”


  • avatar
    rudiger

    The ‘new’ Focus is just another typical rolling turd on wheels from Detroit aimed squarely at the fleet/rental market. It’s selling well now for no other reason than its rather outré appearance, it’s cheap, and it gets good gas mileage. If the Aztek were still being built and it was as cheap and got as the same gas mileage as the new Focus, it would be selling well now, too.

    Slotting it above the Cobalt and Sebring (or, more accurately, the really craptacular Caliber), but below the Civic LX and Corolla LE, is just about right.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    “Tis a shame in my opinion. The Focus was a great car when it first came out, and the media reviews/sales numbers reflected that. Now, look at the monstrosity it has devolved into.

    I can’t wait until the Fiesta gets here; I’m confident that it’ll be a great car for a few years, until that gets dumbed down too.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    The big question is: Does this review justify a position on the Ten Best for the lame duck Focus?

  • avatar
    threeer

    Sajeev,

    Excellent GORF reference! Man, has it been a long time since I heard that.

    As for the Focus, it is somewhat of an eye-sore to be sure, but easily fogotten in the crowd. As has been mentioned, it sells (relatively) well due to the MPG and comparatively low price point. Still, for that money I’d rather find a nice, used three-year old Civic…

  • avatar

    When this new Focus was first released, I admit that I was an unabashed hater, but then I rented one for a week and found it to be a comfortable, competent little car. I was impressed enough that I suggested my mom pick one up to replace her wheezing, break-downy van, and she did, and she’s more than happy with her decision. She’s averaging 33 mpg lifetime, and paid about 14000 for the car brand new with Sync and some other options. It’s no sports car, but this is a quiet, competitive player on the small-car commuter market, and I think it more than holds it’s own against the Civic and Corolla, both of which my parents test drove and decided against (citing the superior comfort of the Focus). The Focus is an old but proven platform, and the research I’ve done has shown good reliability information. Bring price into the equation, and going Japanese has a lot more to do with badge prejudice than actual performance or reliability numbers.

    Of course, I’m a bit of a homer on this one, but it’s nice to see an American badge on a fuel-efficient, well-built small car (I didn’t see any duct tape in my mom’s engine bay). It’s still pretty ugly, but underneath the skin it’s a decent value proposition.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Nice counterpoint…no mention of Farago’s loathed duct tape-bound wiring harness, though!

    Body roll won’t defy the laws of physics, but understeer doesn’t kill the fun.

    So are you saying “understeer can still be fun” or that “there is no understeer to kill the fun”? ‘Cause if it’s the latter, then you just weren’t pushing hard enough….and if it’s the former, well, ditto, space cadet!

  • avatar
    danms6

    The panties will drop once they get a glimpse of your chrome Focus door handles!

    In all seriousness, it’s nice to see the SE package can provide relatively cheap thrills. Now if only they can design a decent looking car to start with…

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Sajeev,

    I can’t believe you said, “the chrome-plated door handles, mirrors and tailpipe add visual justification for the (faux) fender vents’ existence”.

    I’m sorry but, the faux fender vent is not justified. It is horrible. It is the worst faux fender vent of all time, IMHO.

    While the Focus chassis is solid, I am amazed that people buy this car with that body. Its low, low price has got to be the deciding factor. If Ford hadn’t dumbed down the driving dynamics and had given it better styling, I believe they could actually get a premium for Foci.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    My dad always taught me that it is no shame to admit your ignorance, but it is truly shameful to pretend you know what’s going on when you truly don’t. You miss opportunities to learn that way. In that spirit, would somebody please explain the meaning of GORF to this ignorant soul?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but this thing is fugly from every angle to my eyes. I would say it is about as retarded looking as the Sebring. Classic example of design by committee.

    To Mark: You are either too old to have played arcade games in the 80s or too young… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorf

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    2700 lbs? Hell, my Impala only weighs about 500 pounds more than that! No wonder the Focus doesn’t have great fuel economy (which, interestingly, wasn’t mentioned in the review… just sayin’)

  • avatar

    Mark MacInnis: Gorf is an old arcade game.

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorf for more details.

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven the 2008 yet. Like many others, I’m too upset that they ditched the awesome SVT and then the also-quite-good-and-cheaper ST. I also don’t care for cars that aesthetically attempt to appear other than they are.

    TrueDelta doesn’t have enough data on these yet. Maybe in November. Aside from the 2000, earlier years appear to be about average in reliability. But more recent Ford models have been quite solid, and it’s possible that Ford similarly improved the Focus with the 2008 redesign.

    To participate in this research:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    If Ford could dial down the silliness (*cough*fender*cough*), the Focus might actually look good.

    My dad always taught me that it is no shame to admit your ignorance, but it is truly shameful to pretend you know what’s going on when you truly don’t. You miss opportunities to learn that way. In that spirit, would somebody please explain the meaning of GORF to this ignorant soul? That has to be the best way of saying “WTF are y’all talking about?” ever.

  • avatar
    John R

    Still, for that money I’d rather find a nice, used three-year old Civic…

    Or a used Mazda 3, or 4-pot Mazda 6, or a ’06-’07 V6 Sonata…all with low miles, like below 15k. I could go on.

    Pass. No matter how good it is on its own merits there are still much, much better looking buys for the same money in the used car market.

  • avatar
    NickR

    (faux) fender vents’ existence

    This trend needs to be laid to rest asap.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    This car is a leftover from pre-Mulally days. Things will get better.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    lprocter1982 : There is no way an Impala weighs 3200lbs. Unless you’re talking about an Impala from the mid 20th century, and even then I think they were heavier.

    The Cobalt’s styling, both inside and out, is in an whole different league than the Focus. Although from the sound of it, it seems like that’s the only advantage the Cobalt has over the Focus. I don’t understand why Ford has felt the need to make the Focus so offensively ugly since its inception.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    The Sebring is a competitor of the Focus now? When did that happen?

    The fender vents can be blacked out on certain ’09 sporty models. So, that takes care of that issue for those that think it’s an issue.

    Overall, I think this is a competent entry into the field. The dash just scares me a little bit.

  • avatar
    barberoux

    The original Focus styling was idiosyncratic and people loved it or hated it. At least there was some emotion associated with the style. This thing is bland, bland, bland. It doesn’t offend; it doesn’t attract. It’s neutral.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    barberoux : I would argue that the style of this Focus absolutely does offend. I am disgusted by it to the point where I’m not even sure I would want to rent one. I would honestly rather suffer through the dismal driving experience of a Cobalt or Aveo then to have to get behind the wheel of a car this ugly. It’s that bad

    And the original wasn’t much better. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who ‘loved’ the style of the original, and I’m not sure I really want to meet a person that finds a car like that good-looking

  • avatar
    Liger

    The Focus does lose it’s faux fender vent in the 2009 model year.

    http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2008/05/2009-ford-focus.html#more

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    After driving the ’08 Focus SES (5-speed) and an ’08 Mazda3 (5-speed) hatch back to back, the choice was obvious. When the Ford dealer heard that I had driven a Mazda3, he said, “Gah, losing another one to the Mazda3!”

    In 2004, the Focus should have moved to the C-1 platform in the U.S., along with the then-new 3 and Volvo S40. Ford had a chance to encourage current Focus owners to upgrade. But Ford blew it.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Sounds like a Civic LX wannabe. Let’s compare numbers:

    Focus SE:
    MILEAGE: 24/33 PRICE AS TESTED: $18,920

    Civic LX:
    MILEAGE: 25/36 PRICE (w/destination charge): $18,395

    Sure, you can deal and get incentives on the Focus that you can’t get on the Civic, but the Civic will still be worth $12k when you’re done paying it off.

    Result: epic FAIL for Ford.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Having seen both the 2-door and 4-door in person, the 4-door styling is not that bad. The 2-door makes me want to bleach my eyes.

  • avatar
    Dr. D

    The Focus isn’t really bad looking, more like a composite of 3 or more vehicular/styling takes. All in all for Detroit, not a bad package. The ultimate genuine concern is will it: pop out spark plugs, catch fire and burn your house down or be found on road dead.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What a shame. The old Focus was still a competitive car–a testament to how good the original design was–and it’s a shame that Ford’s efforts over the past ten years have amounted to either decontenting said excellent design (cheaper materials, loss of features with each generation), or flat-out whacking it with the ugly stick.

    I have to disagree with the review’s take on the Focus’ aesthetics. The contention seems to be that the shape is wrong but the detailing helps it. I don’t agree: the basic Focus shape is a good one, but the details clutters it up. The comparison to the Sebring is apt: not bad lines, awful brightwork and detailing. The New Edge version was by far the most cohesive-looking and combining it’s exterior with the current interior would have been a winner.

    I will say, though, that the Focus sedan looks the most awkward of the old bodystyles: the shape looked a lot better on the hatch and was perfected in the wagon. The sedan and coupe suffer from “Toyota Echo Syndrome”; the sedan was a compromise badly derived from a hatch/wagon body.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading. If Ford’s reading, its time to make the SE Deluxe Package standard, so the SE is just as “good” as the SES, and so that monochrome cosmetics are all that differentiate them. You have the base model for crappy car purchasers, no need extend the pain to your higher models.

    ————–
    rudiger : If the Aztek were still being built and it was as cheap and got as the same gas mileage as the new Focus, it would be selling well now, too.

    LOL, its funny because its true.

    ————–
    NetGenHoon : The big question is: Does this review justify a position on the Ten Best for the lame duck Focus?

    Please, no!

    ————–
    threeer : Excellent GORF reference! Man, has it been a long time since I heard that.

    If those headlights could talk, they’d talk like that GORF guy. You feelin’ this, Space Cadet?

    ————–
    kazoomaloo : When this new Focus was first released, I admit that I was an unabashed hater, but then I rented one for a week and found it to be a comfortable, competent little car. I was impressed enough that I suggested my mom pick one up to replace her wheezing, break-downy van…

    You described my time with a Focus over the course of a few weeks. Pretty much why it got 3 out of 5 stars.

    ————–
    doctorv8: Nice counterpoint…no mention of Farago’s loathed duct tape-bound wiring harness, though!

    I looked and it wasn’t there. Nice, respectable engine bay. But I found plenty of that mess in a friend’s new 2008 Escape Limited. Obviously Farago needs to do another podcast with that Ford Quality Guy.

    ————–
    guyincognito : I can’t believe you said…I’m sorry but, the faux fender vent is not justified. It is horrible. It is the worst faux fender vent of all time, IMHO.

    Ok, let’s talk integration. ☺

    When you look at how the swageline wraps around the vent, goes down the body side in harmony (sorta) with the chrome door handles, becomes the cutline on the chromey taillights and the height transition on the decklid…well, let’s just say that I like how J Mays and crew made lemonade from that lemon.

    The worst vent? Nope, I give that title to the new, poseur, Lincoln MKS. That vent is the lamest, least integrated item ever to grace a fender. And worst of all, it makes a mockery of the four pointed star that graced real Lincolns for over 50 years.

    ————–
    guyincognito : While the Focus chassis is solid, I am amazed that people buy this car with that body. Its low, low price has got to be the deciding factor.

    Price and SYNC. Plenty of people at this price point have MP3 players and SYNC is a big draw. People ask me about it all the time, too bad I’m perfectly content with a CD player.

    ————–
    Mark MacInnis : You miss opportunities to learn that way. In that spirit, would somebody please explain the meaning of GORF to this ignorant soul?

    Man, I feel so old right now. It’s the same Farago-Cheesecake Shot moment he posted on a podcast.

    Mark, Google is your friend. :)

    ————–
    lprocter1982 : 2700 lbs? Hell, my Impala only weighs about 500 pounds more than that! No wonder the Focus doesn’t have great fuel economy (which, interestingly, wasn’t mentioned in the review… just sayin’)

    It gets pretty good economy, my tight-motor’d tester got 33 on the highway and 26 city, and I wasn’t a lightfoot all the time. And, like others have said, your Impala is more like 700 lbs heavier.

    ————–
    Buick61 : The Sebring is a competitor of the Focus now? When did that happen?

    From a styling standpoint only. Although I know the deals are getting sweeter and sweeter at your local Chrysler dealer…

    ————–
    detroit1701 : In 2004, the Focus should have moved to the C-1 platform in the U.S., along with the then-new 3 and Volvo S40. Ford had a chance to encourage current Focus owners to upgrade. But Ford blew it.

    And they used to say it was too cost prohibitive to make a C-1 Focus for America. But, about a year ago, they changed their tune and rumor has it that the REAL Focus is coming back to our shores. (Maybe as a Mercury)

    ————–
    Axel : Sure, you can deal and get incentives on the Focus that you can’t get on the Civic, but the Civic will still be worth $12k when you’re done paying it off.

    Your comparo doesn’t include the fact that my tester had a better (Audiophile) stereo and SYNC…the Civic will cost more when you option them up correctly.

    You pay more for the Civic and it will be worth more. No arguement there. But demand for small cars is so crazy that I’m shocked at how well the used car market is treating ALL Foci. Turnaround is fast and depreciation is better than any other Ford…

    Well, except for the GT. That doesn’t count.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I am still not onboard with the chrome fishgills, but the rest of the Focus looks quite a bit better in person than it does in photographs. It also looks quite a bit better in darker colors that play up the brightwork inside of the tail-lamps.

    I agree with your overall driving impressions, it handles respectably in a quiet and comfortable manner. You won’t be autocrossing with one, but at the same time you won’t fear for your life hitting the backroads or a fast twisty onramp either.

    The best things about this Focus though are the interior amenities and ergonomics. While it is not a high grade interior by any means, it doesn’t look bad in the black colorscheme, and it is roomy and comfortable. However, nice touches like a full 10 digit numeric keypad (for quickly punching in AM/FM or Sirius station numbers), two powerports on the front stack (so a radar detector and a cell phone, two cell phones, or whatever combination you want can charge), the heads up display for climate/compass/radio/etc to keep eyes on the road, and bevy of steering wheel mounted controls all add up to make it intuitive and pleasurable to operate.

    Also, Sync is hands down a killer feature. Bluetooth cell phone and USB audio integration with voice control that actually works all for around $395 on the options list can’t be beat. Other cars have bluetooth, and others have iPod stereo in jacks, but no other system will automatically download your phonebook and allow you to make a call by touching a button on the wheel and saying ‘Call ‘ or let you jam out to Sting by saying ‘Play album All This Time’.

    Overall the situation with the Focus is that while other cars in the segment may handle better, look nicer, or return slightly higher fuel economy numbers, the Focus beats them all in the category of being a cohesive easy to live with easy to take for granted daily driver for those who just want a car they don’t have to work to enjoy or take advantage of.

  • avatar
    RoweAS

    I have to laugh. There are so many uglier cars out than this (I am looking at you Audi, Toyota,Pontiac). The fake vent doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s what it is, a reasonably priced entry level car.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I want to ask all of you guys dumping on the focus if you actually seen it in person? I mean, I thought the focus looked like shit when I saw the first PR pictures of it, but I then saw one in a parking lot. I looked around at it at all angles, and I didn’t think it looked half bad in person.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Sajeev:
    Your comparo doesn’t include the fact that my tester had a better (Audiophile) stereo and SYNC…the Civic will cost more when you option them up correctly.

    If you could get the Civic EX without the moonroof that might be a better comparison. It’s just a hair over $19,510+dest with the moonroof, so take the moonroof away and its MSRP is in your tester’s ballpark.

  • avatar
    Axel

    RoweAS:
    I have to laugh. There are so many uglier cars out than this (I am looking at you Audi, Toyota,Pontiac).

    The new Corolla, for example, looks like a current gen Camry that’s had a run-in with a car crusher. When we were shopping, my wife took one look and said “Ew.” No test drive required.

    Of course, she said the same thing about the Focus.

  • avatar
    factotum

    Was this article meant for Autoblog? Or am I reading “The Onion” in TTAC disguise?

    “Ford recovered from the car’s ungainly proportions by beating them with a beautification stick.”

    It’s a design only a fanboy could love.

    “it comes as no surprise that the runs to 60 are in the respectable but unflattering 8.5 second range.”

    Unflattering especially compared to the four-ton Super Duty that does 0-60 in 8.7 seconds (as tested by Car and Driver).

    And that dash, my Jeebus, that dash. Too much silver plastic in the wrong orientation. It should be running vertically so as not to blind passengers when driving east from the setting sun. It’s like the interior designer(s) just gave up!

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    This has to be the worst looking car–inside and out–since the Aztek.

    For a tiny bit more money than a loaded Focus ($21K)…I’ll take the MUCH better Cobalt SS. The only reason this Focus is selling is because of gimmicks and gas prices. Otherwise, there is ZERO reason to spend a dollar on it…let alone thousands.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    “I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who ‘loved’ the style of the original”

    Well, not in person, maybe. I thought the original sedan was as nice looking small sedan that I’d seen (I’m old – maybe that explains it). I have yet to meet a Toyota, Honda, or anything else that was better. The original interior sucked though. The new one seems much better.

  • avatar

    factotum: when has Autoblog said that a car’s styling “add(s) enough aesthetic flair to keep my lunch down.”???

    Like I’ve said before, I think that swage line is pretty nice. It integrates the middle of the car pretty well with the rear. If only the Focus was 1-2 inches shorter (i.e. not a CUV), the styling might actually make sense for a car. The Sebring on the other hand, takes the Saturn Ion’s disjointed design and raises it another ugly card.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    A silly feature like SYNC is not a good reason to purchase a sub-standard car! Auto-makers have always tried to compensate for poor quality by loading up a half-a$$ car with “nice” features.
    That has been the domestic way of selling cars for a very long time and it has NOT helped them at all.

    A crappy car is still a crappy car no matter how much “nice” junk is offered as standard equipment! If Ford wants to survive they need to aim their products at the “smart” shoppers the way that Toyota and Honda do.
    The Civic, Corolla, Accord, and Camry all cost more than the domestic competition yet they continously outsell them. This is because “smart shoppers” are looking for REAL value in a HIGH QUALITY product not a bunch of “features” stuffed into a low-buck ride.

    In three to four years when that Focus starts to show its age, has lost all remaining value, and is still not paid-off Folks will no longer care about that SYNC system and chrome door handles but they will be stuck with a worthless POS car.

  • avatar

    P71_CrownVic: For a tiny bit more money than a loaded Focus ($21K)…I’ll take the MUCH better Cobalt SS.

    You’d have to be nuts to buy a fully loaded Focus. I wouldn’t spend a dime more than the car I tested. (and be nuts to pay MSRP, but that’s a whole ‘nother story)

    Oh, and the SS is expensive and kinda thirsty. Not that isn’t a decent ride (from what everyone says) but its almost comparing apples to oranges.

  • avatar
    dean

    I’ll have to agree with Runfromcheney: it does look better in person. I walk past one regularly with my pups and in the flesh it isn’t that bad looking. On the other hand, the faux fender vent looks worse in person. Please ditch it, Ford.

    I think what bothers me most, however, is that this Focus is based on the same platform as the Mazda3 which is, for my money, one of the best looking sedans on the market at any price. So you shouldn’t have to qualify an opinion of the Focus by saying it looks better in person. They should have done it right from the get-go.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I have seen this focus in person, both the 2 and 4 door models. I think they are unbelievably hideous. The chrome gills and accents just look cheap and tacky. Yes they do look better at night, specifically, pitch black with the lights off.

    The old one was better, I didn’t hate it. Though it a bit awkward looking, but the SVT version looked pretty good lowered a bit.

  • avatar
    factotum

    Sajeev:

    I withdraw my Autoblog comment. But you do not take umbrage at my Onion jab?

    AB is more disliked around here than I thought…

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ dean:

    It is not based on the same platform as the Mazda 3. This is part of the reason for the ugly styling.

  • avatar

    factotum: no worries, I like both websites, but neither captures the spirit of what I’m trying to do here with the Focus.

    Watching GORF on YouTube really nails it. Everything else, not so much.

    Too bad SYNC’s voice synthesizer doesn’t talk like that.

  • avatar
    Phred_da_Phrog

    The red coupe in KickingTires doesn’t look too bad… looks like a Focus was raped by a Saab Turbo X a little bit, with the attack of the killer graphite paint…

  • avatar
    carguy

    While the focus is no Mazda3, it does meet the market demand for affordable and safe transportation. My neighbor bought two of these for his teeneage kids at $11K per car and it meets their needs perfectly – safe, practial, not too fast and under warranty.

    Those lamenting the lack of a Euro C1 Focus should visit their local Mazda dealer.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Definitely not a bad little car, and does well for those wanting simple transportation that is easy to live with and fun to drive. And they still have the nimble dynamics of the first generation.

    My neighbor bought a coupe (to complement their old VW Fox coupe…go figure) and it’s not bad looking from some angles. The big side windows remind me of a late 90’s Civic. My Mazda3 wagon drives a bit better but it’s also heavier and has a bit more torque/power.

    I think a fun Focus would be a pretty basic model with the Mazda MX-5 2.0l I4 (which is similiar to the old SVT Focus I4) or just fit the 2.3l (or updated to 2.5l) in there and use some older RS suspension components. Would I trade my Mazda in for that? No, but it’d be nice to secretly desire.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Michael Karesh “I haven’t driven the 2008 yet. Like many others, I’m too upset that they ditched the awesome SVT and then the also-quite-good-and-cheaper ST. I also don’t care for cars that aesthetically attempt to appear other than they are.”

    I agree Michael. I have a 2005 ST and it runs great. I upgraded to Bridgestone Potenzas for better wet grip but other than that it is stock. I can understand Ford doing away with the ST because it didn’t sell and I got quite a deal on it. I get 30MPG highway (my wife gets 25-27 but thats another story) and it drives like a go-kart. Very stable, good steering, good brakes and great suspension (but you can get airborne if not careful)Sorry to see it not renewed.

    As for the look of the new model at first I hated it but it has kind of grown on me and now I can tolerate it or at least look at it without puking. It is selling well so Ford might be smarter than we think with the general public. Us car nots will have to wait for the Euro-Focus.

  • avatar
    blautens

    As a big fan of the original Focus (while not overlooking all the areas where Ford went wrong – NVH, reliability, etc.), I’m just so, so disappointed in you, Ford. You can do better. You have potential.

    This little dewdrop of guilt was courtesy of my mother. I hope it inspires you to do better next time, or spend years in therapy – your choice.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I want to ask all of you guys dumping on the focus if you actually seen it in person? I mean, I thought the focus looked like shit when I saw the first PR pictures of it, but I then saw one in a parking lot. I looked around at it at all angles, and I didn’t think it looked half bad in person.

    There’s a black one in the parking lot where I work. It’s usually parked near a New Edge-era Focus wagon and not too far from a post-2005 facelift ZX5 hatch. Believe me, the wagon and the hatch look a lot better. Some of that is the general dorkiness of the Focus sedan, but most is the detailing.

    The worst–the absolute worst–is the trunklid. It’s this awful expanse of metal that actually looks warped. My father has a 2002 sedan that looks clean, if econodorky** in proportion. The trunk area is not at all objectionable prior to 2008.

    The grille is the next most objectionable feature. I like the three-bar grille on the Fusion, Edge and Taurus. I think it’s a nice touch and makes Fords easily identifiable. The Fusion is especially striking. The Focus’ two-bar looks cheesy by comparison; like they tried to do the three-bar but couldn’t find a cheap way to make it fit.

    Oddly enough, I like the fender vents. They look like a stylized “F” from certain perspectives and add a nice touch to the car. From the side, it’s not bad looking.

    I almost bought a wagon in 2002. I didn’t because the reliability rankings were still problematic, but functionally it was such a good car I was very close to saying “heck with it, I’ll take the risk”. That’s what gets me about the Focus: it was just so good in 2000 that it’s sad to see how far it’s fallen. You can excuse the Cobalt because it’s “Meh” and has always been “Meh”, but the Focus was a worldbeater in 2000: handled better than the Civic and Protege, rode better than the Corolla and Golf and had better packaging than all of them. And now it’s not just an also-ran, but a worse car than it was in 2000. Pathetic.

    ** I own a Fit and pre-2003 Saab. I know from dorky.

  • avatar
    changsta

    How many people here have actually driven the first gen focus (2000-2004)? I think you would have been pleasantly surprised. I guess I am biased, because I used to own a 2004 Ford Focus ZTW, but that car was a great daily driver. It was comfortable, roomy (compared to other cars in the class), good on gas, and fun to drive. It was Ford’s cost cutting in the interior that led me to sell it. In only 84,000km, the interior was rattling incessantly and pretty much drove me to sell it for something more refined.

    I drove the Mazda3 before I decided on the Mazda5, but I personally did not find the Mazda3 to be as fun to drive as the original Focus. Sure, the Mazda is much more refined and smooth, but it lacks the firm steering of the Focus. Ditto the 5. It feels like the more mature sibling of the Focus to me.

    I have yet to drive the “new” Focus, because like everyone else has said, it is pretty ugly looking to me. But when Ford finally brings around the next gen Euro Focus, I will be seriously considering it.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The “Faux” fender vent (IMHO) harkens back to the vent on the ’53 models, which seemed to add a jet-like “swoosh” to the otherwise utilitarian design; for me, it just doesn’t work in the 21st century.
    Still, as a commuter car, you wouldn’t have to apologize for the comfort, pep and relatively good fuel mileage.

    Reminds me of that line from the Planet of the Apes:
    George Taylor: Doctor, I’d like to kiss you goodbye.
    Dr. Zira: All right, but you’re so damned ugly.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I really do think Ford screwed up by not keeping the hatchback models, those seemed to sell well. I almost bought an 06 base model 3-door just for the pure idea that it was a $10k new car that wasn’t a penalty box like the Aveo…and pay cash.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I really do think Ford screwed up by not keeping the hatchback models, those seemed to sell well. .

    The whole point of the latest Focus revision was to reduce cost. To that end, the bodstyles that required significantly different parts and assembly were dropped, and the body style that remained was heavily decontented (cheapened suspension, sheetmetal is thinner, stampings are less complex, features like telescoping steering were excised). They did add a two-door coupe, but there’s next to no difference in it and the sedan; certainly less than the hatch or wagon.

    The horrible irony is that the decontenting actually cost more than just leaving the car alone would have. Stupid, stupid, stupid..

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    thetopdog wrote:
    I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who ‘loved’ the style of the original, and I’m not sure I really want to meet a person that finds a car like that good-looking

    I guess you won’t be waving at me at Starbucks, then.

    I did love the original hatchback. The sedans have always been abominations, and the current one just pushes it further.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    I think hideous is the wrong word.

    An orange Honda Element is hideous. This is a little gauche, maybe. I kind of like it. Anything in this price range that has any personality, even if it is a bit campy, is welcome.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    psarhjinian: While I do understand the reasoning, I still think it was a nice niche for Ford to fill, and they had traditionally always offered a hatchback model of some sort.

    But, yes the components forward of the A-pillars, windshield, tailamps, rear bumper, and possibly the trunklid are shared.

    And I do agree with your final point, even just an interior upgrade (which I thought was needed the most) would have been cheaper and the line-up could have stayed the same. But, I’m not a corporate beancounter (just keep track of my own beans) so what I do I know.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    hwyhobo :

    I completely forgot about the hatchbacks (I haven’t seen one in ages, where did they all go?), I was referring to the style of the original Focus sedan. The hatchbacks were ugly with their pillar-mounted taillights, but they weren’t even nearly as offensive as the sedan

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    Note to GM, Ford, ToMoCo, et al.:

    To get a good review on TTAC, have a nice interior. Absent that, you’re screwed.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Ford replaced the great SVT Focus and ok-driving ST for with this?

    I don’t really care about SYNC or the ugly fender vents or the low price (which must be why buyers are ordering these things in droves). Ford took what was a world class car and skimped on making it better. This thing needs to be taken to the back of the shed and put in out of its misery (although, if sales charts are any indication…).

    They need to bring tghe Euro Focus over here PRONTO! And time any updates of the model with the Euro version, that way the US doesn’t get left in the dust again.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    It looks like a rear of a Dodge Neon to me.

    But Ford is still is one of the Number 1 car seller in Europe.

    Why do we always compared Ford to Japanese and Europeans cars?

    They all different style at least the Ford have better mileage than BMW with small interior or a Mazda that majority of TTAC readers love or the Audi with Olympic emblem on its grill or the boring and slow Toyota Corolla.

    See consumer it doesn’t really matter what car you buy. it depends on the budget and with your car dealer.

    Hey!! I will buy a Hyundai if the dealer will give a good price for it with less interest rate and fully loaded but I bought a Lancer with 12% rate.

    Ouch indeed for me!

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    God help me, I’m considering buying another Focus. Loved the original (02), just needed more power and got the LGT to replace it. Now we want something with better gas mileage as a commuter. What’s the difference between the SE and SES anyway? The SES has sync standard, the rear suspension bar, and 16″ rims? That’s it? How is that worth $1500, and you’re not even getting leather seats or a moonroof or even FREAKING ABS standard?

    God damn you Ford. I hate you so much. You tease us with great european cars and then dump this turd on us.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    That was lovely Megan B.

  • avatar
    Axel

    I really do think Ford screwed up by not keeping the hatchback models, those seemed to sell well.

    What saddens me is, at least until the arrival of the Elantra Touring, the sub-$20k wagon is dead.

    And no, the bastard child from NUMMI is not a wagon.

    Remember when you could choose between a Saturn SW, a Focus wagon, or a Protege wagon? Or further back, when Corollas, Civics, and Cavaliers came as wagons? When you had a cheap, high-MPG workhorse that could seat a family of four (also before mandatory car seats for 12-year-olds) and all their stuff for a summer vacation? Or could haul your bass, amp, and mike (or even a drum set) to a band job?

    I miss those days. The passing of the Focus Wagon means such a vehicle, for the time being, is unobtainable.

  • avatar

    The Focus vehicle was rated “average” by the APA in Montreal Quebec, you cant compare it to the Focus sold by Ford in Europe, one local Ford dealer here told me they want to import that type of Focus by 2009 at least for Canada.
    The APA discovered there are areas of the body panels prone to Rust! Not good for any vehicle, also they felt that the controls on the drivers stalk where more or less “out to lunch” and need to be reworked, when you see a Focus coming on the road toward you the Sun hitting the Chrome makes one’s eyes blink too! too much chrome in my estimation!

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    It’d be cheaper to get the SE and then add a rear sway bar for less than $200.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    BEAT, can you tell I’m just a little bitter? If this car didn’t have such a vomitous exterior I’d probably want one a lot more. It’s got hella better toys than the Civic, and it’s cheaper, but in the end, even the Star Trek Civic is easier on the eyes than this abomination. Any car that makes you want to break out the holy water and shout “The power of Christ compels thee!” is an UGLY car.

    TEXN3, that’s what I’m guessing too. I’m not sure why the SES is so much more expensive.

  • avatar
    Axel

    @Megan Benoit

    Hey, some of us like the looks of the Starship Hondaprise. Also, give the car a good week or two and you’ll realize the interior is a much better design than you first thought. At first I hated it, but now I love it.

    No one likes the looks of the Focus.

  • avatar
    plee

    There are plenty of critics here who make very opinionated comments about the Focus styling, actually many other cars too.

    Just remember that styling is subjective. Imagine how boring it would be if everything looked like a Corolla or a Sentra or whatever.

    Personally I think a loaded Focus SE or SES has a lot of appeal. I just spent two weeks in Europe. The Focus sold over there is everywhere and is a very attractive looking car. Fiesta’s are popular also.

    The small cars from Renault and Puegot are well done and big sellers. The most popular taxi’s are E class M-B, followed by Opels. The Astra seems ungainly over there and has 0% financing. Hyundai and Kia are more common than Japanese cars. Gas was around $10US a gallon so our complaining about gas prices seems a little whiny.

    Another thing I noticed is that on the bigger, faster highways, everyone gets in the right lane as soon as they pass someone. What a concept!!

  • avatar
    Wizegui

    I spent some brief time with the new Focus in the auto show earlier this year and I found it reasonably well. The driving position was excellent and the interior layout was very logical, if no a bit uninspiring.

    With the Blade IRS, it should handle much better than the rental quality Cobalt or the lackluster Corolla. The dash quality and build quality was much better than that of the new Corolla (but that really isn’t saying much) but not quite as attractive or well made as the Civic and the Mazda3.

    Overall, I found the looks to be a bit ugly (Especially with the chrome grille) but fine from the back. Its just a shame that it never did have the reliability or build quality of the old Euro Focus.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    What’s the difference between the SE and SES anyway? The SES has sync standard, the rear suspension bar, and 16″ rims? That’s it? How is that worth $1500, and you’re not even getting leather seats or a moonroof or even FREAKING ABS standard?

    You also get body colored mirrors, foglights, and a spoiler. There might also be a few minor details, but I think that covers the major stuff.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I think the Focus looks pretty good.
    I’m actually surprised that so many consider the Mazda3 sedan attractive and the Focus hideous. I wonder if this is more a judgment of each cars’ press reviews than its actual shape. To me both cars look like cars.
    Then there are the vast number of “enthusiasts”, generally males aged 18-50 who will hate any American branded car regardless.
    Axel- Suzuki Forenza
    Megan B- the Civic is painfully noisy on the highway. It’s worse than my Saturn and I know my Saturn is bad.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Does anyone know when or if the Focus is getting stability control. It was optional on the first gen, then unavailable, now I’ve heard its supposed to come back at some point, that’s one option I wish more smaller cars had (standard on Corolla, Vibe, Prius that’s about it). I find it indispensable in winter driving.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Would everyone who has sat in and driven the 2008 Focus please raise your hands……

    If you are buying a Focus the SE + Deluxe pkg is the way to go for just $395. Don’t forget to add SYNC for another $395. With ABS/ traction control pkg it stickers for about $18k before discounts and incentives.

    I have an 08 Fusion with SYNC. It is not a silly feature. I use it every day.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    It amazes me that there are some buyers who will buy a car with a base price of $13,000 loaded with another $7,000 in options. I’d much rather live without some of the bells and whistles and actually get $20k-worth of car!

    Checking off all the options available on a car such as the Focus or Cobalt is financial suicide. It’s a fool-proof way to compound the negative equity that is inherent in purchasing even the base models of those vehicles. The same applies to the Kia Rio/Spectra and Hyundai Accent models.

    Japanese models, for the most part, fare much better whether the most basic trim level or loaded with every single option available. For instance, the Honda Civic EX-L NAV costs about $3k more than the garden variety Civic EX with cloth seats…and the EX-L is almost $5k more than the Civic LX. The Mazda3 is another good example- the Mazda3 s 5-door Grand Touring with Bose/Moonroof and Navigation costs around $5500 more than the basic Mazda3 s 5-door Sport.

    Unlike most other small cars, the expense for upgraded trim levels and/or high-end options on the Honda and Mazda will result in higher resale value. In most cases, especially with desirable options such as heated leather seats and premium audio/navigation systems, the resale value of the upgrades is essentially the same percentage as the residual value of the actual vehicle. Simply put- if a Civic LX is worth 70% of original value when it’s 24 months old, the EX-L will also be worth 70%…

    A Focus S vs. a leather-lined SES isn’t such a rosy picture….

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    BTW, just so you all know, Ford has ditched the ugly side vent for the 2009 models. Well, for the coupe, at least.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    Runfromcheney :
    August 6th, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    BTW, just so you all know, Ford has ditched the ugly side vent for the 2009 models. Well, for the coupe, at least.

    I actually read about the updates on the Coupe earlier today and was amused to see the vents were being scrapped on that body style, but unsure about the 4-door.

    Cause nothing says 4-door econobox like fake side vents…..maybe Ford dealers will be giving away a butter knife with each purchase so the new owners can pry them off??? Or save the trouble, just tint the windows as dark as local law will allow to save the drivers from being seen and recognized in the thing!

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    How can you make a case to buy the Focus new over a 2 or 3 year-old Mazda3? SYNC? Warranty? I would love to hear opinions…

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    I agree that it’s difficult to justify purchasing a new Focus over a Mazda3 or Civic that’s a few years old….

    An even MORE difficult argument would be why to choose a new Focus instead of a new Hyundai Elantra or a new Suzuki SX4 Sport. Both of those cars can be purchased for about the same money with similar equipment AND they’re both more interesting vehicles that have a bit of personality. The Suzuki lags a few MPG behind the Focus in fuel economy, but the Hyundai is very close to the EPA ratings of the Focus. The Hyundai and Suzuki also have a 10-year/100,000 mile warranty and the Ford only has a 3-year/36k overall warranty and 5-year/60k powertrain coverage.

    I will admit, though, that I would definitely choose a Focus over a Chevy Aveo or Cobalt. The Focus drives fairly well but it’s just so homely looking…and it seems to be trying soooo hard to look hip. If I had my heart set on buying a Ford, I’d scrape up the extra cash and buy a Fusion 2.3L with 5-speed manual.

  • avatar
    Macca

    I thought I’d comment on one of the common themes of this review and subsequent comments. The idea that one shouldn’t option-up an entry-level car will have to give way at some point if more folks are to be convinced that downsizing vehicles is a good move.

    This idea came up in the comments section regarding the Smart ForTwo, too. If you want a fully loaded economy car, you should realize that you won’t see much of that value come trade-in time, but if you keep your car longer than the average flavor-of-the-week consumer, then you don’t have much to worry about, anyway. Of course, I feel this way because I bought my wife a tarted up econo-car.

    She fell in love with the ugly-duckling Versa upon its debut and it seemed like a solid choice to replace her aging Camry. Her primary option desires: sun roof and ABS. The only one in her color choice on the lot with those options was a fully-loaded example, complete with Intelligent Key, bluetooth, 6-disc MP3 CD changer with sub, and the ‘sport package’ (a tasteful little spoiler-lip and side ground effects). Of course, I didn’t pay MSRP and I made the salesman sweat it out and give me top dollar for my trade so we really got a solid deal. MSRP was getting into base Altima territory, but instead we got a tiny car with a large interior and nice mileage. Some people would call that getting ripped off – “you could have had so much more car for your money!” – trust me, I’ve heard that one. But this is what we wanted, and we wanted it well equipped.

    My wife only puts about 10k miles/year on her cars, and pending any unforeseen issues, I anticipate keeping it a long, long time. The little car has really grown on me; it’s great having nice amenities in a small car. While it might not be the most fiscally-wise decision, if people want a maxed-out small car, then go for it. If someone prefers a “high-end” Focus over a base Fusion, then so be it.

  • avatar

    Megan: What’s the difference between the SE and SES anyway? The SES has sync standard, the rear suspension bar, and 16″ rims? That’s it? How is that worth $1500, and you’re not even getting leather seats or a moonroof or even FREAKING ABS standard?

    Don’t look at a regular SE (what Farago tested), just the SE Deluxe. The SES also has the upgraded gauges, dash trim and chrome vent registers as standard…they actually dress up the interior quite well for a cheap car. And all of that is on the SE Deluxe too.

    I like the SE Deluxe better on the outside too, the chrome on the outside looks better than the SES’s monochrome stuff combined with that fake vent.

    But why get a Focus over a Civic LX? I guess the deals are non-existent at a Honda dealer but you can easily get a Focus at invoice (or less) if you look around.

  • avatar

    My mother loves the new Focus style. She says it’s the best of the Civic, Corolla, Cobalt, Mazda3, and European Focus. I don’t really understand it, but she’s into her Ford Escape and F-150, so I guess she’s just primarily a fan of Fords.

    I do agree with Sajeev that it looks pretty good at the dealer’s. I checked it out from the outside, and it seems like a solid vehicle, looks like a solid vehicle. I actually like the side vents and coupe styling, but I wish the front and rear were different. The back looks conservative and the front looks bizarre, like a reverse mullet.

    If I absolutely had to buy an economy car, I’d go with the Focus. If Honda offered their Civic Hybrid in a coupe version it would get on my list.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    the worst thing about the focus old and new was & is the dormant auto, on the Highway its ok but around town it takes a while to do anything (then i discovered the auto in the pt cruiser was shocking bad)

    Ford should have stuck with the hatchback you want a sedan, buy a fusion.

    off topic but speaking of civics doesn’t the back of the nu ‘Bu look very similar to a Civic?

  • avatar
    xantia10000

    It’s not that I’m not up for a fun debate about car styling & trim packages, but this Focus commits so many way-more-serious crimes that criticizing/praising the car’s fake vents & chrome door handles seems to be utterly irrelevant. I’d have to say this is one of the most disappointing cars… ever!

    Let me explain. While I’m sure it’s not a bad car (never drove it), I loathe what it represents – the emotional & subjective values of the car. Perhaps I’m biased, as I owned & loved a 2001 hatchback version, but I think the original Focus was (and still is) one of the coolest designs and best values in the small car market.

    Styling defined a new design language; steering and handling easily trounced Golf/Civic/Corolla, etc; it was cheap to purchase and operate; it exuded a cool Euro feel that nobody could match at the price point (check the rubbery HVAC knobs, open-Snapple-lid click sound of the turn signals, crank moon roof, and meaty leather-wrapped wheel).

    With every passing evolution, the Focus became more Americanized, lower quality, and restyled to spoil the original design intent (check the Ford USA corporate switchgear, the F150-sized turn signal-n-wiper stalk, lower grade interior trim).

    If that wasn’t bad enough, top notch Ford management made a conscious decision not to replace the original Focus with its actual successor –the one sold in EVERY other market but the US. Like, in Mexico and in Russia and in China. But not here… why?

    So basically, what we have here is the exact same Focus from 1999, but with way less cohesive styling, cheaper materials, worse steering and handling, the exact same engine, transmission, and as a result, no gain in performance. Oh, and forget about the useful wagon variant and the distinctive and practical hatchback versions; we get the gawky sedan and unsexy coupe.

    So chromed door handles or not: does it really matter?

  • avatar
    tech98

    With every passing evolution, the Focus became more Americanized, lower quality, and restyled to spoil the original design intent

    The single best thing Ford can do to improve their vehicles is take the stuck-in-the-1970s Herb Tarleks of their ‘Americanization’ product-worsening team and throw them all into the Detroit River.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    I’m surprised it didn’t get four stars. Everyone who drives it seems to like it, even if the styling is homely. See here for counterpoint:

    http://www.speedsportlife.com/2008/05/29/avoidable-contact-12-why-the-motoring-press-cant-even-focus-on-its-own-astra/

  • avatar

    I’m surprised it didn’t get four stars. Everyone who drives it seems to like it, even if the styling is homely. See here for counterpoint:

    Counterpoint was awesome.

    Although I would hardly consider Sajeev’s a bad review. The Cobalt got two stars, so did the Toyota Corolla.

    Sajeev was also the one who gave the Ford Ranger three stars. I’m not suggesting bias or anything, but he’s definitely not what you’d call an anti-Ford kinda guy, at least from what I’ve seen. ;)

    Focus and Ranger are both good vehicles. They’ll appeal to certain people.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    Someone asked the difference between the SE and SES trim levels in an earlier posting. The three level S/SE/SES trim levels that Ford offers on the Focus and Fusion makes very little sense to me. The Focus SE can be optioned with every single feature that the SES can have with the exception of leather seats. Meanwhile, none of the three trim levels have ABS standard!!!

    But hey, at least the SES has SYNC standard…so you can be talking hands-free on your Bluetooth phone while you skid off the road when your non-ABS brakes lock up! Those side-curtain and front-seat side airbags will come in handy when you finally hit something solid, though….and that Bluetooth headset will be implanted in your skull…and since the crash will trigger the airbags, it will also disable the cars electrical system renderng SYNC useless to assist you to call for help (a la Onstar)…way to go Ford!

  • avatar
    shaker

    The incoherent trim levels that Ford “offers” actually prevented me from buying a 2006 Focus when I was in the market, and the rebate cash was flowing freely. The SE trim level had many desirable features, but was still incomplete enough to have one searching the whole local market for the one Focus SE hatchback with ABS, side airbags and tilt/telescope wheel options (at least you could call up the vehicle’s “sticker” on Ford’s website to see particular options).
    Eventually, trying to buy a Focus equipped the way that I wanted it turned from a “hobby” into an exercise in frustration, so I never gave Ford the business.
    So, when I spied a Hyundai Elantra this spring with a $2k rebate, I went online and found that their “SE” package had all of the desirable options (sans sunroof and leather) — the perfect choice for me.
    Ford has to solidify their trim grades with popular features, not leaving the customer doing lot-to-lot searches for “convenience groups” and “safety packages” at the SE trim level.

  • avatar

    Beelzebubba, I agree with you when you mention the fact that non-standard ABS is a ridiculous oversight and a cheapy move that puts Ford’s customers at substantial risk, however you don’t seem to understand how Sync works. You don’t wear a bluetooth headset when you’re using Sync as the car recognizes your phone as soon as you step in and when someone calls, it interrupts the radio and plays the call over the speakers while you simply speak aloud (your speech is picked up by an in-car mic, I believe it is located in the rear-view mirror). That’s why they put so much work into lowering the NVH.

    Sync is a great feature and the Focus is most certainly not a rolling deathtrap, it is in many respects a better vehicle than the outgoing Focus.

    Honestly, if many of the people here making disparaging comments would drive the Focus for a little while, actually live with it, they would see that it is a fine little car, ugly-ugly styling notwithstanding. Compared directly to the Corolla, Civic, Cobalt, Elantra and even Mazda3, considering actual out-the-door price and expected future repairs and fuel economy, the Focus is a solid financial decision. Sure, you can’t pick up chicks in it or take it to the racetrack, but this is not the car for those types of buyers. It’s a top-notch commuter car once you get past the exterior. For the money you can get it for, the Focus as a long-term purchase (forget about 2-year trade-in) is a good proposition.

  • avatar
    M20E30

    “Buyers who somehow managed to complete the SUV exodus better watch out for the next auto da fe: fully-loaded versions of entry-level whips.”

    I like the fact that auto makers are starting to do this. A small car no longer has to be a penalty box. I have always vouched for fully loaded compact cars.

    Not to beat my own drum, but Subaru has been offering fully loaded versions of it’s compact cars for over 25 years. I think they were ahead of the curve.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    I just read a moment ago that Ford is adding an SEL trim level to the ’09 Focus in addition to the S, SE and SES. The only known changes from the SES at this point are the use of the letter ‘L’ in place of the ‘S’ on the name badge. =)

  • avatar

    Beelzebubba : Someone asked the difference between the SE and SES trim levels in an earlier posting. The three level S/SE/SES trim levels that Ford offers on the Focus and Fusion makes very little sense to me. The Focus SE can be optioned with every single feature that the SES can have with the exception of leather seats. Meanwhile, none of the three trim levels have ABS standard!!!

    You nailed it. Their “S” nomenclatures are horribly vague and completely BS: it started when the Taurus’ neglect was more than a little obvious and carries on in the Focus.

    Overall, the “L” designated Fords had standard features that made for sensible model delinations. You knew your Ford was loaded if it was an “LX” with leather and chrome rims, a “GL” with alloys and a few options, or a strippo “L” with plastic wheelcovers and power nothing.

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    There are very few new vehicles that I think are attractive now. This one is, without question, an ugly car. The only thing positive that I can muster is that, short of the cr-homey side vents, I think that the new focus TRIES not to offend in terms of styling. THAT is a sign of the times that I despise.

    I park near a recent 2005-6? focus sedan and find it to be a smaller version of the euro mondeo. The color helps quite a bit as well as the fact that the car is always immaculate and well cared for.

    This new one is ugly, and to be fair, the cobalt is easily more attractive.

    …lastly, I vote Megan’s “power of Christ” comment to the TTAC hall of fame.

  • avatar
    Axel

    davey49:

    I forgot about the Forenza, but then I remembered why I forgot: EPA 19/27 in both transmissions. I think an AWD Vibe does better than that! Hell, a Ford Escape FWD manual is 22/28! A 4×4 Jeep Patriot is 22/27!!

    Sucky Daewoo engines need to go before Suzuki is even on the radar.

    Megan B- the Civic is painfully noisy on the highway. It’s worse than my Saturn and I know my Saturn is bad.

    Say WHA??? I can listen to classical music in my Civic LX going down the highway at 75 MPH. Sometimes if the wind is blowing the right direction there’s a slight whistle in the door, but that’s it. My old car was a Saturn: at highway speeds rock music was drowned out by wind noise, and a conversation with the wife while traveling would leave me with a sore throat due to how loud we had to talk over the noise.

    Something must have been terribly wrong with the Civic you tested.

  • avatar

    I once had a 2000 Ford Focus Kona Edition 3 door – you know the one that came with a mountain bike (I actually sold the bike for lots of cash, then the Ford later as well (not so much $$$) but thats another story).

    That car drove like a dream – tight in the corners, lots of pep, sticky rubber, almost ready for prime time 5 speed gearbox.

    This latest iteration (er aberration) does nothing for me. They look tinny and unsubstantial on the road, and the wheels are too small (all small cars should have 17 inch (or greater) tires period)

    I will stick to my Mazda8 (I have a 2008 Mazda3 and a 2008 Mazda5 = Mazda8 – LOL!)

    Ford will have to do better than this to keep up with the 3’s, Corollas, Civics and Subis out there. Folks, spend a little more and get a much better car, even if you just need a commuter. Most who drive a Mazda3 buy one, as far as I have heard. For 16-18 grand you get a world class little car that feels far more substantial than what you paid for it.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Beelzebubba: “Cause nothing says 4-door econobox like fake side vents…..maybe Ford dealers will be giving away a butter knife with each purchase so the new owners can pry them off???”Too bad the fenders with the fake side vents have alignment holes for the vents. I guess it would be a toss-up as to what would be worse, the vents or fenders with two little holes in them.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Here’s the good news: The 2009 verison of the Focus Coupe (and possibly the sedan) loses the fake side vents on the front fenders. The rear spoiler also morphs into a much-less obvious roof-mounted piece. The chrome also gets darker. While the 2009 isn’t what you would call beautiful, it’s a definite improvement. I also understand the S model will be dropped, leaving only the SE and SES. If you need to buy a smaller, fuel-efficent car before the Euro Focus or Fiesta get here, the 2009 Focus looks like a reasonable proposition.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    I admit I haven’t driven the ‘new’ Focus but I’m old enough to remember when the original Focus came to North America in 1999/2000. I can’t help but think of the current Focus as a 9 year-old design with gadgets trying to mask its age (Joan Collins?) It may be a competent car but all I see is stale bread.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    With all the nice small cars on the market, why bother ?

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Don’t forget the typical Ford service department experience that’s on par with any independent muffler shop. Take your time and enjoy the ratty selection of 7 month old magazines. Help yourself to Ford’s “Select Brew” coffee that doubles as an excellent fuel injector cleaner. And yes, that is a CRT television.

  • avatar
    whatsanobeen

    I think Sajeev Mehta has lost it. This is a rehashed design of a car with underpinnings that were developed almost a decade ago (don’t try to tell me that the SYNC system is a credit to the value of the car). If you really must have a Ford Focus, go for the 2002-2004 models for their (comparatively) improved quality. Then again, the Mazda 3 is a much better option than the Focus in its current state.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    GORF is awesome! Anyone know if it’s available for the PC, Xbox or PS3?

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    The hatorade is flowing deep today. There are exactly two problems people here seem to have with this car.

    1) It’s not as pretty as an Aston Martin.
    2) It’s not sporty.

    I’m remitting the one about about the age of the car’s platform. Engineering isn’t inherently better because it’s more recent. There are only so many ways to efficiently package a small car, and the structural materials haven’t changed. The previous platform was probably of such quality that few modifications were necessary to bring it up to date.

    And then there’s the usual drivel about the inherent superiority of foreign vehicles. Save for this last point, the comments here almost exactly mirror those for the BMW 1-series. “It’s ugly and it’s not a 2002! BURN IT!”

    I wasn’t fond of the 135i’s styling, but I’m not about to pan the entire car because the rocker panels have too many curves, or the door handles are too shiny, or whatever other trivialities are passing for criticism above. Beneath the skin of this Ford lies a properly good small car for American tastes. It’ll sell in droves to those willing to take it for a drive.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    KnightRT : Not only is the Focus not as pretty as an Aston Martin, it is not as pretty as nearly every other car on sale in America. I understand that good looks aren’t the number one priority for an economy car (see: Honda Civic) but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a car’s styling doesn’t actively offend potential owners

  • avatar

    whatsanobeen: This is a rehashed design of a car with underpinnings that were developed almost a decade ago (don’t try to tell me that the SYNC system is a credit to the value of the car).

    Do you actually think that “redesigned” cars (be it American, Japanese, European) that share no sheetmetal with their predecessors actually get new unibodies, suspensions and powertrains on a regular basis? The Focus’ old underpinnings are far superior to all its competitors that still run a bone-headed live axle out back.

    I’m looking at you, the all-new 2009 Corolla. :)

    And SYNC sells cars, like it or not. I’ve dissuaded people from buying the Focus but they still want it because of SYNC.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I think we can all agree that the 2008 Focus is just a stopgap measure until 2011. So we have 2 more model years to bitch about that 9 year old chassis and cheap interior. ::sigh::

    What will be interesting is in 2010 when the current Focus and all-new Fiesta share a showroom. Ouch!

  • avatar

    Ahhh, that magical 2010 model year. I’ve actually told people to wait another year (ish) and wait for their next purchase for reasons like the Fiesta, Camaro, etc.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Steve Biro: “I also understand the S model will be dropped, leaving only the SE and SES.”Only the 2-door Focus S gets dropped for 2009.

    The 4-door Focus S will continue on for 2009, presumably as a mainstay for rental car fleets.

  • avatar
    BigBucksT

    This really isn’t that bad of a car when you see it on the road. I’m glad it’s selling because for Ford’s sake, if they can’t sell a compact car in this climate, they never will.

  • avatar
    cpmanx

    KnightRT:

    Thanks for a welcome dose of common sense. Having just had a thoroughly uninspiring experience in rental (high-line) Matrix, I can say that the main knocks against the Focus relative to the Corolla are a) it’s totally un-hip and b) the interior is a bit cheap.

    There’s no point in arguing the former–people will believe what they want to believe. The latter is a reasonable gripe, but since the real-world transaction price of a Focus is thousands of dollars less than a Corolla, a little fabric-and-plastic tradeoff isn’t unreasonable.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    thetopdog:

    Really? You’d rather be seen in a Prius, a Nitro, or a Rondo? Underpinnings aside, these cars and dozens like them might as well be rolling warts. The Prius in a particular; the side profile isn’t far removed from an Aztek.

    The entire class of vehicles that the Focus inhabits is homely. The only one even approaching attractive is the Mazda3. The rest are derivative (Hyundai), gelatinous (Toyota), or cycloptic (Honda). This car’s sporting pretensions actually make it distinctive, which is more than can be said for the other anonymous econoblobs.

    cpmanx:

    While I applaud their gas mileage, I’ve always found Corollas effeminate. I’ll never figure out how they became a styling target. I can only assume people buy them despite the appearance, not because of it.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    KnightRT: I’m not a fan of the styling of compact cars in general (BMW 1/3-Series included, although I think the Mazda 3 is nice), but none of the cars you mentioned offends me like the Focus. The only other car I can think of with styling as repulsive is the PT Cruiser. I had one as a rental for a few days and I was embarrassed to drive it. And I have proudly driven rental Aveos and Cobalts so it’s not like I’m an elitist

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    I saw brief mention of the Suzuki Forenza in a few postings and figured I’d share this info-

    Suzuki Forenza and Reno- 2008 is officially the LAST year for these rebadged Daewoo lumps!!! Suzuki will actually be selling autos that they designed and manufacture in Japan!

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Axel
    What saddens me is, at least until the arrival of the Elantra Touring, the sub-$20k wagon is dead.

    That one suffers of smalltrunkitis, which is bad for a wagon.
    The Elantra Touring will be identical to the European i30cw, and if you look into the specs of that, it only has 415 liters of trunk space. Which is worse than a Civic hatchback (485 liters) and only a bit better than a Euro-Focus hatch (400 liters)
    The 1st-gen Focus wagon had 520 liters, the new one only 475.
    (For comparison: Jetta wagon 510 l, Skoda Octavia wagon 580l, Accord wagon (old) 520l, Accord wagon (new) 405l)

    Even the Kia cee’d wagon (on the same platform as the Hyundai) has 535 liters.

  • avatar
    AlphaWolf

    On a lot of small car reviews the inevitable Suzuki comparison always seems to come up. Stay far, far away from Suzuki vehicles unless you like being at the dealer every other week.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the new JD Powers long term dependability study and see who is almost at the bottom.

    As for the focus, for cheap transportation after rebates it could work as long as you get a mid line model.

  • avatar
    rtz

    That dash is boring as all get. Those fake fender vents do absolutely nothing for this vehicle. The door handles look like their gold plated in that second pic. That big chrome side mirror off a truck is just flat nasty and cheap looking. That’s the most hideous mirror application I’ve ever seen. What are they trying to do with those head lights? Make them touch the A-Pillar? I can’t even see the chrome tip in that last pic. How much did that option cost? What kind of economy type option is that?

    Replace the water pump, timing belt(chain?), or head gasket on that car and you’ll hate it.

    How much better fuel mileage could it get if it had a manual transmission? How about some XFI voodoo magic on this car? Extreme aero and other various tweaks. Make XFI cars stand out solely due to their extreme aero mods.

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