By on March 1, 2017

2017 Ford Focus

It wasn’t long ago that small sedans and hatchbacks were a sure-fire ticket to penalty box crudeness and motoring misery. In 2017, things have changed at the low-end of the price scale.

This week’s Ace of Base is brought to you courtesy of an inadvertent trip down memory lane thanks to Facebook’s infernal yet addictive ‘On This Day’ feature.

A few years ago, someone tagged me in a shot depicting a 17-year old Matthew standing next to his first set of hand-me-down wheels — a rusty, late ’80s Ford Escort LX. I recall learning the original owners paid $13,000 maple-sodden Canadian dollars for it in 1989, about $23,000 in today’s money.

This got me thinking: what does one find in a base Focus nearly 30 years later? And does the Focus pass the Ace of Base test? Let’s find out.

For 2017, Ford has no fewer than ten individual trims for the Focus, ranging from the base model S sedan shown here, to the tasty RS hatch, to the Electric version that promises a remarkable 118 MPGe in the city. Our base model makes no such claims, allowing its fuel economy to dip into the mid-20s when driving around town. The same 2.0-liter inline-four is standard in all sedan trims, whether one chooses the instant-ramen base model or the high-zoot Titanium.

Ford’s challenges with the PowerShift automatic found in the Focus are well documented, giving purchasers another reason to leave the $1,095 slushbox at the factory and stick with the no-charge five-speed manual. Front, side, and rollover airbags are present and accounted for, along with a bonus airbag for the driver’s knees. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, and audio controls pepper the wheel. My old Ford Escort had an adjustable wheel too, thanks to an errant bolt which dropped out of the steering column at a very inopportune time. Hill Start Assist should reassure Ma & Pa that if they decide to toss Junior the keys for an evening, he won’t roll back into the car behind him. No amount of electronic nannies can keep him from making other stupid decisions, though, if my experience in the old Ford Escort is any barometer of teenage activity in small Ford cars.

Fast-forwarding to 2017, a rearview camera helps harried parents keep from backing over errant driveway detritus, while dual USB charging points placate teens who need a place to plug in their phones, lest they miss a chance to SnapGram their latest bowel movement. Keyless entry is standard on the base model, too.

Poverty-spec wheel covers on the 15-inch hoops announce one’s frugality quite loudly, but at least the 195/65R15 tires will be dirt cheap to replace. Ford offers a quartet of colors on the lowliest Focus — no jaunty greens, blues, or reds here. Selecting the shade of Shadow Black offsets the Wide Mouth Mason expanse of flat-black plastic grille. Refrigerator Oxford White makes it look like a rental car.

Current lease incentives as of this writing total a not-insignificant $2,750, leading to a net price of only $14,900. That works out to roughly $7,600 in 1989 bucks. Folks looking to buy will find easy finance with 0-percent interest rates up to 72 months, plus a $1,500 incentive. That’s an attractive proposition for a handsome-looking small sedan with features I could’ve only dreamed of on my entry-level Ford nearly 30 years ago.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Trump Bucks. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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68 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Ford Focus S Sedan...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “For 2017, Ford has no fewer than ten individual trims for the Focus”

    no wonder they can’t make money on the car.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      That is a lot of tooling / capital / development for such a low margin car that nobody loves.

      The consumer doesn’t realize how god d*mned spoiled they are. As soon as it gets watered down, the pitchforks will come out from all the baseline used Corolla buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      They actually the expanded the number of trims this year. Ford must have had some leftover SEL badges. Still, there are way less options within the trims. There are way less permutations.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    That looks very much like the heinous POS a day’s driving in which temporarily re-crippled me two months after hip replacement.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Say what you will, but taken in context, it’s fairly remarkable that a “base” vehicle now comes with USB, back-up camera, hill-assist, steering wheel mounted audio controls and such. Sure, it has the plastic-fantastic wheel covers (as does my poverty-spec Escape S), but run through Tirerack.com would easily solve that issue.

    Tres is right…we are rather spoiled.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Waiting for Stevenson’s diatribe over the ill-fitting and flimsy hard black plastic inside this thing.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It should be entertaining.

      On the other hand, the Focus is an old product, and the car he was talking about was a brand new model.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Mom and I just checked out two 4 door Foci, one a base S and the other an SE. The Focus S headliner had a gap that I could stick my finger in between the liner and the molding. Mom was not very impressed with either car overall from the fits to the transmission to the very tight rear seat knee and legroom. The price was certainly good on both and they drove well enough. The S automatic was on sale for 16995 and the SE was listed as 17995 all with automatic.

        Next we looked at the Cruze LT sedans which were on sale for 17995 with automatic. To say the Cruze was a much better car overall would be an understatement . Yes a few things inside were a bit cheap feeling like the hood latch but interior fits were much better than the Focus, the engine felt smoother and quieter as did the ride. What somewhat spoiled this car was the damned stop/start which caught mom off guard a bit as the car jerked back into life when she hit the gas at a stop light.

        Were going to check out a new Elantra SE for the same 17995 price and the 18995 value edition this coming week and may be swayed into that car if mom likes it.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          Heresy! Stevenson has decreed the Cruze to be the scourge of Satan, as has the Greek chorus of commenters here. After all, it IS a GM product, so it cannot possibly be any good.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          If your mom likes a nice interior and a nice-driving car, maybe she should look at a Mazda 3?

          The internet folk say they are too loud, but I don’t think so. Besides, older folk maybe aren’t so sensitive in the ear department anyway?

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            If there is a 3 available in that price range we will check it out but I doubt she will like it as much as she is looking more for refinement that sporty driving manners.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Speaking of the Focus – I’m 6’2″ and my son is 6’4″ – with the front seats pushed all the way back is there any legroom for passengers in the back?

    I would love to get a RS for my daily but I don’t think it will work, not when my wife is already driving a Mini.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I think the SE model is a way better deal for the bucks. According to Edmunds, “On top of the standard S equipment, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color exterior mirrors and door handles, cruise control, power rear windows, a trip computer, a front center armrest, additional front headrest adjustments, rear air vents, steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.”

    Better wheels (and really…the selection of 15-inch tires out there is very, very limited, unless you’re autocrossing a Miata…16-inch still gives plenty of sidewall and tons of selection) and tires is a definite plus, and every one of those additional features named I would consider mandatory – um, rear crank windows, no cruise, no rear air vents…really? In 2017?

    Plus, you visit a Ford dealer and there are tons and tons of SE models, in both bodystyles, with every conceivable configuration of options, sitting right on the lot. S models? Very, very few in stock.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Exactly! For only one thousand more dollars the SE is so much better than the base S model. The single in stock S was sale priced at 16995 and the many SE’s were 17995.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      That’s what drive me into a Fiesta S instead of a Focus S since I didn’t really need AC and didn’t want the PowerShift auto. The base Fiesta had painted door handles and at the time was $3000 cheaper than the Focus. I bought a used set of 2009 Focus alloys for $250 with tires and couldn’t have been happier with the decision to get the Fiesta instead. Averaging ~40mpg with the Fiancé doing a lot of city driving and she had never driven a manual before this car.

      PS. Didn’t want the hatch. A manual SE Focus would have been nice but I think that was more than $4000 more than the Fiesta at that point and I was still finishing school.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    The Focus is a fantastic little car. Biggest beef is really the slightly limited rear seat legroom and the PowerShift. Though after yet another reflash and replacing a clutchpack (Ford paid it all) on a 2012 model, the transmission is actually more than acceptable on a family member’s car.

    But it drives like a big car, handles great, perfect ride/handling balance, good brakes, very good MPG.

    While I wouldn’t want the base model personally, I definitely think this car qualifies. Very good bones even on the base car.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      Not slightly limited. More like worst in class.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      It’s funny. I wrote in probably two years ago when shopping for a car to replace my Cavalier. Anything was an upgrade but I had very specific criteria. Before the article was published I had already purchased a 2013 Ford Focus SE. I made the B&B aware of my decision and they all praised and congratulated me on my choice. We were all aware of the PowerShift issues by then.

      Fast forward 18 months and now everyone loves to hate on the Focus. It’s interesting to say the least. I think it’s a great little car with good styling, comfortable seats, good ride, above average handling, and even a 2.0L engine. Although, the interior does look dated when compared to a Cruze of the same year. Rear legroom? If I’m in my back seat I’m usually not concentrating on legroom.

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      Or skip the PowerShift and get the manual, which is the batter transmission from ANY way you look at it.

  • avatar
    wally109

    The base M/T is getting axed though. Leaving the DSG as the only trans. The DSG is a turd that customers hate even when it “works”.

    People have an idea of ” normal”, and the DSG doesn’t act like a “normal” trans.

    Once you get past the DSGs inherent quirks, its still proving itself to be an overly complex and relatively unreliable turd of a trans.

    As soon as a base beaters’ slush-box is busted (or even just looks, sounds, smells or acts busted), it usually gets traded or tossed in the trash because the owner can’t afford to even have someone look at it, much less try to fix it. I foresee a lot of low end buyers selling or scrapping early because “that damn trans ain’t never worked right, and its going to eat it any day now.” This will result in a lot of “I ain’t never buying another F’ed Over Rebuilt Dodge ever again!”

    Ditching the stick, and doubling down on the finicky DSG, will turn this ace of base into a bust.

    *I drove a DSG equipped 2016 rental for a month. Worst trans ever.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I tried one out with a DSG last fall – it’s much improved. But it’s still not ”
      there”.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Guy

      I had a 15MY Focus rental car and the DSG worked just fine. I can’t recall any significant issues. Averaged 41MPG on the highway and though the ride was a little stiff for a non-performance trim, I can’t think of any problems. Much better than the Yaris and Versa penalty box rental vehicles I’ve suffered with……

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Assad’s penalty for war crimes should be eternal banishment to a Versa. So f’ing bad…

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Got to be a CVT Versa, the stick might provide a small measure of engagement and entertainment.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            You’d think that, but…no, it doesn’t. Worst manual I’ve driven…maybe ever. Brings whole new meaning to the phrase “dead stick.”

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Call me weird but I found the third-world taxi vibe of a base Versa 5spd including the somewhat vague stick shift incredibly endearing. Would totally not mind one as a commuter to pile miles on.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’d be fine commuting with a Versa…if my commute was about 20 minutes and involved no highway driving.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I thought the manual was only getting axed on the hatch. It’s still available on the lowliest sedan trim.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I think they said the manual will stay in the sedan base model, but disappear from the hatchback. Annoying. But this article is focused on the sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Semantic quibble, more with Matthew Guy than you: “Slushbox” is slang for a torque converter automatic, not a DSG or a CVT. (Grain of salt, as I believe Honda/Acura now has a DSG paired with a torque converter.)

      A friend has a Focus (a ’12 or ’13) and can confirm that the DSG is the vehicles Achilles heel. And this is someone who’s owned several stick shift cars and motorcycles in his day. He’s not expecting it to act like a TorqueFlite or Turbo-Hydramatic. He’s fine with the driving experience when it’s working, but it’s needed multiple repairs and firmware updates (all on Ford’s time, I believe, thankfully).

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Sorry, I have never been a fan of the Focus. Perhaps it’s the styling, which bugs the daylights out of me, or on the older models, the off-center steering column.

    My in-laws have owned them in past years, and I have driven many, but there’s still nothing I find appealing to me.

    Focus, Fiesta, C-Max – all look identical.

    Now, if you review a Fusion, I’ll have much more positive comments to make.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Neither mom or I were all that impressed with the Focus either. I wish she could swing a Fusion SE but they were 5 grand more and much worse on gas rated at only 21/32 with the most common 2.5 engine. There were no Fusion S models anywhere to be seen for comparison.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I checked out a Focus last fall, but a) I could never find the configuration I wanted (SE hatch, manual), and b) the lease deals weren’t all that good – this car has lousy resale, which kills the residual value.

    But I still think it’s one of the best compacts out there in terms of driving experience.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Modern-day equivalent of the Escort would be the Fiesta. Focus was the replacement for the Countour, which replaced the Tempo.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Sort of. Ford muddled things a bit.

      The Fusion replaced the Contour, which replaced the Tempo, even though it’s larger and sort-of replaces the Taurus. The 500/Taurus replaces the old Taurus and the Crown Vic.

      The Focus replaces the Escort as well as the Contour, sort of. The Fiesta is a good bit smaller than the Escort inside despite being priced the same; but it sort of replaces the Escort as well as the long-gone Festiva.

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    I have a 16MY Focus ST and got about $6K off the sticker price with all the incentives. It’s the performance bargain of the year. Great car.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Oxford White makes it look like a rental car.”

    In my area a white focus immediately causes me to start looking for government plates.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    The problems with the DSG should cross the Focus off the list for the majority of potential buyers. Unfortunately I’d guess the odds are good that when the time finally comes, Ford will replace it with a snowmobile CVT instead of a proper automatic box. Sad.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “No amount of electronic nannies can keep him from making other stupid decisions, though, if my experience in the old Ford Escort is any barometer of teenage activity in small Ford cars”

    For me, that was a 1978 Fiesta, which of course had no nannies whatsoever. Its 5th and final crash was in my hands in 1982, months after my father had paid it off. Its first crash was also by me, and it was subjected to many Other Abuses.

    As for the Focus, it may be OK as long as it doesn’t have that awful DCT.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think Ford’s continued use of black door handles and black mirror skullcaps *in 2017* is a bit over-the-top in terms of cost cutting the base model. Not that FCA and Honda don’t also do it…and the Jetta S used to feel cheap as hell until recently.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This. There’s a way to do base models without making them look like penalty boxes. All that black trim makes the Focus S look cheap as hell, and those plastic hubcaps are pure Pep Boys.

      In fairness, though, the interior of a base Focus is quite nice.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I’m guilty of posting this comment several times over the past few years, but I’ll repeat it anyway: The really bad thing about those wheel covers is that they ape alloys badly. I didn’t mind the base wheels on the Scion xD and xB because they weren’t apologetic about being wheel covers. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I liked that the first two or three years of the 5th-gen Camaro came with hub caps and trim rings on steelies. That could be adapted to be a good, inexpensive, practical base wheel for a lot of vehicles. But then the buyer might be tempted not to upgrade.

  • avatar
    Old Scold

    Nice shout-out to Wide Mouth Mason!

  • avatar

    You’re kidding, right?

    Does the 2017 iteration at least have all power windows front and rear?

  • avatar
    April S

    When I was shopping for a new car last year I did check out the Escort S with the automatic. The list price was close to 20K and it didn’t included a cruise control. At least to me I found that unacceptable. That’s a lot of money considering not having something I consider essential.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    The lack of cruise control would be a deal killer here. I can’t imagine getting a new car without that. kills the idea of a “well equipped” base model


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