Quick Lap: 2012 Ford Focus SE
I had the pleasure of evaluating a 2012 Ford Focus in SE trim; the summary is I am impressed, especially when taken in context of the revival of US based automobile manufacturers….
See, domestic manufacturers lost me as a customer back in my formative driving years—late 70’s – early 80’s. Sure my first car(s) (depending on your definition) were American V8 powered; I discovered the wider automotive world via the cover of a 1979 Car+Driver at the drugstore mag rack: a blazing red RX-7 feature, tuned by then (and now after hiatus) Technical Director Don Sherman (who still owns that car).
The new Focus is helping bring me back (though I did go all-in with the purchase of my 2010 Mustang GT, hehe) to completely re-evaluate what USDM has to offer.
Okay, first impression: I like the styling trends at Ford and do believe the Focus visually attractive at both first and second glance; much more modern than some in its class, this Focus is a head turner, an affordable-for-a-family-man head turner. Days of chunky three-box sedan styling are gone.
Interior is engaging, I found controls easy at hand and intuitive—fabric patterns too conservative for me but tastefully bland I suppose—surfaces less-cheap than in past offerings… overall interior styling blends well with its outside skin. My interior styling gripe is “what’s up with the radio?” as it takes up so much real estate in center stack and is likely non-upgradable. The preset buttons are huge and laid out in bizarre fashion-over-function design; makes a statement but is it a statement that must be made? Instrument panel is well designed, easy to read and features an lcd-blue center multifunction display for information, programming and settings (and I used this display frequently). There are multi function buttons on the steering wheel for audio (likely Sync/ My Ford Touch too, my evaluator Focus did not have that upgrade), information/ settings and cruise control. Oh, btw, love the new-across-the-line lane change indicator feature of one tap yields three flashes of the indicator. I would rate interior volume as perfect for a growing or shrinking family (specifically in transition, not with three full sized near-adult kids).
The driving experience is rewarding in general and I did enjoy piloting this little (not so little) white blur for a couple days. There exists an eco-bent message in the driving experience; when puttering around in traffic the throttle is laggy for a moment and light throttle settings cause the transmission to get to high gears quickly. This just takes a little getting used to and a reminder that you should expect great fuel economy from such strategy. Ford calls this transmission “PowerShift” and it’s a dual-clutch (dry clutch) manumatic. At first it feels like many modern automatic transmissions with a low-drag torque converter in that there’s virtually zero power creep when motionless in drive; in reality it’s a manual transmission with the selector in neutral to save fuel. Just a slight tip-in throttle re-engages the drive to the wheels…. Again something to get used to, not really annoying.
I believe this transmission is what really made the car fun for me: split personality, do you want economy or acceleration? The Focus, with 160hp does launch well if that’s what your heart desires, putting power down perfectly under hard acceleration and before you know it illegal velocities are yours to embrace.
Handling? More than competent, bordering on rewarding. Comfort? Much better seating than in my 2010 Mustang GT; plus I could crank the seat low to the floor for my best BTCC touring car impression or raise it for improved close-by visibility and comfort. Said transmission has a “hill decent” button on the gear selector that I used frequently to provide more manual transmission feel with lift-throttle engine braking; when dis-engaged (by default) the trans saves fuel by virtually freewheeling. Oh, the transmission blips downshifts in the “hill decent” mode! Bravo Ford!!! The powertrain obviously uses stability control and other sensors to anticipate lower gear selection when in this more-engaging mode, drive one and see for yourself!
So what do you think? Are you a domestic convert, die-hard domestic or still convinced better value and technology is available from beyond US/ North American borders? Please post comments below.