2008 Ford Focus

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Review: 2008 Ford Focus

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Interior and exterior changes, more features and sporty new coupe make Focus more appealing in growing small car market.
Pros:
  • Bolder styling
  • Nicer interior
  • New coupe version
Cons:
  • Long, heavy coupe doors
  • No 5-speed automatic transmission
  • Tire noise

The Ford Focus brings itself more up to date for 2008 with bolder styling, an improved interior, new features and a new youth-oriented coupe.

The compact Focus line keeps a conventional 4-door sedan, but drops its hatchbacks and station wagon.

One Engine Left
The 2.3-liter 151-horsepower 4-cylinder is gone. The only 2008 engine is a 2-liter, dual-overhead camashaft 4-cylinder with 16 valves. It produces 140 horsepower, but provides lively acceleration because the coupe only weighs 2,588 pounds and the sedan is just 2,623 pounds. A comparably equipped 2007 Focus is about 100 pounds heavier.

A 5-speed manual transmission is standard. A responsive 4-speed automatic is optional, although a 5-speed automatic would improve performance and fuel economy. However, a 5-speed automatic would probably increase prices.

List prices began at $14,075 for the base S coupe with a manual gearbox and go to $16,375 for the SES sedan with an automatic transmission. All trim levels can be had with either the manual or automatic.

Transmissions have revised final-drive ratios for better highway fuel economy. The more-realistic 2008 EPA fuel economy numbers put the Focus at 24 mpg in the city and 35 on highways with the manual and 24 and 33 with the automatic.

Overdue For Changes
The aged Focus is long overdue for the improvements it gets for 2008. It was introduced here in 1999, although it received styling and engineering changes for 2005.

The new Focus has the front-wheel-drive layout of its predecessor, but its handling is crisper and it has new features.

Three Trim Levels
The Focus coupe and sedan are sold in base S, mid-range SE and top-line SES trim levels. I tested an SES coupe with an automatic transmission.

Styling of the European-style Focus is influenced by Ford's larger Fusion sedan, with a prominent chrome-bar grille design, flared wheel arches and sweeping lines. Still, the Michigan-built car won't win many beauty contests.

Seats have a better shape and there are larger, somewhat more useful bins and cupholders in doors. But fuel and temperature gauges are too small.

Quieter Interior
The more-efficient climate control system provides improved heating and cooling. And the interior is quieter because Ford uses such items as a new acoustic windshield and thicker side glass. However, my test Focus coupe had noticeable tire noise with the radio off.

There is room for four tall adults, but leg room is tight for a long-legged passenger behind a driver. The coupe's doors are long and heavy, which makes them awkward in tight spots. They open wide, but getting in and out of the back seat calls for contortions, which aren't necessary with the sedan.

The trunk is roomy, and cargo space can be increased by flipping the split rear seatbacks forward.

Better Ride and Handling
The refined all-independent suspension provides better ride and handling, with new spring rates, dampers, stabilizer bars and bushings. Trim levels with 15-inch wheels get front stabilizer bars, while those with 16-inch wheels and more responsive Pirelli tires use front and rear stabilizer bars for sharper handling.

My test car with 16-inch wheels had quick, nicely weighted steering with the right amount of power assist and confident handling. The ride was supple on most roads, although some freeway bumps definitely could be felt.

While Focus brakes have been improved, the front ones are discs and the rears are drums. The brake pedal allowed smooth stops because it wasn't touchy.

Fairly Well-Equipped
The Focus is fairly well equipped. There's newly standard air conditioning, front side impact air bags and side curtain air bags for outside seat positions. There's also 2-way adjustable manual front seats, tire pressure monitoring system, AM/FM stereo with single CD player and a new audio input jack for MP3 players.

Also standard are a rear defroster, manual-adjustable side mirrors, tinted glass, 60/40 split rear seat, visor mirrors and a tire inflation kit (a regular spare tire is optional).

The SE and SES add power side mirrors, windows and locks with remote keyless entry, although those items aren't offered for the base S.

Popular options include the automatic transmission, upscale sound systems, anti-lock brakes, power sunroof, cruise control, 4-way adjustable driver's seat and heated front leather-covered seats.

Industry Exclusive
Ford is especially proud of an optional, industry-exclusive Sync technology, developed with Microsoft. It's a voice-activated, hands-free in-car communications and entertainment system that fully integrates mobile phones and media players into the car, using Bluetooth technology and USB connectivity.

Sync "seamlessly integrates the Focus with today's popular portable electronic devices and is updatable to support tomorrow's devices and services," Ford says.

An ambient lighting system lets Focus occupants "set the mood" in the car with "subtle LED lighting" in cupholders and front/rear footwells. One can choose red, blue, aqua, purple, white, green and yellow by cycling through a dashboard switch.

I'd rather opt for the optional Deluxe Package for the SE series. It includes an enhanced "European-inspired" suspension with a rear stabilizer bar, 16-inch Euro flange wheels, metallic instrument panel appliqué, bright interior accents, performance instrument cluster, 4-way adjustable driver's seat, fog lamps, heated side mirrors with chrome caps and chrome door handles. A chrome exhaust tip caps things off.

Whatever its options, the 2008 Focus fits well in the expanding market for small, affordable, economical economy cars.

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BB04 - 8/27/2014 5:58:36 AM