Review: 2009 Ford Focus
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
On paper, the 2009 Ford Focus is attractive. Its fuel economy is better than average at 35 mpg, the cost of upkeep is pretty low, and it’s competitively priced when compared with its rivals. Plus, the Focus is available with the Sync infotainment system, which has truly struck a chord with the connected youth crowd which is Ford’s intended target for the Focus. Everything a person could want. But does it deliver a truly engaging driving experience?
In response to some bad press about the revised facade, more changes were made for the 2009 model year. Once again the Focus has been “refreshed,” with modifications that are mostly cosmetic. The coupe has been given sleeker-looking front and rear fascias, and designers removed the faux fender vents that had no real purpose anyway. More noticeable changes have been made to the SES, including dark-painted wheels, a tuned exhaust (which increases horsepower) and a tweaked automatic transmission that improves acceleration. The rest of the Focus is pretty much the same.
For 2009 the Focus coupe is offered in SE and SES trims, with the SES being the sportier of the two. The SES includes a tuned exhaust, performance suspension, 17-inch 15-spoke Euro Flange aluminum alloy wheels, P215/45R-17 tires, a high-mount rear spoiler, interior treatments, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio/cruise controls, a performance gauge cluster and Sync, Ford’s voice-activated infotainment system — a feature not found on the SE ’s standard-equipment list. The SE starts at $16,180, while the SES party kicks off at $17,570.
The sedan is offered in four trim levels: S, SE, SES and premium SEL. The base S comes with 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, a tilting steering wheel and a 4-speaker audio system with a single-CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. The SE adds power windows and door locks, and options such as Sync, an upgraded stereo with a 6-disc CD changer, heated side mirrors, chrome exterior trim, faux-aluminum interior trim, an upgraded driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SES trim will get you 16-inch alloy wheels and upgraded tires, fog lights and a rear spoiler, along with firmer suspension tuning for better handling. This is a well-equipped Focus, adding much of the SE's optional equipment as standard, including Sync and cruise control. Top-of-the-line SEL models have all SES features, plus chrome exterior trim and heated leather seats.
Our Vista Blue SES coupe tester was optioned with ABS brakes, the Moon & Tune options package (which includes a power moonroof plus upgraded sound system) and heated leather bucket seats. These items brought the sticker price up to $20,395 before destination and delivery charges.
Under the Hood
The standard transmission on all Focus trim levels is a 5-speed manual. A 4-speed automatic is available as an option. Fuel economy checks in at 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway for the manual; the highway mileage drops to 33 mpg with the automatic.
The interior appeal goes beyond the hardware, though. In fact, it’s a simple combination of hardware and software that steals the show. The Sync connectivity system is the result of a partnership between Ford and Microsoft that allows drivers to talk to their digital audio devices as well as a Bluetooth-equipped cell phone. The system is engaged via a steering-wheel-mounted button, and from there voice-recognition technology prompts the user to access either the phone or a USB port with his or her voice.
On the Road
The SES’s enhanced Euro-inspired suspension and 17-inch rolling stock are keen to take corners, but the Focus does plow, or understeer, when pushed too far. Overall the Focus platform is stable and its ride quality (a target of the car’s 2008 redesign) proves smaller cars can deliver an upscale, balanced ride. The Focus is at home zipping around town on errands or stretching its legs on an extended road trip.
Right for You?
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compact tuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.
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