2009 Ford Focus

AdChoices

Review: 2009 Ford Focus

By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.1

Bottom Line:

The Focus is a rising star in Ford’s fleet and proves that the design and construction quality of the Big Three can still rival the imports.
Pros:
  • Fun to drive power band
  • Sporty, comfortable interior; Sync
  • Spirited yet miserly: 35 mpg highway
Cons:
  • Suspension plows when pushed
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Thick C-pillars block rear view

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?

Model Lineup
Ford “refreshed” the Focus for the 2008 model year, giving it a new coupe body style and an interior upgrade. The automaker also dropped the 3-door hatch and 5-door wagon variants, leaving only coupes and 4-door sedans in the stable. Under the hood, Ford basically left it alone.

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 Focus is powered by Ford’s Duratec in-line four, and has been since it first rolled off the assembly line a decade ago. It develops 140 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm, and has been massaged over the years into a rock-solid performer.

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.

Inner Space
We found the cabin in our SES to be a pleasant surprise, with good fit and finish, excellent seats and a solid overall feel. We especially liked the optional leather-wrapped seats. They were supportive in all the right places and were heated, and their aggressive contrasting stitching added to the Ford’s sporty aura. The only interior drawback is rear-seat access. While venturing into the back seat in a coupe is rarely simple, the Focus requires that those brave enough to try it to have the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. There is no single lever that slides the front bucket forward and out of the way, and getting the seat back to its original position requires a lot of effort as well.

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
Our Focus SES really came alive with the 5-speed manual. Clutch engagement is smooth and the 2.0-liter engine enthusiastically lets its 140 horses loose, providing just enough thrust to bring a smile to your face but not so much that you get into trouble. There are Focus offerings with little or no thrill factor at all. The SES is the happy medium. One concern is the over-$20,000 sticker price of our tester. It is in a league with higher-achieving, performance-oriented compacts such as Nissan’s Sentra SE-R and Honda’s Civic Si.

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?
It’s easy to support an American manufacturer when the product is as competitive as the Focus. The car is well-built and has a touch of muscle and a personality grounded in fun and function. And in a world where the Big Three are seen as followers instead of leaders in terms of car design, the Focus is ahead of the technological curve with the Sync system. Sync joins connectivity and mobility in a way that is very appealing to the Focus’ desired demographic: young, affluent, first-time buyers.

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.

In the market for a new car?MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.

advertisement

Search local listings

powered by:

Recently Viewed Cars

View favorites
BB05 - 7/28/2014 4:40:39 PM