2011 Ford Focus

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 Ford Focus SES

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2011.
By John Phillips of Car and Driver
Pros:
  • Cushy ride
  • Rock-solid platform
Cons:
  • Refocused
  • But shy on personality

For 2008, Ford has freshened the Focus, a stop-gap measure until an all-new iteration arrives circa 2011. Styling is revised within and without, and the suspension has been retuned. Only a sedan and coupe survive-the wagon and hatchback have been euthanized-and the lone powerplant is a 2.0-liter twin-cam four producing 140 horses. It propels the Focus to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, 0.7 second slower than, say, a Mazda 3 s Touring.

The base price begins at $14,695, but our option-laden SES coupe included leather seats ($695), ABS and traction control ($385), and the Sync system (standard on the SES, $395 on other models), swelling its as-tested price to $19,085, more than any Focus should cost.

The Microsoft-developed, voice-activated Sync allows hands-free communication and entertainment. Complex? Well, yeah, there's an 80-page manual, but the system, unlike your spouse, generally obeys commands without bitching.

First Impressions
What you notice first about the Focus is that it rides atop a greatly stiffened platform. No clunks, no flexing, and it tracks like a mid-size sedan. The steering is light and linear and never feels artificial. Clutch takeup is smooth, and the shifter is satisfactorily accurate. Brake feel is good (although the 190-foot stopping distance isn't), and the pedals encourage heel-and-toeing. Progress has been made in isolating road and engine noises, although thrashiness still manifests beyond 4700 rpm.

Biased toward ride, the suspension is cushy even over Michigan's ravaged roads, but the downside is a tall, tippy feel. You get the sense that the squat Pirelli P6s have been left to fend for themselves for lateral grip, which is meager.

Interior Woes
The cockpit offers a simple but dour center stack; the white-faced gauges are easy to read; and the control relationships are good, although the steering wheel adjusts for rake only. Too many surfaces are cheesy-notably the faux aluminum trim, the hard-plastic door inserts, and the flimsy trunk carpeting. The front seats are flat and firm but offer little bolstering. Two adults can inhabit the rear, thanks to the sculpted front seatbacks, but climbing back there is a gymnastic feat, because the front seats don't automatically slide forward and there's a hanging seatbelt you'll have to battle your way past.

This interim Focus is, indeed, refocused-it's more solid and drives like a larger car. But it lacks personality and isn't ever particularly engaging. To torture a sports analogy, it's less a touchdown than a badly needed first down. In this junior league, the Mazda 3 and the new Subaru Impreza may well rain on the Focus's homecoming parade.

Performance Data:

C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 8.0 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 24.2 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 8.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.4 sec @ 85 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 112 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 190 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.79 g
FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city driving: 24 mpg
C/D observed: 24 mpg

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BB02 - 7/29/2014 12:16:06 PM