So last week I had a great offer to test drive a 2012 Ford Focus. Here are my thoughts.
Design means something at Ford again. It’s just not the exterior, it’s everything. I was watching a CNBC program on Ford a couple of years ago and the engineer was talking about how important it was to get the small things right which is something that for a long time, the Big Three wasn’t getting right. Initial quality wasn’t that great and their cars didn’t look that great outside of their trucks and SUVs. Who was passionate and excited about a 2002 Ford Taurus?
Somewhere during the financial crisis, instead of begging for bailouts, Ford decided to design cars. Looking back at it, it was the right move as the styling on the Ford Focus actually inspired some emotion out of me, despite being an entry level sedan. Maybe the reason that the car is actually German engineered but whatever reason, I loved to get up in the morning, look out and see the Focus there. It’s that nice looking.
The car was silver, slight tint on the rear window and the SEL version. It looks exactly like the Ford Focus in the photo except that car is on a gorgeous background and finding something nice as a background in Saskatchewan during February was a hard challenge. There just was no way to get it inside the Mendel’s Conservatory. So just envision it slightly dirty and on a grey background with a guy that looks like me wishing he was in a warmer climate.
While design is so subjective, it is a similar size to the Chevrolet Cruz while it offers up a lot more refinement and finish. The styling looks original and fresh, which is something that you can’t say about many other American automakers. Like I said, Ford found it’s design chops.
The car as reviewed had cloth seats and if I owned the car, I would buy car seat covers on it since I have two boys, two sloppy boys.
I am 6’4 tall and I don’t have a slight build so room is an issue. My 1993 Ford Escort wagon was way to short for me while my beloved 1993 Ford Festiva was more than adequate so I was quite curious how the Ford Focus was going to fit. To my surprise there was more than enough room for me and more than enough room for me to put my seat too far back. I think anyone under 6’8 would fit comfortably in the car. If Dave King was a little closer I would test out my theory that both of us could fit in the car comfortably. My thanks for Ford for hiring taller engineers. My back, neck, and shoulders thank you. We did take it for lunch and there were no complaints from my co-workers in the backseat.
As for the family, Mark (11 years) old and Oliver had a lot of room. I never thought about it but Mark was the one that sat behind me and he never complained about room and I never felt his knees in my back. The trunk was impressive and had more than enough room to hold a couple of coolers and duffle bags for a weekend trip if we had headed to the the cabin.
Of course the big marketing point of Ford cars was Ford Sync. I got into the car and immediately gave it an order. Nothing. Gave it another order. Nothing. Tried again and again. Not a single response. Looked for a manual, none was in the car. I looked around and finally found the Ford Sync paddle that was on the steering wheel. After feeling like an idiot, the Sync helped me figure it out. We had some good trips together and some that I struggled a bit with.
Well I finally got it. Once I got used to it, the Sync was actually quite useful, especially when sync’d up to my phone or iPod. I never took it on a long road trip but if I had, it would have been even more useful. Since I don’t use a hands free, I ignore my phone when in a car (it can wait). To have it connected to Sync and use it to take calls easily and safely was well worth the money for it. The one thing the video does show is the fun of my family trying to confuse the Sync and ask it a series of question on the meaning of life. It controls the temperature well but could use some refinement in answering existential questions.
As for the GPS, I have never ever needed to use a GPS, even when in strange cities (it’s called a map folks, study it). It was a neat feature but not one that I needed. That being said, I have friends who can’t find their bathroom without one so there is a market for it.
The heated seats were a nice feature, especially their control which made it easy to discreetly turn up the heated seats on Wendy without her noticing I did it. Yes I am that childish.
It has a backup camera. Having never backed into anything, it wasn’t really a needed feature but again, Ford did a nice thing with this. It projects the path of your car which lets you know if you are going to make it out of that spot. For a feature that I never thought I would need, I liked it.
Off Road Performance
I did the kind of take the Ford Focus off-roading. I took it down the ungraded side streets of Mayfair and Caswell Hill. The ruts are worse than anything you will ever see a SUV drive through on television. While the ride was rough, the car held together, something that can’t be said for some cars driving to and from work on Saskatoon streets. Actually the car took the worst that Saskatoon streets could toss at it and handled it quite well. The traction control was great on Saskatoon’s icy streets and the anti-lock breaks worked as expected in a variety of slippery road conditions.
The other test you will never see in a magazine is the parking at The Lighthouse test. In the back our parking spots are elevated on a slope and often icy. The traction control got me up the slope and parked. It succeeded where more than one SUV has had to be kicked into four wheel drive to park.
This is the one area that the car didn’t impress me much. In accelerating quickly on the highway, the transmission shifted up so many times that it really impacted acceleration. Not only that but I found it quite disorientating. While my Mazda Protégé is a standard, I am not one to over-rev it but the Focus seemed to be shifting at way too low of RPM and didn’t seem to realize that I was trying to go fast, not save fuel efficiency. This was the one thing that I didn’t really like about the car which was brought up in a couple of reviews, the transmission does seem a little odd.
The good news is that it is a firm ride which I have always liked. On a winding road, the Ford is enjoyable and pleasant to drive. It doesn’t sway in corners and features responsive steering. I liked how to felt to drive, both in town and out of town. With it’s sunroof, it would be a great vacation car, a car that you wanted to take on a long summer road trip.
Would I buy one? Yes I would but I would get the six speed manual transmission. I prefer a standard but other than that, there wasn’t anything on the car that I didn’t like. I took a Cruz and Camry out out for a test drive this week and of the three, the Focus gave the nicest ride and overall experience. It’s worth checking out if you are in the market for a new vehicle. It also gives me faith in Ford’s long term survival if these are the cars that it is making now.