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Old 02-01-2011, 01:32 AM   #1
darknightohio
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First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus

Ford Proves It Can Build A Compact With A Pulse




2012 Ford Focus -

We should no longer be surprised by the notion of a compact car with big-sedan features and eye-popping fuel economy. New creations like the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze have gone about making the compact segment one of the most hotly contested arenas in the market, rankling the chains of long-time fighters like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla in the process. But while the Cruze and Elantra have proven that big content can come in small packages with smaller price tags, there's a growing sense that the fun-to-fling small car may be on its way out in favor of commuters that have inherited the soft-riding genes of their bigger brethren.

In a way, the change was all but inevitable. Whereas the compact segment once served up a cornucopia of rides that were low on power but big on handling, the market has proven that above all else, buyers in this neck of the woods want value. In an effort to pinch every last copper cent, both Hyundai and Chevrolet have scrapped the independent rear suspension in their respective compacts in favor of the considerably cheaper torsion-beam design.

So when Ford announced that American buyers would finally be able to get their hands on the global Focus, our ears perked up. The last Euro-Focus had built a reputation for being a smart handler, and if this latest version could make it across the pond without becoming too watered down in the process, compact buyers would once again have a vehicle that's as fun to drive as it is responsible to own. Now we get to find out if Ford pulled it off.

Continue reading...



Gallery:
2012 Ford Focus: First Drive

Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL


From the exterior, there's no mistaking the 2012 Ford Focus for a flat-line commuter. The FoMoCo designers graced both the four-door and five-door body styles with a menacing fascia that makes use of massive faux air-inlets on either side of the main grille, and the blacked-out treatment is plenty sharp in the flesh. That's especially true when the Focus wears the optional 17-inch painted alloy wheels of our sedan tester. Ford is planning to offer a whopping total of 11 different wheel variants, with 18-inch, multi-spoke rollers topping the charts.

Wrapped headlights carry your eye around the side of the Focus, where a sloping shoulder line and subtle strake help give the car a sense of movement in four-door guise. Out back, the sedan wears a remarkably short trunk deck, though the wrapped tail lamps go a long way toward helping everything feel cohesive. We couldn't really drum up a complaint with the appearance of the sedan, but the five-door variant is far and above the looker in our book.

While the hatch makes use of the same front bodywork as its four-door kin, the five-door presents a much more sorted rear. Tricks like a fuel door that's integrated into the tail lamp design and an attractive roof spoiler go a long way toward making the Focus hatch one of the more creatively styled compacts.



Inside, the Focus offers up an interior that, while nice, isn't going to redefine what buyers have come to expect from small cars in America. Base trim delivers comfortable cloth seats with acceptable bolstering, though the two-tone grey on black cloth of our sedan tester was more than a little cringe-worthy. The good news is that the higher you climb on the option sheet, the better those thrones become. Ford does offer handsome leather buckets with contrasting stitching if you can't stomach the thought of parking your keester on the low-rent seats.

Seating material aside, the Focus uses stylish, easy-to-read gauges that are supplemented by a small LCD screen nestled between the tachometer and the speedometer. The screen can be set up to display everything from fuel economy to your trip meter, average speed and a host of other information. Handy controls on the steering wheel make the screen easy to use and easier to set up, though we wouldn't recommend flipping through the categories while on the road.

The center stack on the Focus offers more buttons than you can shake a stick at, and at least half of them are tangled up in the same number pad found on the Fiesta. Lower trim levels are stuck with HVAC controls that feel right at home in this segment, though buyers opting up for the Titanium trim level are rewarded with more upscale kit.



For now, the 2012 Focus is only available with one engine option – a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated direct-injection gasoline engine with 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can have the mill bolted to either a five-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission, and while the EPA hasn't quite wrapped up testing on either configuration, Ford tells us that we can expect at least one variant to eclipse the 40 mpg barrier. That means that unlike the Hyundai Elantra, which manages to hit 40 mpg no matter the trim, the Focus will only be able to pull off the fuel-economy stunt with a special package just like the Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

Still, that doesn't mean the standard Focus is a slouch at the pump. Ford packed in plenty of learned lessons from its successful EcoBoost program into the 2.0-liter, including a specially-ported intake manifold to increase air flow and twin variable valve timing. Even with plenty of hammering during our time in the cockpit, we saw around 32 mpg in mixed driving, and we're curious to see exactly what the vehicle can return under more sane conditions. Considering that Ford is shooting for an 18-percent increase in fuel economy compared to the 2011 model, the standard 2012 Focus should land somewhere around 30 mpg city and hit high 30s on the highway.



While it's a little disappointing to hear that not every Focus model will be able to return 40 mpg highway, we're bolstered by the handling that Ford has managed to bake into its new compact. The Blue Oval made use of a MacPherson strut set up in the front with a hefty 23.5-millimeter stabilizer bar, and out back, the Focus delivers a multi-link independent rear with a 19-millimeter bar. The result is one of the most well-planted compacts in the segment. Really lean on the Focus and it will serve up sharp turn-in with very little understeer, and the five-speed manual transmission is perfect for banging your way through the gears. With one fell swoop, the 2012 Focus has managed to knock both the Honda Civic and the Mazda3 off their fun-to-drive thrones.

Unfortunately, if you want the Titanium Handling Package package that throws in 18-inch wheels, stickier summer tires, revised dampers, springs and sway bars, you're stuck opting up to the Titanium package. If we were looking for a quality commuter that's fun to sling down our favorite set of twisties, we'd opt for an SE with the five-speed manual and spend the money saved on a new set of tires.



At this point, you're probably thinking that a dual-clutch transmission makes perfect sense on a sport model. You'd be right, only Ford has programmed this cog box to handle shifts just like a standard automatic. While you can technically coax the transmission into a gear of your own choosing by clicking the tiny rocker button on top of the shift lever, gear swaps are slow and soft. If you're really looking to cover some ground with a vengeance, you're better off opting for the manual 'box.

That's not to say that the dual-clutch transmission is lackluster for fielding commuting duty by any means. On the street, the shifts are perfectly smooth, and while the transmission tends to hold gears a bit longer before down shifting than we'd like, the truth is that this piece is a huge improvement over the old automatic.



Ford has priced the 2012 Focus Sedan starting at $16,995 in S trim, though opting up to the five-door in SE guise will set you back $18,790. If your pockets are a little deeper and you like the look of the more polished interior, Titanium trim will go for $22,995 for the sedan and $23,490 for the hatch. That base price puts the Focus at over $1,100 more than the 2010 Honda Civic sedan, though with more horsepower and better theoretical fuel economy, buyers will get what they pay for with the newest addition to the FoMoCo family.

Ford has made it clear that it doesn't intend to be left out of the new wave of high-quality compact vehicles, and the 2012 Focus manages to bring a level of sophistication, comfort and handling that we've never seen from the automaker's efforts in this segment. The Focus has finally grown into a genuine top pick in a field that's already packed with strong contenders. Our only complaint is that we have to wait a full year before the high-horsepower Focus ST model finds its way to the streets. Consider yourselves warned, Civic Si and MazdaSpeed3.



The bottom line is that the 2012 Ford Focus is a compact car with a pulse. With its more youthful exterior and sharper handling compared to either the 2011 Hyundai Elantra or 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, the Focus is perfect for buyers who want more than transportation from their vehicles. And with available goodies like MyFord Touch and a hatchback body style, the Focus also delivers a little extra usability than either of those offerings. If you're willing to give up a few miles per gallon for a few extra giggles per apex, it's hard to do better than the Focus.

http://www.autoblog.com/2011/01/31/2...iew-road-test/
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Old 02-01-2011, 01:41 AM   #3
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First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus
One Ford Turns Out Another Winner
January 27, 2011 / By Scott Evans |



Click to view GalleryFor as long as any of us care to remember, car fans have been kvetching about the amazing, world-beating, do-no-wrong Ford products that Europe gets while we Americans sit here and stare like kids locked out of a toy store. No more.

Thanks to the much-lauded "One Ford" initiative, we're finally getting a taste of what Ford of Europe has been cooking, and boy, can they cook. Enter the 2012 Focus, a car so radically improved from what we're used to that it's surprising the name stayed the same.

That's not to imply that the old U.S.-spec Focus was a bad car -- just an outdated, uninteresting one. This new car? Now that's a whole other story. It looks better, drives better, and offers more content than the old car could ever hope to. What's not to like?



Click to view GalleryNot much, really. The new MyFord Touch infotainment system isn't the most intuitive and it takes a bit of playing to figure out that the joystick-looking thing in the dash is just the volume knob, and the screen is touch-sensitive. The dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission balks a bit at performance driving and the manual shift buttons are frustratingly located on the shifter. The rear seat is slightly cramped and the seats don't fold flat. The rear seats can't be dropped from the trunk/cargo area, and the optional subwoofer stashed in the trunk looks like an afterthought.

And that's about it.

Going down the road, the 2012 Focus is a solid, confident performer. Steering through the meaty, well-shaped wheel is quick, precise, and nicely weighted, though the feel is a bit lacking. Set course for the apex and hold on, because the Focus will turn in and take a line better than any economy car should, even if you don't spring for the Sport model or the Titanium Handling package. It really is a joy to drive this car hard, even if that's not the point. Push too hard and the front tires will start to give way to understeer, but it's mostly avoidable if you set up the corner right. The trade-off, should you go for one of the sportier packages, is a ride that is firm by economy car standards, but not punishing.


Providing much of the amusement is Ford's new direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Though rated for an unsurprising 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, well-chosen gear ratios make the engine feel stronger than the numbers suggest. To the hard-charging, lead-footed auto journalist, it feels as though it could use a bit more power down low, but real-world, everyday drivers won't notice. And there's always that Focus ST coming for us speed junkies. In the meantime, we'll just have to make do with the 40 mpg highway that Ford expects to get out of its frugal new motor.

The other half of the equation is the optional five-speed manual transmission. Like most OEM stick shifts, the throws are a tad long, but the shifter finds its gates nicely and doesn't mind being hustled on your favorite country road. The dual-clutch automatic is also a nice piece of engineering. For everyday use and some mild performance driving, it gets along nicely with crisp, smooth shifts and smart gear choices. While the Sport mode is a welcome touch, it could use just a bit more sport. When not manually shifting, it does a good job of downshift under braking to set up for the next turn, but it's still too eager to get back up into a higher gear. Exacerbating this is the engine's lack of oomph below 2000 rpm, where the transmission likes to reside. Wind it up just a little, though, and the car comes alive.



Click to view GalleryThe final piece of the puzzle is the front buckets, which are easily the best seats in the segment. They're simultaneously soft and comfortable for everyday driving, and supporting and well-bolstered for weekend shenanigans, though the seat bottoms are a bit narrow for the average American. Even the rears are a nice place to spend time, though a bit cramped because of the car's small footprint. The quality of materials all around is impressive for the class and the Focus is surprisingly quiet inside, even on rough pavement, which makes the optional Sony stereo sound even better. Outward visibility is good in most directions, if not a little pinched out the back window thanks to a high beltline, a styling feature as common as chrome these days.


We had a chance to spend time with the four-door sedan and the five-door hatchback, and had trouble picking a favorite. The car looks good in both body styles and while we love a good hot hatch, we also appreciate the sedan's large trunk. Either way, we like the big, flat-load floor and wide trunk/hatch openings. We'd like it more, though, if the seats folded flat and the releases could be reached from the trunk. Even the hatch requires you to remove the cargo cover to reach the seat releases. The sedan, meanwhile, has an exposed metal beam with some sharp corners hanging out behind the seats that could catch on luggage. Both cars offer an optional subwoofer in the trunk that sticks out like a sore thumb, like they didn't even try to mold the enclosure into the trunk wall.



Click to view GalleryAs has been the trend amongst compact sedans lately, the Ford Focus has vaulted from forgettable to formidable in one fell swoop. The improvements to the new car are night and day compared to what we had, and we'd expect no less from an all-new car. With both sedan and hatchback models available and an impressive-looking electric model on the way (and possibly a wagon as well, if the rumors are true), Ford has planted a very large flag on the compact sedan hill.

Having sampled the Focus' direct competition in the new Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, and Volkswagen Jetta, we have high expectations for the Ford, as it's already showing itself to be the sportiest of the bunch. The final wild card is the just-revealed 2012 Honda Civic, due out in a few months. A preliminary rundown of the group has the Ford fighting for the top seat, but with all of the vehicles replaced, updated, or refreshed in the past year or so, it's going to be a very tough fight. We can't wait.
http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/...ive/index.html
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Old 02-01-2011, 01:43 AM   #4
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2012 Ford Focus Titanium First Drive
Making Up for a Lost Generation

By Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing | Published Jan 27, 2011

Poor So-So Pretty Good Good Excellent
PoorSo-SoPretty GoodGoodExcellent.37 Ratings
37 Ratings.For many, the road to the 2012 Ford Focus is paved with seven years of envy, disbelief, confusion — even anger. It began in late 2004 when an all-new second-generation Ford Focus was revealed to the rest of the world at the Paris Motor Show. Also revealed that day was the sad fact that we wouldn't be seeing it here in the United States.

Longer and wider, Europe's new Focus had attitude, more interior space and a higher level of trim. In the intervening years it came in hopped-up versions called ST, RS and RS500, and went rallying in the WRC. North Americans could only read about all this and develop bad attitudes on message boards.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Canada witnessed the demise of Focus hatchbacks and SVT sport models amid a steady descent into fleet sales optimization. The final insult came in 2008, when the "new" reskinned North American Focus turned out to be a warmed-over first-gen car that looked like a Daewoo instead of the spiffy European Focus we'd all been hoping for.

This ends now. Our new 2012 Ford Focus is the same as the world's new Ford Focus. All-new third-generation Ford Foci for everyone.

Longer, Lower, Wider
Europe is used to the idea of a slightly larger Focus because their second-gen car was sized similarly to this new machine. From our perspective, however, the 2012 Focus seems like a whole new animal.


Gone is the somewhat tall and skinny form we're used to, replaced instead with more aggressive proportions and a ready stance. The new Focus sedan has ballooned a full 4 inches wider and been stretched 3.5 inches longer (to 71.8 and 178.5 inches, respectively) while at the same time squishing 0.8 inch lower than the outgoing equivalent. The same is true of the resurrected hatchback we're sampling today, though its 171.6-inch length is 3.1 inches longer than its forgotten counterpart. And all of them ride on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, 1.4 inches more generous than before.

This of course opens up gobs more interior space, especially in front, where maximum legroom and shoulder room swell by 2 inches or so. On paper, rear legroom takes a bit of a hit, but that's mainly because the front seat can slide farther aft. Our tallest tester can sit behind himself, but a taxi this ain't.

...And Nicer, Mostly
The cockpit is, well, a real working cockpit now, with well-shaped seats and a readily adjustable driving position. The steering wheel is now telescopic, presenting a thick, sculpted rim for the driver to grasp and flail. There's a clear view of a full complement of gauges through its four properly placed spokes. A handsome center stack hovers nearby within easy reach.

More size and more stuff equals more weight, so it's no surprise that the average Focus has gained about 300 pounds.
But that's our first problem, as the MyFord Touch system that's standard on our top-level Titanium (and optional further down) proves to have slow responses, a steep learning curve and, ultimately, no real advantage over well-placed buttons and knobs. And, we're sorry, but voice control isn't a cure-all for a finicky design. The standard audio layout found on lower grades is only slightly better, as it's essentially a repeat of the overly busy flying-vee arrangement that is the single worst aspect of the Ford Fiesta.

That said, it's all made to a much higher quality standard than we're used to in a Focus. And there are options like never before. A navigation system is now a possibility. So are keyless start with passive entry, dual-zone climate control and rain-sensing wipers. You can even opt for an automated parallel parking assist system.

Of course, more size and more stuff equals more weight, so it's no surprise that the average Focus has gained about 300 pounds.

Direct Injection Intervention
More power is the usual remedy for that, and the newly minted base 2.0-liter engine delivers. Direct fuel injection, a stout 12.0:1 compression ratio and independently variable intake and exhaust cam timing help churn out 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, 20 more ponies and 10 lb-ft more than last year's retired Duratec 2.0-liter engine.

Last year's four-speed autobox is history, replaced instead with Ford's Powershift six-speed automatic. Reality is more impressive than marketing here, because this is a dual-clutch automated manual that can be had with "Select Shift" manual shifting on the Titanium, SEL and SE Sport package.


This more sophisticated powertrain is also more efficient at the pump. EPA fuel consumption figures are not final, but Ford suggests 28 city and 38 highway mpg as ballpark figures — some 3-4 mpg better than last year. An SFE package available on the SE sedan should produce 40 mpg on the highway through the use of low-rolling-resistance tires and other tweaks.

There's also a five-speed manual, but with just the five cogs and a flaccid clutch it's not really optimized for either performance or fuel economy. It's more of a value proposition on the low end of the price scale, which explains why it's confined to S and SE models.

Full Steam Ahead Already
Finally under way, the new 2012 Ford Focus engine revs happily and feels strong. It's no speed demon — Ford has a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 247 hp waiting in the wings for that — but it doesn't feel weak-kneed, either. The Powershift transmission shifts smartly in "D" on real roads, but an autocross set up for our amusement is another matter.

Manual shifting is accessed through "S," the dedicated Select Shift mode, but the computer can't keep its hands to itself. Breathe off the throttle to transfer weight for a corner...and you might get an upshift. Get close to the engine's redline and you get an upshift. Ford engineers say they did it this way to save the motor and ultimately the warranty claims from rev-limiter-crazed drivers, and they defend it simply by saying, "That's the way BMW does it," like that makes it right. Still sucks from where we sit.

We'd like to say there are paddle shifters on the steering column for manual mode, but the steering spokes are already crowded with a spasm of other buttons. Instead there's a +/- rocker switch on the thumb side of the console shift lever, an awkward placement that favors an odd skyhook grasp from above. Not good. And to pile it on, they made the gear readout on the IP miniscule.

Touch That Dial
The steering, on the other hand, is right on. It's Ford's EPAS electric power steering, but that's OK because they nailed the calibration. Response is quick, owing to a 14.7-to-1 steering ratio that produces just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock, and there's a goodly amount of effort buildup as the 225/50R17 Continental all-season rubber does its job.

Familiar MacPherson struts prop up the front end and Ford's so-called Control Blade multilink setup handles the rear. It's a proven combination that earned a lot of praise for the original Focus before they softened things up and dumbed the calibration down over time. Here, with Ford of Europe doing the suspension tuning, there's an admirable level of control and poise, and little harshness.


A wider body allows a healthy increase in track width, 2.6 inches in front and 2.3 inches out back. Also, the standard stability control contains a brake-based torque-vectoring algorithm, put there to quell understeer on corner exit by dragging the inside front brake to kill wheelspin and shunt extra drive torque to the loaded outside tire.

It works. Even on all-season rubber, our Titanium hatch blasts through San Diego County's famous back roads, staying steady on our preferred line and knifing accurately through tight corners with nary a chirp. The brakes, too, deserve a nod in the most relentless stretch of twisties, where their progressive response and precise release characteristics make it easy to trail-brake and control the car's pitch attitude when rushing corners.

It should be said that our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback benefits from a sportier suspension tune than that of lower-grade Foci, but an SE Sport package we drove earlier does nearly as well. An optional Handling package ($595) on the Titanium takes things up yet another notch with asymmetrical 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport PS3 summer tires and dampers specially tuned to take full advantage. This setup shaves 2 further seconds from our best autocross time in a standard 17-inch-shod Titanium.

Lots of Range
If you're thinking that prices must have shot up, the answer is yes...and no. A base 2012 Focus S sedan costs $16,270 — the same as last year's base car. Our Titanium hatch starts at $22,765, far more than any Focus before it but miles ahead in fit, finish and equipment. SE and SEL trims are evenly distributed between these endpoints, with hatchback variants costing about $800 more than sedans.

We remember 2007, when a Ford marketing insider told us that Americans weren't prepared to spend money on small cars equipped like the Euro Focus. (That conclusion was based on focus groups, obviously.) But that was before $4 gasoline, Cash for Clunkers, the death of Hummer and a couple of major bailouts we could mention.

Circumstances are different now. The case for a more substantial 2012 Ford Focus with more polish, more appeal and more stuff makes sense as folks who can afford more are aiming to spend less. That's great news for North American Focus fans, even if they did have to suffer through a lost generation to get here. Perhaps now they'll dive into those message boards and be a little less nasty. Naaah. Where's the fun in that?

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
http://www.insideline.com/ford/focus...rst-drive.html



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Old 02-01-2011, 07:46 PM   #5
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Any word on when these hit dealerships?
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Old 02-01-2011, 08:21 PM   #6
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By Mark Elias Tuesday, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:00 p.m. After years of begging from the peanut gallery Ė thatís us, among others Ė for Ford to pay more attention to the starved-for-product compact segment in North America, the automaker is finally launching a new, advanced Ford Focus in every market.

Thatís the way things now operate in this, the age of Alan Mulally, at Ford Motor Company.

Definitely the most important nameplate in Fordís worldwide portfolio, it has, to date, been responsible for more than 10 million units sold since its debut in 1998.

A big step for them, a huge step for U.S.
Designed in Europe, the new Focus rides on architecture two generations ahead of its outgoing North American model. As a result, itís hardly surprising that it makes leaps and bounds in every category under the sun. But itís also definitely a step ahead of the second-generation world Focus, which launched for 2005 nearly everywhere else.

NVH is better than ever and so is interior fit and finish. Rigidity in the unibody has been increased through the use of high-strength steel and other technologies for what Ford claims is a 30-percent improvement over the previous North American Focus.

The powertrain features a totally new 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine with direct-injection. Ford claims it to be one of the most advanced non-turbocharged engines they have built. On the drive dynamics side of the equation, Torque Vectoring is now a standard part of the system, allowing the car to mimic the feel and assists received from a limited slip differential, but in this case, using the brakes to accomplish that same feat. The result is minimized understeer and maximized grip and steering.

The new Focus is now available as a sedan and a five-door hatch. Sure, the sedan looks more conservative, buttoned-down and straightforward, but it still manages to be stylish and has a surprisingly engaging ride.

Looks are everything
Fordís Kinetic design approach is what brings the Focus into, uh, focus today. Designed globally, but with major input from Ford of Europeís design studios, it starts with sculpted side panels and a trapezoidal front grill to set this new Focus apart from any previous models. Upswept headlight lenses give character to the front end and highlight the single bar chrome strip in the above-bumper opening that also features the companyís blue oval script.

On the sedan, a smallish, to our eyes, trunk actually looks like it is sized right. An aerodynamic spoiler holds sway on the trunkís trailing edge and helps to improve the aero numbers.

As nice as the sedan appears, the five-door hatch is the real looker here. Using the same front clip on both the four and five door models saved the company from having to make many modifications. Behind the rear door, things are different. A rather expressive pair of taillights occupies some of the prime real estate on the rear of this Focus, and are capped off by highĖmounted rear spoiler. A contrasting piece of lower cladding surrounds the lower extremities of the car.

With the upcoming high performance ST model, expect to see that replaced by a ground effects package.

No compromises inside
Where the outgoing Focus had evolved into a fleet darling that sold to consumers mainly based on its low price of entry, the new car aims high.

New for the 2012 model year, a Titanium trim package will be available, highlighting the automakerís efforts to move up. Fordís thinking is that many buyers may be fleeing high-end SUVs and other vehicles should gas prices exceed $4 per gallon. Those buyers, Ford surmises, wonít want to compromise on features or style Ė they just want a more efficient package.

To that end, the interior design crew for Focus really stepped up their game with an interior that is one of the best weíve seen in the segment as far as fit, finish and features are concerned. Sure it looks a little busy, with all the dials and buttons, but with so much new technology available in cars, itís hard to find one that goes easy on the switches. Undoubtedly, the look isnít conservative and it probably wonít age well, but right now Ford just wants to sell new cars.

On high-line interior navigation-equipped models, the MyFordTouch package dominates. Offering new controls and ways to personalize, their cars, the system is set up for voice recognition, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, Gracenotes features, among other items. Using an eight-inch monitor atop the center stack and a smaller screen located between the gauges in the driverís binnacle, and controlling through two five-point steering wheel-mounted touch pads, the driver is able through voice, or feel to control climate, navigation, audio, phone and vehicle settings. The system also allows the use of a USB aircard to make the entire vehicle a password protected WiFi hotspot.

The system has a learning curve and it could prove a distraction when used on the go, but it will definitely appeal to tech-minded drivers.

Trim packages come with fabric or leather seat coverings. Regardless which you choose, we found them offering good support which says a lot considering we spent quite a bit of time with our butts pinned to them.

Materials are a mixed bag, but theyíre generally price appropriate.

It goes direct
The 2.0-liter Direct-Injection inline four-banger is also equipped with Ti-VCT, the Ford name for variable camshaft timing. Producing 160-horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, it is capable of using 87-octane fuel. The engine is mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission that we found capable but rubbery. We also felt that it was in need of a sixth gear, seeing that we couldnít count how many times we were underway along Mulholland Drive ready to shove it into sixth when we had already topped out in fifth.

We think Ford chose this tranny for a particular feel that appeals to the lowest common denominator of driver. Perhaps a short-throw kit might be in order, at some point. But few buyers will probably walk out of showrooms with Focus five-speeds in the U.S. since the transmission is relegated only to the lower trim levels.

On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed the Powershift Six-Speed Automatic transmission that equipped our Focus five-door hatchback SEL. A dual-clutch system, it also allows for Selectshift functions where the driver can switch gears manually by the use of a toggle switch mounted on the side of the shift lever.

The suspension was equipped with the ubiquitous MacPherson strut system in front and a multi-link set up in the rear. Add stabilizer bars at both ends and youíll see why we liked the ride, which was surprisingly quiet for this segment. The Focus tips the scales in the neighborhood of 2,950 lbs.

Pushed into a corner, the Focus reveals its tightly-tuned, European-derived suspension. It isnít as imminently fun to drive as, say, a Mazda Mazda3, but it is definitely tossable and more than a step above the class norm. Steering is a bit vague at times and generally overboosted, but miles ahead of its predecessor Ė regardless of continent.

They are still awaiting the final fuel estimate numbers from the EPA, but Ford is quick to toss out 40 mpg figures to anyone listening.

Leftlaneís bottom line
Ford improves their world car, and in the process, gives us a version that is nearly the equal of the European model. The 2012 Focus is certainly among the most refined and well-equipped cars in its class, but it seems to trade sport for refinement, a trait most buyers will probably prefer.

Will it set the compact car segment aflame? Probably not, but its high fuel economy and tech-loaded nature cancel out the small but pricey Fiesta unless youíre purely a bargain hunter.

2012 Ford Focus base price range, $16,995 to $23,490.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.
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Old 02-01-2011, 09:44 PM   #7
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Any word on when these hit dealerships?
March is what I have been told.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:32 AM   #8
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Disappointed you can only get a manual in the lower trim levels. That might keep me from considering this (given what options you can get with the SE trim level), especially given the not-so-great reviews of the dual-clutch manual & sport mode.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:37 AM   #9
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I think it's funny that for a decade, the Mazda3 has been the more advanced one, now it's the Focus' turn.
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:38 AM   #10
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Finally a worthy competitor to the imports. DI: yes, please!
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Old 02-02-2011, 12:18 PM   #11
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Disappointed you can only get a manual in the lower trim levels. That might keep me from considering this (given what options you can get with the SE trim level), especially given the not-so-great reviews of the dual-clutch manual & sport mode.
I agree. There's no way i would settle for a neutered twin clutch that shifts too early and has buttons on the shifter. I hope they don't mess up the ST version which is probably the only one I would consider anyway. Fortunately the "Early Preview" ST shown in Paris has a manual. I hope that's not a Europe only option...

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Old 02-02-2011, 01:33 PM   #12
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i got a call from a local dealer here in Toronto (Canada) last night telling me his allotment of 2012's will be arriving in the next month. prices here will start at $15 995 going up to $24 995 for the SEL version fully loaded. No info on the ST or RS.

i told him, like i told him a year ago or whenever it was that the pics of the ST version were released, to call me only when THAT one is arriving...
he was rather dissapointed when i told him i wasn't interested in the base or titanium or the SES models (it has a sports appearance package!!!!)

for what it's worth- Ford is giving early adopters a $1000 bonus rebate....
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Old 02-02-2011, 01:48 PM   #13
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Bummer about the dual clutch transmission being a disappointment. Why you'd put a rocker switch instead of paddles/buttons on the wheel or an +/- shift gate selection is beyond me.
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Old 02-02-2011, 02:35 PM   #14
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I think it's funny that for a decade, the Mazda3 has been the more advanced one, now it's the Focus' turn.
That's because the Mazda3 (along with the Volvo S40) shared the 'nicer' Euro Focus platform that the rest of the world got in 05. While the USDM was saddled with a facelifted (2005) and then rebodied (2008-2011) chassis. Easy to make profit on the old chassis if you're keeping it around forever.

Nice to be back on the same car the rest of the world has.
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Old 02-02-2011, 02:49 PM   #15
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With the titanium trim level going for $23,490, that does not speak well for the ST. Not with the MS3 at $23700 plus destination.
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Old 02-02-2011, 03:50 PM   #16
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With the titanium trim level going for $23,490, that does not speak well for the ST. Not with the MS3 at $23700 plus destination.
This.

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Old 02-02-2011, 05:25 PM   #17
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With the titanium trim level going for $23,490, that does not speak well for the ST. Not with the MS3 at $23700 plus destination.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Ford knows what they are doing. They are on a tear lately. They know what their competition is (MS3, GTi, etc) and they probably know that the needs of the enthusiast are different from the needs of the non-enthusiasts. The Titanium has lots of features that could be removed to lower the cost if needed. For example, most people who buy an ST will either know how or will be willing to learn how to parallel park. It's either that or it will have to outperform the competition to justify the higher price.
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Old 02-02-2011, 08:47 PM   #18
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I agree. There's no way i would settle for a neutered twin clutch that shifts too early and has buttons on the shifter. I hope they don't mess up the ST version which is probably the only one I would consider anyway.
I read it has a noticable delay before shifting in manual mode too... What's the point of even having a DCT if you're gonna **** it up that bad?
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Old 02-02-2011, 09:34 PM   #19
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YAWWWWWWWWNNNN!!!

so sleepy....
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Old 02-02-2011, 10:48 PM   #20
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With the titanium trim level going for $23,490, that does not speak well for the ST. Not with the MS3 at $23700 plus destination.
This. I'm shocked at how expensive the Cruze, Fiesta, and Focus can get in the non-performance trims. While my GTI was a huge disappointment as far as reliability, I just cannot fathom spending GTI money on a 160hp Focus. Comparing fuel economy of vehicles in the 30s (GTI at 32 highway and the Focus at 37ish) doesn't net much extra money in the pocket from gas savings either.
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:17 PM   #21
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This. I'm shocked at how expensive the Cruze, Fiesta, and Focus can get in the non-performance trims. While my GTI was a huge disappointment as far as reliability, I just cannot fathom spending GTI money on a 160hp Focus. Comparing fuel economy of vehicles in the 30s (GTI at 32 highway and the Focus at 37ish) doesn't net much extra money in the pocket from gas savings either.
It's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. When the ST arrives, I doubt it will be more expensive than the GTI currently is. And to be fair, you're looking at a top of the line Focus to reach the GTI's price.
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:31 PM   #22
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Yeah, I believe that a loaded GTI is a little north of 30K.

(edit: 4 door, manual with Autobahn = 29.8K; DSG adds $1100 = $30.9K)

We'll just have to wait to see what trim package(s) are offered for the ST. Difficult to wait a year for this puppy....

Last edited by hippo; 02-03-2011 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 02-03-2011, 02:52 PM   #23
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Yeah, I believe that a loaded GTI is a little north of 30K.

(edit: 4 door, manual with Autobahn = 29.8K; DSG adds $1100 = $30.9K)

We'll just have to wait to see what trim package(s) are offered for the ST. Difficult to wait a year for this puppy....
I'll guess that the ST will probably start at $24kish. Similar to the MS3, GTI, WRX, etc.
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Old 02-03-2011, 03:06 PM   #24
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That's because the Mazda3 (along with the Volvo S40) shared the 'nicer' Euro Focus platform that the rest of the world got in 05. While the USDM was saddled with a facelifted (2005) and then rebodied (2008-2011) chassis. Easy to make profit on the old chassis if you're keeping it around forever.

Nice to be back on the same car the rest of the world has.
I just wonder how long it will take to change minds. My dad helped a guy get a Focus 3dr out the door for under 10k. Now it's gonna be 17-24k range.
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Old 02-03-2011, 03:45 PM   #25
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My first new car was a Focus 3dr in 2000, I got a 2001 model since the Y2K's had a lot of problems. It was about $15K OTD for the midlevel package. A lot happens in 10 years y'all, the avg new car retail price was around $20k 10 years ago, & is right at $30k now.

My SVT focus was a 2004 model that I bought in 2006 when it was still under warranty, that cost me about $11k, and those were about $20k new.
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