When the Focus debuted in late 1999, it was immediately a hit with both critics and consumers. We proudly named it our Automobile of the Year for 2000, and it received four subsequent All-Star awards. As time went on, though, Ford neglected the American-market Focus, even as it gave European buyers a new generation and numerous racy variants of the model.
A decade is a long time to wait for anything, but Ford hit another home run with the all-new 2012 Focus. It easily triumphed over five other top compact cars, most of which were equally new, in a recent Automobile Magazine comparison test ["The Small Car 6-pack," July 2011] and continues to impress us every time we drive one.
The Focus sedan starts at $17,295, and a very appealing, more useful hatchback costs as little as $18,995. If you think that seems expensive for a lowly Focus, dear enthusiast, you just need to spend some time behind the wheel to experience the car's impeccable ride-and-handling balance, flexible powertrain, comfortable seats, and abundant available luxury features.
The manual transmission is only a five-speed, but the gearshifter feels fantastic in your hand and the pedals beg for heel-and-toe action. Most buyers will choose the sluggish $1095 dual-clutch automatic, and they'll have no idea what they're missing. Pity. Fuel economy with either gearbox is very good but comes up slightly short of the 40-mpg landmark unless you opt for the SFE model. Even better mileage can be had with the Focus Electric that goes on sale in the spring. But we're way more excited about the pending Focus ST, which will arrive in time for summer and will feature a 247-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual, and other performance-oriented upgrades.
Let's hope that Ford is relentless about improving its excellent Focus this time around, as the company has proven adept at doing with cars such as the Mustang, which also happens to be a member of this year's All-Star team.
-- Rusty Blackwell
BASE PRICE RANGE: $17,295-$23,495
ENGINE: 2.0L I-4, 160 hp, 146 lb-ft
Text Source: Automobile Magazine