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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2012 Ford Focus Review +VIDEO


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2012 Ford Focus

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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel


INTRO TO THE FOCUS VEHICLE
The completely revised 2012 Ford Focus features a truly sportier design, dynamic multi-media technology, and class-leading fuel economy at 40 miles-per-gallon highway. Available as a four-door compact sedan or five-door hatchback with room for five, its listed attributes make it a serious contender in an extremely competitive small car segment.

I drove a 2012 Ford Focus with the 160-horsepower 2.0-liter Ti-VCT gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder engine mated to the five-speed manual transmission. Available in an S, SE, SEL and Titanium trim, my SE test drive came with the following standard equipment: the programmable MyKey technology; a four-speaker audio system; MP3 playback capabilities; and fog lamps. Additional options included: $1,385 Convenience Package (SYNC, upgraded six-speaker audio system); and a $1,130 SE Sport Package (leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler; larger 17-inch alloy wheels. Total vehicle price with options came to $20,580.

Some obvious standouts for the Focus are its more athletic stance, the sportier SE trim, and the four-door or hatchback choice. Because Ford uses quality materials, the Focus is an excellent canvas to paint more options on.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The SE Sport Package is the way to go to really capitalize on the sportier design – those upgraded alloy wheels do the trick. As a mother, one feature I truly appreciated and found unique was the fact there is a small tray crafted on the outside of the rear seats – perfect for setting keys when loading the baby into the car seat. While its great Ford offers a complex safety and technology features like MyKey for all its vehicles – no matter how simple the trim – you do have to pay for just about every extra. The trim levels are really not going to differentiate themselves unless you add on the options.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Focus four-door sedan is a Top Safety Pick by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Focus an overall four-star crash test rating.

Cost Issues: Ford does put an excellent focus on quality design and materials, so you would be happy – if not unconnected and bored – at the base S (or without all the technological bells-and-whistles). But because there is such a feel of quality materials used inside, the Focus is a great compact to stick an additional $3k of options.

Activity & Performance Ability: Ford doesn’t seem to put a lot of emphasis on the horsepower behind the 2.0-liter, which is 160 ponies, as it’s hard to locate this number on their website. But handling is responsive, with quick off-the-line acceleration thanks to the variable value timing engine technology. Much of the improved powertrain performance is new for 2012, like the sport-tuned suspension for an improved level of control. I can’t talk up enough about MyKey – this standard feature can restrict the vehicle’s top speed to 80 miles-per-hour and limit the audio volume. These are great features for the younger drivers in your household.

The Green Concern: The Focus delivers 26 miles-per-gallon city and 36 highway for a combined 30. And under those numbers, you’ll get spirited driving results. That class-leading fuel economy at 40 miles-per-gallon highway is if you opt for the SE trim with an SFE Package – which stands for Super Fuel Economy – and includes unique aero wheel covers, low-rolling resistance tires and rear disc brakes. Many compacts are coming out with these specially modified exterior packages as a ways to save a few extra miles-per-gallon.


Watch TACH's exclusive Ford Focus promo video


FINAL PARTING WORDS
Using strategic planning – and not luck -- Ford has produced a solid and sporty car with the Focus that also has a refined feel for a $20k compact. However, some might feel the competitive edge gets tarnished a bit by Ford’s need to put a cost to any option more exciting than power widows or a sun visor.

2012 Katrina Ramser