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2012 Ford Focus Review and Comparison by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2012 Ford Focus

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide
COMPARE: Ford Focus Vs. Chevrolet Cruze

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Detroit Bureau

I had a few minutes to make a direct comparison as I swapped last week’s Chevrolet Cruze for this week’s Ford Focus. Both are fresh new designs and both represent the fastest growing segment of the auto market – the compact or small car, segment.

They happened to be sitting side-by-side as I was swapping one for the other so the comparison was easy. The Focus has a much sportier look especially with the cool black and silver 16-inch alloy wheels. Swoopier exterior styling makes the Focus look more like it wants to go quickly where ever it goes. Cruze, on the other hand, appears more conventionally stylish and conservative.

The Focus’ trunk opening is much wider than Cruze. The volume looks about the same but loading will be easier with the Focus. Trunk volume in the sedan is a decent 13.2 cubic-feet. The hatchback sports 23.8 cubic-feet back there with nearly double that number when you fold the rear seat.

Materials on the inside are not particularly attractive, and neither is the overall design, in my view. (Now remember, attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder.) Here Cruze gets the advantage. The non-glare plastic that covers the bulk of the Focus’ dash has a discolored look about it. The radio controls do not include a knob for station tuning so we have to rely on a rocker button that is slow to respond. Controls are reasonably well placed and logical and the design of the busy center stack has a brash Darth Vader sort of look. The optional Titanium interior trim is much more attractive.

The generous and supportive seats are covered in a two-tone, sturdy-looking fabric. Ingress and egress are easy considering the visually low roofline. My biggest complaint about the car is the rear seat back. The Focus’ rear seat back folds, but not 60/40 like most. Instead it folds as one unit and doesn’t do a good job of that. The release buttons, one on each side, only release that side. So, one must release one side, then hope it doesn’t spring back while you rush to the other side and release that one. Not a good design. I can’t imagine what came over the Ford designers on that one.

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On the road the Focus feels more sporty as well. Steering (electric power assist) is quicker, suspension (conventional struts up front and independent in the rear) is a bit stiffer and slightly more noise intrudes on the cabin.

Focus comes in both 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback versions and 4 trim levels, beginning at $16,500 base price for the S Sedan to $22,700 for the Titanium 5-door Hatchback. An electric version will be available on the east and west coasts exclusively this year priced at just about 40 grand. Our test car is the SE 4-door Sedan showing a base price of $17,270, with a $1,130 Sport Package (wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, rear spoiler and Select Shift), the optional 6-speed automatic transmission and Rapid Spec (cruise control, perimeter alarm and convenience package) for $430. Our bottom line is $20,650.

The same 2.0-liter engine with direct injection making 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque powers all versions of the Focus, though a PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicle) version is offered in the states that require that. Standard on the S, SE models is a 5-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 27-mpg city and 37 highway with 31 combined for the automatic and one click less in all three categories for the manual transmission models. The small 12.4 gallon fuel tank means the range is little more than 300 miles.

I found the acceleration, handling and all dynamic qualities of the Focus to be quite satisfying. It has sportier feel than most of its competitors. Spirited driving is rewarding with this little car. I expect the manual transmission would be even more fun. The conventional chassis, suspension and brake system work well together – nicely balanced and tuned.

Warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles on the whole car with 5 years and 60,000 miles on the powertrain.

Bottom line is: the Focus - at least the one I lived with for a week - has great exterior styling, felt dynamic and sporty but has less sophistication than some of its immediate challengers like Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra.

It is truly amazing how far the entire compact sedan genre has come in the last two generations and the 2012 Ford Focus exemplifies that as well as any.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved