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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Ford Focus continues to dazzle compact sedan and hatchback shoppers with its sporty attitude and for the 2016 model year, more technology features than ever before like hands-free parallel parking and the newly revised voice-activated SYNC 3 media system; not too shabby for a little guy!

I drove a 2016 Ford Focus sedan with the 160-horsepower 2-liter Ti-VCT gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder EcoBoost engine mated to the six-speed automatic transmission. The Focus is available in eight model models but just five for the hatchback; the SE, Titanium, the sportier ST, Electric, and RS. My Titanium test drive hatchback came with the following standard equipment: leather-trimmed upholstery; heated front bucket seats; programmable MyKey technology; an upgraded and programmable Sony audio system with 10-speakers; SYNC 3 with navigation; a reverse sensing system; push-button start; seventeen-inch wheels; rear spoiler; and fog lamps. Total vehicle price as described without options came to $23,725.

Standouts for the Focus are its new SYNC 3 voice-activated technology and its engine varieties: a sportier RS trim choice with a bigger 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, and an all-electric model that gets 105 miles-per-gallon combined, and a 1-liter three-cylinder (all in addition to the 2-liter test drive I had). Competitors include the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Kia Forte and Mazda3.

Stylish But Comfortable Results: Walking around the Focus hatchback, eyes are drawn to the rear tail lights, the wheel wells (for $625, you can upgrade to premium eighteen-inch aluminum wheels) and color ($395 for the "Blue Candy" paint job). Ford takes efforts to create a comfy and modern environment, with the Titanium trim delivering more notable details like quality leather upholstery and chrome details throughout the cabin. It does take extra dollars to really deck the vehicle out, however. My test drive had the $795 voice-activated navigation system, the $395 Active Park Assist, and the $795 Technology Package that covers such safety features Land Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert. Overall, the updated SYNC 3 system streamlines all commands (navigation, climate, music) in a much easier format than the past system.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2016 Ford Focus hatchback has not been properly rated by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) - just the LATCH (child seat anchors) ease of use has with a rating of "Acceptable". However, the sedan has been rated with ratings of "Good" in all areas omitting another "Acceptable" in small overlap front, a challenge area for many cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the model year an overall 5-star crash test rating.

Cost Issues: The Ford Focus SE hatchback starts at $19,015 with my top-of-the-line Titanium trim and all the described options at $26,975. A base Mazda3 iSport hatchback starts at $18,545 with a recent fully loaded iGrand Touring trim test drive coming in at $30,270 with options. Another recent test drive this time with the 2016 Hyundai Elantra came to a reasonable $26,675 with options.

Activity & Performance Ability: While I've always appreciated the spirited acceleration of any Ford motor both big and small along with their quick-acting brakes, I have a gripe with the limited turning radius of the Focus. You'd expect more flexibility from a compact, yet I found myself constantly overestimating its turning ability into average sized parking spaces and throwing the Focus into reverse to get in (a problem I don�t experience with many mid-sized SUVs). That's not what I'd call quick and fun.

Yet the Focus is an attractive choice for parents buying their driving child a new car; the standard MyKey technology can restrict the vehicle's top speed to 80 miles-per-hour and limit the audio volume. If it true speed you're seeking in a hatchback at a reasonable price, try a test drive with the Mazda3.

The Green Concern: The Focus hatchback with the 2-liter engine delivers 26 miles-per-gallon city and 38 highway for a combined 30. Go electric and you'll get 110-city and 99-highway for 105 miles-per-gallon combined.

Ford created a compact hatchback (and sedan) that seems to offer something for everyone with its span of engine types and trim versions. Even decked out, you won't pay too much north of $30k. You've also got desirable tech features to keep your digital lifestyle in tack through, supported by voice commands and the revised SYNC that is more intuitive to use than past media systems.

2016 Katrina Ramser

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