So I pulled into the local Mobil station to get some gas in the 2012 Ford Focus sedan, a sharp-looking vehicle thanks to the SE Sport Package that adds a rear spoiler (and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as this is a five-speed manual I was driving) and to the optional 17-in. alloy wheels. And the young guy who works the counter at the station, who is always keenly interested in what I am bringing in, said, “Oh, the Focus. That’s the one that gets 40 miles per gallon, right?”
Well credit Ford for doing a fantastic job on hammering home the 40 mpg message. But that’s not this car. That’s another trim, the SFE, not the SE parked by the pumps. This one is stickered at 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Putting over 700 miles on the vehicle—most of which were on I-75 between Detroit and Cincinnati—the car delivered 34.4 mpg. Which, maybe it’s me and $4 gas, doesn’t seem like a heck of a lot. Especially given the five-speed and the long stretches of freeway driving. According to Ford, if I had the Focus SFE package with a six-speed PowerShift transmission rather than the evidently run-of-the-mill five-speed in question (run-of-the-mill because it doesn’t have a cool name like “PowerShift”), there I would have had a car stickered at 28/40 city/highway mpg. I would have liked to have had another gear in the car I drove, because the top seemed a bit strained. Given that the vehicle is built with a solid body structure (high-strength steels are used for 55% of the body structure), driving it on roads like 75 can be done with a sense of confidence, not the trepidation that comes in cars with less vehicular stiffness.
While this particular car has the appearance of being something that would be quick, it isn’t. It is described by Ford as being “ideal for enthusiasts on a budget.” I’m not sure what they’re supposed to be enthusiastic about. Although, again, I must say that the car, with the SE Sport Package, does look good. In the more plain-vanilla versions, the sedan styling is rather, well, plain-vanilla. Some people are critical of the styling of the current-generation Honda Civic sedan. Let them make a comparison to the Focus sedan, and then hear what they have to say. However, if we’re talking about the Focus five-door hatch, that is another story, entirely.
Whereas the Focus was once one of the cars that was probably a second or third or. . . thought for Ford, it is now something that is clearly the result of people paying attention. The interior doesn’t look like it had its materials sourced from one of those insurance liquidators sales. And there is a certain amount of flair to the buttons and gauges, even if the array of buttons for the audio unit flanked by HVAC vents resembles the logo for the Decepticons (wonder if GM knows about that).
The seats are fairly comfortable, for those in either of the front two. (According to Ford, “It offers more first-row shoulder room than an Audi A4.” This is where the company is getting a little crazy-eyed: C’mon, does anyone think that a car with a base MSRP of $17,270 is going to cross shop an A4?) If you’re in the back, being small and having short legs would have a great benefit. At 13.2-cubic feet, the trunk is of a healthy size for a compact car.
The vehicle is powered by a 2.0-liter 160-hp engine. One interesting factoid about the engine and the car is that the former is manufactured in Dearborn and the vehicle is assembled in nearby Wayne, so the people of Michigan who are interested in supporting the Great Lakes State could do well by buying a Focus.
Engine: 2.0-liter I4 with twin-independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT)
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 4,450 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Length: 178.5 in.
Width: 71.8 in.
Height: 57.7 in.
Recommended fuel: 87 octane
EPA: 26/36 mpg city/hwy