RawAutos recently had the 2012 Ford Focus SE sedan with a manual transmission and sport package. That’s right, a small gas-conscious sport sedan. And it’s a Ford Focus…
Let’s get one thing straight right out the gate: I don’t like the Ford Focus. Actually, let me specify. I don’t like the old American Ford Focus. The European version was cooler, sexier, seemed more fun to drive, and had sportier intentions. As a used Ford goes, the Europeans still have it better. So when Ford released the latest American iteration at Detroit’s auto show in 2010, I was happy and shocked. This wasn’t some smaller car for the bland of life, no, it was for people like me. And it was the same car for the rest of the world.
Finally, due to the fact that I recently turned 25, I’m able to get Ford press vehicles. The first one they dropped off was the new for 2012 Focus SE sedan. I was hoping for the wagon, when I realized that I was getting something better: sport package and a 5-speed manual transmission. However, with only 160 hp available at 6,500 rpm and 146 lb-ft of torque from 4,450 rpm, from a 2.0-liter I-4, I wasn’t expecting much. This is a gas getter, after all, so c’mon, Josh. With EPA estimated 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, I was definitely going to get some cruising done, though.
Remember one thing. When attempting to open the hood, you’ll be feeling for a really big, plastic yellow pull tab that’s located just a few inches to the left of the Ford badge, pictured above.
Once you get past the fact that the 2012 Ford Focus isn’t a wild “sport sedan” you start to realize one thing, that it is actually wild looking. It’s radical. Very much not a Ford of old, but this is the future of any Ford vehicle. Just look at that big spaceship style front bumper, fascia, grille area; sexy and raw. The first thing you’ll notice about the Focus are the amount of bulges and overactive bodywork, which takes an American mpg car to a whole new level, and that is good. Congratulations, Ford. You’ve successfully changed the way hot hatches and gas mileage loving cars will be designed in the future.
In Race Red, as it’s called, the Ford Focus not only stands out, but absolutely shines. And with an as-tested price of $20,580 how could it not? The car you see here is the SE package, which is just above base, but still comes with a manual or automatic option (the SEL and Titanium trims only come in autotragic). The options listed on the car I had were 17″ sport wheels -$495; SE sport package with leather steering wheel and shifter, along with a spoiler -$1,130; Rapid spec 203A meant I got the convenience package with cruise control, alarm, MyFord Sync with 6-speaker audio and SiriusXM radio for $1,385.
The Ford Focus comes standard with folding rear seats, fog lamps, tilt steering wheel, power windows and mirrors, 6 airbags -two front plus side curtains front and rear, auxiliary jack, etc. Most of the things that you’d expect on any car these days.
Driving the 2012 Ford Focus means wrapping your hands around the at-first awkward steering wheel; it’s angled a tad oddly. You get used to it, and once you do, you begin to feel a special connection to the car and its quirky sporting intentions. And never having to take your hands off the wheel is nice, too, since every button you need is right there. You’re getting great gas mileage -I averaged 32.1 mpg for the whole week I drove the wheels off it- but you rev match downshifts perfectly, throw it into a hard corner, and it works. Shockingly, the car is solid and has some pretty sticky rubber. More than that, though, is the weird occurrence of no real understeer.
You see, Ford’s added a torque vectoring control system, similar to that of the European Focus RS/ST and Mazdaspeed3, to squeeze the brake of the inside wheel ever so slightly around corners and putting more torque to the outside wheel for better driving dynamics and optimized steering ability. What does this mean? You won’t overshoot or miss your apexes on back roads or race tracks nearly as often as you did before in most front-wheel drivers. This made me think, is this really a Ford Focus, or is this a sport sedan in Focus clothing? Either way, it’s a blast around any curvy road; acting as a dancer with the lightest of steps but the quickest of reflexes.
But say you can’t find a swaying road and have to settle for a highway cruise. You’re good there, too, because the Focus is so comfortable that you’ll feel relaxed and safe. Not falling asleep relaxed, because this car will keep your attention with the Sync and SiriusXM radio. The sport seats are perfectly bolstered, but are the best cloth surfaces I’ve ever sat my tush on. They flex just right with your body without breaking or feeling too soft.
With the good things must come a bad, I’m afraid. The amount of power and torque -160/145- is nice, but I could go for a little extra to help make the Ford Focus a little less wheezy under hard acceleration or highway passing situations.
This is where, unfortunately, I do have the score the Focus with some lesser points as well. This interior isn’t my favorite, and while it is better than the previous American offering, it’s actually slightly worse than the previous European offering. The dashboard is filled with hard black and aluminum style plastics that aren’t comfortable to touch or play with. It’s nice that you can type the station or phone number you’re calling directly from the cell phone style dial pad, it’s not nice when buttons and switches feel cheap and likely to dull and fall apart with only 30-40,000 miles.
This also brings me to the interior space: You have plenty of room to lounge and relax in the perfectly bolstered and comfortable front seats, the rear leg room is just marginal, however. Good for anyone under 5’9″, but anyone taller will not enjoy any long jaunts or cruises. The seats are attractive and offer excellent cushion, but there just isn’t enough leg room in the back.
I will say with pride that the interior ride and sound is superb. With a comfortable and relaxing feel, as I said before, matched with very low road noise in most cases, you’re looking at a great interior to spend during any trip, in that regard. You will also love the color of the gauges, but more so, the neat features. For instance, when the headlights are on the car on the display shows whether you have normal lights, fog lights or high beams turned on. It’s the little things that count, in my opinion.
Can you actually go wrong with a manual transmission? Sadly, you can. Luckily, the 2012 Ford Focus does not suffer from any complaints here. The stick feel is very good from gear to gear, and the clutch has the right actuation. This all means you can shift fast, slowly, hard, softly, and rev match perfectly. There’re even shift lights on the gauge cluster to help you know when it’s optimal to shift up for the best gas mileage.
There is a little flower looking star next to your average mpg readout that shows what your current rating is. With fewer petals on the flower you’re shifting for the best gas mileage, while the more leaves means you’re either anticipating the upshift hints, shifting for speed, or both. My score was more for speed, but had a little anticipation in there, too.
Another area where the 2012 Ford Focus does well in is with the luggage capacity. While the trunk isn’t the biggest of places, it will hold quite a few dead bodies, er, duffel bags. And with fold down rear seats, you’ll have no problems holding a few suitcases and then have your dog(s) lay on the flat rear seating area.
In The End:
In the end, the 2012 Ford Focus punches the Mazda3 right in the face. Be careful, though, Ford, because the Mazda3 fights back, real hard. If you’re looking for the perfect bachelor mobile, you won’t be disappointed. Oh wait, you need a family car? It’s that, too. The new Focus doesn’t typecast itself, because anyone can use it and everyone will love it. It’s a great car for college kids, traveling musicians, young professionals, a budding family that needs gas mileage and not a crossover. Either way, you’ll be safe in this car, and it’ll also make you look smart to the potential in-laws, there, Gregory Focker. Remember, geniuses pick green.
Bold, sexy styling worthy of awards; Drives like a sports car with a good trunk and an extra set of doors; Dude, it’s 20-grand and gets 32 mpg!
With tech savvy Sync, computer geeks will enjoy the ease of use; But non-tech savvy will need to fiddle a bit; Needs more rear legroom and nicer interior materials; Needs a bit more power and torque to feel less sluggish.
People will cringe when you say you own a Ford Focus until they see it; Some may still cringe after seeing it.
Ford hits a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th in game 7. Now give us an SVT, RS or ST version already!
[Photos by Corey Privette]