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2012 Ford Focus

Base MSRP: $16,270 to $22,765
Reviewed
April 2011
by ConsumerSearch
2012 Ford Focus

A very strong runner-up for best economy sedan or hatch

Pros
  • Fuel efficient
  • Modern, attractive styling
  • High-quality interior
  • Solid, composed ride
  • Fun to drive
  • Impressive optional features
  • Peppy engine
  • Available as hatchback or sedan
Cons
  • Limited rear legroom
  • Technology options could be more intuitive
  • Automatic transmission performance

The long-awaited, all-new 2012 Ford Focus has been expected to be a formidable contender in the compact-car segment. Many reviewers say that the new Focus lives up to the hype, and that it is indeed one of the best economy cars available right now thanks to its world-class driving dynamics, peppy engine, good fuel economy and modern design. The 2011 Hyundai Elantra (Base MSRP: $14,830 to $19,980), the best-reviewed economy sedan, is also a new, modern and sophisticated compact car, but it's cheaper when similarly equipped. The 2011 Mazda3 (Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010) is also an excellent economy car, and the upcoming 2012 Honda Civic is expected to be a strong rival.

Ford Focus' styling, details impress reviewers

The 2012 Ford Focus excels in aesthetics, interior quality and available features. Outside, the Focus is attractive and modern and "belies its price range," according to a Road and Track test drive. Many reviewers find the five-door hatchback particularly attractive. The interior is no different. An Edmunds Inside Line comparison test between the Focus and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (Base MSRP: $16,275 to $22,225) finds it refreshing that when it comes to the interior, "everything is styled, not just applied -- for example, the way the side HVAC vents waterfall off the dash." That same review continues its praise, observing that "nearly every piece of material is soft-touch, with a genuine tactility to it."

The interior has a comfort level that "was quite high in any situation," according to WindingRoad.com. The interior space is about average for the class. Reviewers say the front seats are comfortable and supportive ("uncommonly good," according to Automobile Magazine), while the rear passenger area is on the small side and short on legroom. The Focus' trunk can accommodate 13.2 cubic feet of cargo. Those seeking more hauling ability should turn their attention to the Focus five-door hatchback. When its seats are folded, the hatchback can accommodate up to 44.8 cubic feet of cargo.

Lots of high-tech features, but are they user-friendly?

Available features include a rearview camera; parking assistance; Ford's hands-free, voice-activated Sync system, and the MyFord Touch control interface. The latter removes most buttons you'd commonly find and consolidates the majority of the controls onto a touch-screen system that also houses GPS navigation and infotainment options. Some reviewers note that there is a significant learning curve to this arrangement.

Car and Driver says that "the busy screen is crowded with command prompts," and expresses concern that the system's submenus could take a driver's focus away from the road and the touch-screen's hot buttons "aren't always obvious." Yet, the same review acknowledges that "the capabilities of the system for providing entertainment and information are tremendous."

Excellent ride and handling

The 2012 Focus shines when it comes to ride quality and handling. Cars.com considers the steering a high point and says "the Focus is admirably quiet in all regards." Jason Cammisa, a reviewer for Automobile Magazine, says the 2012 Focus "resists body roll, turns in crisply, and with the optional 18 inch Michelin Pilot Sport PS3 summer tires, flies around corners like a sports sedan." The ride is taut but well-damped, offering a sporty, up-market feel. Motor Trend also raves about the handling, concluding that the Focus "really is a joy to drive." 

Ford Focus power and fuel-economy rundown

All 2012 Ford Focus trim levels come equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy estimates have not yet been posted to the official FuelEconomy.gov website as of this writing, but the data released by the manufacturer so far indicates that the Focus delivers admirable efficiency numbers, especially with the special mileage-maximizing SFE package. Optioned as such, Ford says the 2012 Focus is expected to register 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. Expect the Focus models without the SFE option to get a slightly lower rating of about 38 mpg highway. We will update this report with finalized data once it's released by the government. Available transmissions include a five-speed manual gearbox and a dual-clutch, six-speed, automated manual transmission.

While competent, the dual-clutch automatic is the source of some reviewer criticism. Specifically, reviewers feel that the optimization for high fuel economy leads to slower and more conservative gear changes. Car and Driver says that the automatic "downshifts reluctantly, which makes the Focus seem lazy if you're not standing in it all the time." Manual gear selecting with the automatic is available, but reviewers find neither its operation nor interface to be particularly pleasing. The Car and Driver review says that the manual-shift feature "gets the job done but is about as satisfying as doing your taxes with a pocket calculator." Automobile Magazine's Cammisa reaches a similar conclusion in his first-drive review. He complains that the manual-shift buttons are "awkwardly placed" and that the manual mode "doesn't like to follow directions."

Safety and warranty info

The Ford Focus has not yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There is plenty of standard safety equipment, including antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Ford's optional Sync system can call emergency services in the event of an accident if it is linked to your cell phone.

The Focus has a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Summary of the 2012 Ford Focus

According to the experts, the 2012 Ford Focus is a contender for the top of the econocar heap thanks to its superb ride and handling, high-quality interior and impressive fuel economy. Aside from the relaxed shift programming for the optional automatic transmission, reviewers find little wrong with the Focus. The best-reviewed 2011 Hyundai Elantra is also very highly praised by reviewers, and it's cheaper than comparably equipped Focus models. Regardless, the new 2012 Ford Focus warrants a spot near the top of your test-drive list if you seek a polished, modern and comfortable economy sedan or hatchback.

Our Sources

1. Edmunds.com

The all-new 2012 Ford Focus represents a new breed of small car, according to the editors of Edmunds.com, because of its desirability and fun-to-drive factor. The new Focus is seen as a "monumental improvement" over Ford's previous offerings as it provides a sophisticated driving experience and advanced technological features. Edmunds.com editors say the Focus "stands above them all," in reference to its competitors.

Review: 2012 Ford Focus, Editors of Edmunds.com

2. Car and Driver

The new Focus feels like a more expensive car, according to this short-take test from Car and Driver. The Focus "feels solid, unnaturally quiet and stable at rapid freeway clip or when cutting a sharp line along a coiling road," says Aaron Robinson. He notes that the dual-clutch automatic is a bit slow to upshift in some cases and downshifts reluctantly when trying to accelerate hard (likely a consequence of trying to maximize fuel efficiency).

Review: 2012 Ford Focus SEL -- Short Take Road Test, Aaron Robinson, Feb. 2011

3. Edmunds Inside Line

This is the only comparison test involving the 2012 Ford Focus as of this writing. It compares the Focus with the equally new and well-reviewed 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. The Ford wins a decisive victory here for its "drivability, livability and quality." The reviewer says the Focus' all-around excellence may make it "the best compact economy car in the world."

Review: Comparison Test: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ vs. 2012 Ford Focus Titanium, Mike Monticello, March 7, 2011

4. Road & Track

The subtitle to this review is "the European-engineered Focus we've been waiting for," alluding to the Focus' conception at Ford of Europe. This reviewer tests the Focus five-door hatchback. The only negative point is the S mode of the automatic transmission, which fails to deliver a more sporty shifting experience than the regular mode. Other than that, the Focus "looks to be a great value in a tidy package."

Review: 2012 Ford Focus -- First Drive, Carter Jung, Jan. 13, 2011

5. Motor Trend

Scott Evans succinctly says, "Ford turns out another winner." The Focus is "a joy to drive" and is a solid and confident performer on the road, he says. The 2-liter, four-cylinder engine posts great fuel economy and gets adequate power for all regular driving. Evans falls short of claiming that the Focus is the best economy car, but he suggests that it's certainly at the top of its class.

Review: First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus, Scott Evans, Jan. 27, 2011

6. Automobile Magazine

Jason Cammisa calls the new Focus "edgy, sporty, different, and decidedly European." Like a few other reviewers, Cammisa has minor quibbles with the automatic transmission, particularly its ability to deliver a sporty driving experience. The hatchback looks better, handles better and has more cargo space, making it the best choice overall, he says. The 2011 Hyundai Elantra also is singled out for its equally impressive capabilities.

Review: First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus, Jason Cammisa, Jan. 28, 2011

7. Cars.com

Right off the bat, Cars.com lets you know where it stands on the issue: "The 2012 Ford Focus is the most complete package in the compact-car market." Handling is singled out as the Focus' best attribute, while the fresh styling is also appreciated. The automatic transmission's manual-shift feature doesn't impress, though.

Review: 2012 Ford Focus, Joe Wiesenfelder, Jan. 30, 2011

8. WindingRoad.com

Comfort level is "quite high in any situation," according to this reviewer. Handling and steering are praised for their poise and capability. Again, WindingRoad.com singles out the 2011 Hyundai Elantra as the 2012 Ford Focus' most direct competition.

Review: Driven: 2012 Ford Focus, John Beltz Snyder, Jan. 31, 2011

9. TheTruthAboutCars.com

Reviewer Jack Baruth is pleasantly surprised by the Focus' ability to provide the experience of a much more expensive car. Specifically, he says there is "precision in the machine." The conclusion is that "right now, it's the best compact car you can buy here, no matter which model you choose," in reference to the available four-door and five-door configurations.

Review: Review: 2012 Ford Focus SE Sedan and Focus Titanium Five-Door, Jack Baruth, Feb. 3, 2011

10. Autoblog.com

The 2012 Ford Focus "is a compact car with a pulse," Zach Bowman concludes, alluding to the Focus' fun-to-drive nature and solid handling. Overall, the Ford is seen as one of the top small cars available.

Review: First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus, Zach Bowman, Jan. 31, 2011

11. The Wall Street Journal

Handling is the Ford Focus' forte according to Dan Neil, who corroborates what many others say. The chassis feels "hammer-hard and stout," while the handling is "damn crafty and athletic." He goes on to say that he thinks the engine is underpowered. In the end though, the Focus is portrayed as "the smartest kid in the class these days."

Review: A European Sport Sedan -- From Ford, Dan Neil, Feb. 5, 2011

12. Autoblog.com

This short article outlines the fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Ford Focus. The Focus with the most efficient option package, the SFE, can achieve 40 mpg on the highway and gets 28 mpg in the city. This article merely republishes a Ford press release; official EPA fuel-economy estimates have not yet been posted to FuelEconomy.gov, the government's centralized repository for such data.

Review: 2012 Ford Focus Officially Certified at 40 mph Highway, Steven J. Ewing, Feb. 25, 2011

13. Edmunds Inside Line

For the 2013 model year, Ford plans to release a Focus with an all-electric powertrain. Details that have been released so far can be found here.

Review: 2012 Ford Focus Electric: 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Paul Lienert, Jan. 7, 2011

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