Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus

courtesy of http://www.thecarconnection.com/photos/ford_focus_2012#100303354

I’m very excited about this new range from Ford. Many of these cars are “global platforms” that are designed by their Ford Europe division. In Europe, Ford is seen more as a Volkswagen competitor than the way some Fords are here – a parking space on the dealership lots (I’m talking about you – last gen Ford Focus and Taurus). I think this is a good target for Ford as the VW group is rapidly challenging for the worlds #1 automaker.

I remember the first time I saw a European Ford and it was during the first Daniel Craig Bond movie. I remember hearing people asking:

“What is that?”

“Is that a Ford?”

“How come we don’t have Fords like that?”

To generate a response like that from a car that should be as exciting as watching Coronation Street reruns is a good thing.

Sounds like the execs at Ford were listening. First they brought over the Ford Fiesta from Europe, and this is the next step – the Ford Focus. The future will bring the next generation Ford “Fusion” – which is essentially a newer version of 007’s rental car in the movie (called the Ford Mondeo in Europe).

I like this new direction that Ford is taking – cars that cost a bit more but there is (and should be) a jump in quality. Only with quality do I feel you get loyal customers who will not only stay loyal but will recommend it to their friends and family too. Just look at Toyota – they have been churning out bland cars for the last 10 years and got to worlds #1 automaker riding this wave.

Reliability for this new era of Ford remains to be seen, but in Europe Ford Fiestas, Focuses, and Mondeos are seen everywhere – which I think is a good sign if those cars are coming here.

I like the way the car looks; the “kinetic” design language is distinct without looking disjointed. Panel gaps, paint work, and interesting wheel designs give the feeling of quality. Thank you Ford for not splashing chrome everywhere.

People often say that I’m always looking for cars to be more sporty when I protest a car choice for being bland. This is in part true (why wouldn’t you want to enjoy your car?), but at the very least it can be interesting. I mean – fruit and veg are can be bland, but they can also be interesting can’t they? I feel this is the case with this Ford – it will do the grocery run, pick up the kids, but you don’t have to let everyone know that you have given up on life.

Another reason this car is a bit higher in price is that it is loaded with tech uncommon to a car of this class. You’ve probably seen the commercials which feature the intriguing voice of Kiefer Sutherland. Vents that close at high speed to minimize aerodynamic drag, self parallel parking system, torque vectoring system (which directs torque to the outside wheel while cornering to improve handling), and the highly advertised MyTouch system.

Getting into the car, if there were no blue ovals I would have never guessed that this was a Ford. There are soft touch plastics around you, the seats are firm but comfortable, and the central display dominate. This is worlds above what I remember from Fords in the past.

Courtesy of http://www.thecarconnection.com/photos/ford_focus_2012#100303354

The doors close with a solid thunk of a European car. Turn the ignition, the engine turns with a quality hum, and the instrument dash lights up with a high-tech slickness and bright colours.

Driving out of the parking lot, right away I notice that the steering has something that not many cars in this class have – feel. It’s not perfect (there is some numbness in the middle and the weighting feels a bit fake), but better than most others in this class.

The automatic gear box is smooth and direct, and despite having “paddle shifters”, I found I never used it as I enjoyed just cruising around.

The engine is decently grunty but not a revving machine – which I think suits this car. The 2L direct injected engine has good torque throughout the range, and doesn’t have that annoying thrum that you find common in the Japanese competitors.

The ride is a bit firm (very European) but not harsh. It handles well too – The front end has loads of grip and combined with some steering feel, you feel like you can place the car well. On the highway road noise was probably a bit higher than I would have liked for a car so accomplished, but that may be down to the tires more than anything.

Despite all the claims of fuel economy, I was only able to return 7.5L/100km on mostly highway driving. And I was not driving like a maniac.

I didn’t try the sedan version, but rearward visibility was a bit obscured due to the large rear pillars. In terms of space this car feels bigger than a Civic yet there seemed to be less rear leg room and trunk space.

The Ford MyTouch touch-screen interface was intuitive and easy to use. Although electronic gremlins hijacked the system on day 2 with the car which robbed my friends of any entertainment on a road trip.

Electronic gremlins aside, this car gives you the feeling that it can easily handle the daily chores without trying hard, and in return you feel more relaxed and comfortable than you might expect.

Overall this is a very good car.

I used to see the roads dominated by new Corollas and Civics, and lately I’ve seen this replaced by Jettas and Focuses.

There is a reason why. And aside from the small technical glitches this Ford would be my pick in this class.

Re-reading what I have just wrote I realized I have used the word “European” a lot. But perhaps this is incorrect; this should be the new standard for North American cars.

Just around the corner is the more exciting Ford Focus ST – a hot hatch that will compete with the Mazdaspeed 3 and Jetta GLI. And after driving this car, which should be boring and isn’t, I can’t wait.

Keep it up Ford!

1 Comment Add Yours

  1. Mandy

    lol electronic gremlins. =P


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