Ford, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2013 Ford Ford Focus SEL – Road Test

It’s been a number of years since I last drove the Ford Focus. For 2012 we got an all-new model based on the same platform the Europeans have – a first, because we’ve always been at least one step behind them since the initial model came out in 2001. While we got the “completely new” 2001 Focus, the Europeans were already moving on to the 2nd generation of its development in 2002. Now, after much anticipation we’re on par with the Focus development – was it worth the wait? Let’s find out….

First Impressions
Apart from being fully updated and a whole lot better looking than the outgoing model, it is actually available as a 5-door hatchback – my favourite type of vehicle.

The Focus is available in 11 different colours, so it should be easy to find a colour that you can live with. The test vehicle was “White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat”… white to you and me…and I found it really made the car stand out in a good way. There were plenty of other people giving it more than a passing glance whether on the road or parked in a parking lot. There was a higher than expected amount of attention coming from the “grey-haired and retired crowd”. I would never have figured on that with its sporty looks, but there you go – good taste knows no bounds!

Inside, the Focus SE is very well appointed. The grey and white leather seats were very smart-looking, but even though the car only had 2,100 kilometres on it, the white leather was looking pretty dirty in places. As nice as it looked, I’d give it a pass if I was buying it. However, the interior door, steering wheel and centre console were matched to the seats, so that would possibly change the whole look of the interior if you went with a different option. The package is called “Arctic White Interior Style Package” and personally I think it’s more than worth the $1,400. Throw in the power moonroof at $1,200 and you get a $900 package discount which brings it down to $500 that’s a bargoon me thinks!

The tilt and telescoping steering wheel is just the right size and thickness – adding to it is a very good electric power steering system that gives you nice feedback and is perfectly weighted for highway or parking lot manoeuvres. The dashboard layout is pleasant, and the power drivers’ seat is extremely comfortable. The steering wheel buttons are more of a styling exercise than useful – I spent way too much of my time looking at the buttons and not the road. As for Sync – Fords answer to distraction – I’d chuck it in the lake if it were possible. Five or six years they’ve been working on this and it’s still as crap as the first day it came out – you’d think Bill Gates and Microsoft were behind it… oh..

The 2.0L engine is peppy, but not overly energetic when compared to similar vehicles in its class such as the Hyundai Elantra. On the highways it’s quiet and smooth. Enter the highway with the go pedal buried, and the noise level climbs higher and faster than the speed of the car. Once up to highway speed the Focus is a pleasing car to drive. Overtaking on two-lane country roads was a much better experience than entering the highway – kick it down and off you go. The suspension is obviously softer not only for North American tastes, but also our crappy roads. I tried to upset the Focus by charging over large bumps and railroad tracks and found it handled everything extremely well.

Ford have a habit of going against the norm when it comes to the transmission shifter. They are still the only manufacturer I know of that insists you push the button on the shifter in, before you knock it into neutral – everyone else has seen the safety benefits of just allowing it to go to neutral by pushing it forward. Another anomaly is their version of a sport-shift transmission. Everyone else uses the shifter – you push it to the right or left to engage the sport-mode and then shift up and down. When you’re done, you just move it back into the regular D position – nice and simple. Ford has decided to go it alone and have added a little toggle button on the shifter [Ford calls it SelectShift]… after using it for a week I can safely say, they’ll be the only ones using that system. Talk about dumb ideas! Here’s how it works (or doesn’t)…

Let’s say you’re driving along and want to have some fun.. no spontaneity allowed – grab the shifter, pull the button and shift down into the “S” position. To shift the transmission down, you toggle the button down (the gear number is in the display in front of the driver). To shift up, you toggle it up… simple enough except if you’ve used it to down-shift while coming down a hill. I’d shifted it down to 3rd gear while descending, but unbeknown to me, the transmission shifted to 1st gear when I came to a stop. A bit of space opens up in traffic and I stomp on the accelerator – off we go – hitting the red-line and the engine sounding like it’s going to explode – it was still in 1st gear! I had to move the shifter back into D (or toggle up the gears with the button). If you ever take it out of automatic and use the sport mode, you can’t return to automatic mode unless you move the shifter to D – clicking the button up to 6th doesn’t re-set the transmission. So if you’ve been playing with the sport mode button/gears, but want to remain in the sporty gearing, you have to switch out of Sport and then back into Sport to get the better performance in its automatic sport mode. I ended up just putting it into S and didn’t touch the toggle button after that – the transmission and throttle are much faster and added to the fun of the car without any notable hit to the fuel economy.

The audio system is good, but not fantastic. I forgot to bring my CD’s with me and had to suffer the radio for a day or two – uhg! Sounded terrible. I couldn’t use my USB jump drive (that’s where I store my music for the car), because the SYNC system refused to play my songs because they weren’t “protected.” I’ve had trouble in the past with Ford systems not playing purchased CD’s, but not playing mp3’s on my USB – that’s a new one. Fortunately, I had a CD-RW lying around and it worked – with the same songs I had on the USB … go figure!

The Conclusion
I liked the Focus a lot. The car felt solid, well planted and quite sporty considering it’s been “softened up” for North American preferences. The driver’s seat is way better than you’d expect in a car like this and it has a few really unique features that aren’t available from other manufacturers. I’d skip the SelectShift automatic tranny and go with the 5-speed manual [you have to go with the EcoBoost engine if you want a 6-speed] for fun (and save $1,450). I’d get the dealership to pull out the Sync and stereo system.. but wait … hold on… I think I’d just look at Kia or Hyundai instead of the Focus – cheaper and no “delete” necessary.

Looks and handling
Great seats
Available in a 5-door hatchback

Ford Sync
“Sport Mode” transmission button
Stereo doesn’t play mp3 songs from USB
Somewhat cramped rear seat (legroom) if the driver is tall
Bit pricey compared to the competition

Immediate Competition:
Dodge Dart, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte5, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla/Matrix

By The Numbers…
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Powertrain:                  2.0 L Ti-VCT GDI I-4 engine; 6-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift; FWD
Horsepower:               160 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque lb-ft:               146 @ 4,450 rpm
0-100 kph:                   N/A

Cargo Capacity:           Behind Front Seats: 736 litres (26 cu.ft)  //  Behind Rear Seats: 436 litres (15.4 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:          N/A

Fuel Consumption:
City: 7.5 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 5.1 L/100 kms
I averaged 9.6 L/100 kms during combined driving and 7.3 L/100 kms during 100% highway. The on-board computer averaged 7.8 L/100 kms all week.

Pricing for the 2013 Ford Focus SE
Base Price: $22,399
As Tested: $26, 529
Destination & Delivery: $1,450

Basic: 3 years/60,000 kms
Powertrain: 5 year/100,000 kms
Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 kms.

Copyright © 2013 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland
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