2012 Ford Focus Titanium HD Video Review


Compact cars are boring.

Compact cars are cheap.

Compact cars are noisy.

Compact cars don’t have cool high tech options.

Compact cars make me feel unsafe.

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Recognize any of the above statements? Chances are you believe at least one of them if not most. Americans have never embraced smaller vehicles because 1) we’ve never had to because fuel has been cheap and 2) they have been sold as budget rides for those who can’t afford large luxurious cars.

That’s about to change.

The same European Focus that has eluded Americans for years will hit Ford showrooms in March. Just in time. Economists believe gasoline prices are headed north right when our personal finances are going south. Also, Uncle Sam is hiking the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFE) numbers drastically, forcing automakers to build more fuel efficient cars. So the 2012 Ford Focus isn’t just another compact car, it is a glimpse into the future.

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Is That a German Accent I Detect?

The Focus name is known throughout the world but the version sold in the US for the past four years has been significantly different from the one sold in Europe. Ours was built on an older architecture to keep it affordable because, well, you know, compact cars are cheap to buy. For enthusiasts that have pined away for the version sold across the pond, it is now party time. It is every bit as good as you might have hoped.

The new Focus that’s being screwed together in Wayne, Michigan is about as close to the Euro car as it can be considering safety regulations and our engine preferences (no, we are not getting the diesel engine or the station wagon version). The very useful five-door hatchback design is back after being MIA for years, a four-door sedan is available as well. Both look distinctive in sheetmetal Ford calls Kinetic design. It’s a huge improvement.

DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 20, 2010 – The 2.0-liter engine coming early next year to the North American version of the 2012 Ford Focus will be one of the first on the market to combine the technology of gasoline direct injection (DI) with twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) and E85 flex fuel capability.

Focus starts at 17 grand with a five-speed manual transmission. At the press event in Los Angeles I’m driving a fully loaded top-of-the-line Titanium model that’ll ding your checkbook for $27,500. Not cheap. The same price buys a fully optioned Kia Optima. Does the Optima parallel park itself? Focus can, and it goes farther on a tank of gas.

Power Trip

The only engine at launch is a 2.0-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder. It makes 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque @ 4450 RMP. Standard on Titanium is the six-speed automatic PowerShift twin-clutch transmission. Manual cog swaps are done via a small button on the transmission lever on the console.

The PowerShift is more than just a marketing name. Using two clutches allows for very quick gear changes with no drop in engine torque. This box is smooth as silk, drop it into sport mode and it seems to read a driver’s mind.

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While aggressive pilots might find it doesn’t always downshift quickly when the throttle is floored, it has an uncanny knack of knowing the gear it needs to be in for the situation at hand. It does not have blink of an eye shifts like Volkswagen’s DSG but overall it is nicely done.

Roads Scholar

Acceleration is brisk and Focus is quiet so it’s good for road trips. The big news is handling. Titanium models get a sport suspension and its supple comfortable ride quality remains compelling in the curves. This is very much a driver’s car.

A torque vectoring system that acts like limited slip differential is standard on all Focus models. In corning, it uses the brake system to reduce power-on understeer and power-off control. It’s not overtly detectable, it just makes you feel like a better driver than you are.

EPA fuel economy hasn’t been released yet, expect high 20s in the city, close to 40 on the highway.

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Features Not Found in Some Premium Cars

The instrument panel that’s made with soft touch materials wraps around the driver. The door latches feel good, power window switched get a slight bit of shiny trim and the dials and switches all feel expensive. In other words, it’s worlds better than the hard grey plastic panels found in the outgoing model. The thick hefty leather wheel in the Titanium is a pleasure to hold and it adjusts for rake and reach.

In addition to elevating the overall quality of the car, Ford is making advanced options available (and not just heated leather seats). The list includes the new advanced version of SYNC, Sirius and HD Radio tuners, adjustable color ambient lighting, rear view camera, and keyless ignition.

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The optional leather chairs are comfortable and well bolstered, a good place to listen to the premium Sony sound system with its satellite and HD radio tuners. Your passenger may not agree with your music taste but at least there’s dual zone climate control.

Have a smartphone with a data plan? Tether it Ford’s system that turns Focus into a Wi-Fi hot spot so kids can surf the internet with laptops, iPod and iPads. I find the automatic parallel parking system to be better than the one found in a Lexus. In short, there’s tech here that’s not found in cars twice the Focus’ price.

MyFord Touch is a new color-coded attempt to make the user interface easier. It’s like a touch based Audi MMI interface. On the eight-inch LCD display, the home screen is divided into four squares each with it’s own colored tab (red for entertainment, blue for climate, green for navigation and yellow for phone). Touch the tab of the feature you want to control and it fills the screen and adds more detail. Push the “home button to get back to the quad view with it’s basic rudimentary controls. There are also buttons on the center stack and steering wheel that duplicate the screen controls. Often simple and intuitive I find the screen can sometimes use better touch response.

There’s also MyKey tech that allows a parent to limit the speed to 80 miles an hour, force traction control on and set a volume limit for the sound system (good in the case of the Sony). Glad my parents didn’t have that but I’d like it for my kids.

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Moving to the Back

The rear seat easily handles two average adults. Three should be okay for trips across town. Foot and legroom are about average in class, don’t expect to stretch out. This space is where automakers often cut content but higher trim Focus models get a fold-down armrest, 12v power port, map pockets on both seatbacks storage in the doors and unique cubby holes near the floor.

The five-door is like a small crossover and it has more trunk room than the sedan. Beware the shoebox-sized subwoofer, its placement is a price to pay for awesome bass. As expected the seatbacks split and fold to create a large handy cargo hold.

Safety Concerns

Americans shy away from smaller cars in part because of perceived safety issues. Focus is 55 percent high strength steel, some reinforced with boron. The body shell is 30 percent stiffer than the outgoing American Focus and it was crashed 12,000 times in development- most in virtual computer simulations- to make sure it protects well. Specially tuned airbags account for size, weight and position of occupants and adjust accordingly.

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Back to That Price Tag

No doubt it’s possible to buy a well-equipped mid-sized sedan for the price of this Titanium model. As gas prices head higher, Ford believes Americans will want the opportunity to have these fancy options on a fuel efficient car to remind them of the large car they traded in. Remember, you don’t have to buy all the bells and whistles, though the Titanium is very nicely done.

Ford is not the only manufacturer going the premium route in this segment. Chevy Cruse can be outfitted with all sorts of luxury touches and is very quiet and comfortable and the Hyundai Elantra even gets heated rear seats as an option. Buyers have never really had the option of a smaller well-equipped car before. Now they do.

The US is getting an electric version of Focus at the end of 2011. In early 2012, the 250 horsepower Focus ST performance model hits the streets. Car geeks have begged Ford to bring this car to America for years, now let’s see if they put their money where their mouth is. This is no longer a cheap and cheerful compact. The 2012 Focus is heads and shoulders above the outgoing car but more importantly it effortlessly competes with Corolla, Civic, Sentra, Mazda3, Cruze and Elantra. No longer basic transportation, Focus will please the masses and those who love to drive.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY FORD MOTOR COMPANY.

15 Comments

  1. jpmccormac says:

    Nice review. One hypothetical question. Why do I have to buy an upgraded Focus with MyFord Touch just to get an AUX jack? Stupid Ford upsell tactic, I guess. At least Mazda, Chevy and Honda give you an AUX jack on base models.

    • TV says:

      Good news. A quick check with Ford finds an aux jack is standard equipment on even the base Focus. SYNC is not standard though until the SEL model.

      Great to have you on board, welcome to the site!

  2. [...] DH discovered the 2010 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback and although we haven’t tested it yet, we think this might be the car although [...]

  3. surfersteve79 says:

    Tom great piece on the Focus it was the best one I’ve seen on the net, and it has helped me tremendously! You were the first one to actually evaluate the rear seating area. That’s important to me and too a lot of other consumers.. bravo! I was almost dead set on buying this car but, along came the Lexus CT 200. I had to take a peak so i just visited my local Lexus dealer and was disappointed with the amount of room in the rear seating area, trunk space and head room of the CT 200. I have 2 small children and dont want it too cramped in the back seats. Do you mind if I ask you your height ( I ask because I’m 6ft ) and also did your test drive Titanium Focus include the additional handling package option with the 18″ wheels and upgraded suspension?

    Based upon your review and video, the 6k less expensive Ford actually might fit my needs better than the Lexus which is surprising,! The fuel economy is less with the Ford but the overall value might be greater?

  4. [...] 2012 Ford Focus Titanium HD Video Review « drivencarreviews.comTom you are right, there are many quality cars out on the market now, it certainly makes sense to test drive vehicles in your driving segment before …drivencarreviews.com/…/2012-ford-focus-titanium-hd-video-r… This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Buying Carolina Used Cars; Saving Buyers from Auto Depreciation … Meet Disney Pixar "Cars 2&q uot; Character Uncle Topolino → [...]

  5. kenwenzel says:

    Ford says they used the Audi A3 as a target for this car. They must not have checked out the horsepower ratings for the Audi. I like a smaller car (I live in a county of 4-6 million people) but I like performance also. It would be nice to see higher power with an automatic. (Lots of people = lots of traffic and a sore clutch foot.) The ST would be great, but I understand they will have only a manual transmission. I am surprised that if Ford is really wanting to target the Audi A3 they didn’t offer a Haldex AWD system as in the Fusion. Great reporting. Thanks a lot.

    • TV says:

      So you have me curious, what small country do you live in?

      • kenwenzel says:

        That was COUNTY. Harris County, Houston, TX.

        • TV says:

          Hi Steve,

          I usually state that I’m 5’9″ but wonder if the regulars get tired of me being redundant. As a parent I can assure you that your small children will grow, always something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about keeping the car for more than a few years.

          The car I drove did not have the perfomance package and I did not drive that or the manual transmission (part of the time crunch of producing a video and evaluating a car). Still, I have to say I enjoyed the dynamics of the Focus, like many Fords these days, I’d describe the experince as more European. Very solid and hefty.

          As far as value, 6K buys an awful ot of gas. The Lexus certainly uses more elegant materials inside but the Ford is packed with electronics. Wish I had time to try the self parking feature but it’s something many peole would not use so I had to leave it out to get other parts of the review. Best of luck in your choice!

        • TV says:

          Ahhh. D’oh!

  6. crash says:

    What a great looking car! Damn! The interior might be a wee bit overdone – but I’d have no issue having one of these in my driveway!

  7. Oli - Zambia says:

    It’s looks a nice car but the British press sees it as a dissapointment after it’s Eurpoean predecessor but then again that car would not have suited the needs of this car’s global markets, the US in particular.

    Oli

  8. GusGT says:

    A very impressive review. I can’t believe that the Ford Focus would perk my interest. Tom you are right, there are many quality cars out on the market now, it certainly makes sense to test drive vehicles in your driving segment before purchase. $27K for a top of the line “economy” car? Time will tell if Ford’s philosophy pans out.

    • TV says:

      Ahhhh, your post is perfect in how we perceive this car Gus.

      I quote- “it certainly makes sense to test drive vehicles in your driving segment before purchase. $27K for a top of the line “economy” car?”

      The question is, when does the Focus stop being an economy car and start being a smaller car with premium equipment? (though you did put economy in quotes). MINI proves there’s a market for a premium small car, I don’t think i’d call it an economy car. Focus doesn’t need to be ordered with all that fancy stuff, I’n curious to see what the option mix turns out to be as people start to buy them.

      Put up against it’s similar sized competition (Sentra, Corolla, Elantra, Golf, ect) Focus is toward the expensive end comparably equipped. Will Americans pay for a more premium experience in this class? We’ll see…

    • raschmidt says:

      SVT Contour ran about 25k back in the late 90s, and this Focus is the same size, the ST will definitely out perform, no sense in comparing build quality and features!