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FIN Drives: 2012 Ford Focus SEL Hatchback
'One Ford' churns out the best Focus yet.
www.FordInsideNews.com
August 16, 2011
By: Nick Saporito


After launching at the turn of the millennium, Ford’s compact sedan came to market with great fanfare. Thanks to its European roots and attractive styling, the all-new Focus was a true contender in a segment that was traditionally dominated by Japanese manufacturers. Ford has repeated that winning formula, introducing a truly global version of Focus that we consider to be a class leader.

For 2012, the Focus is entirely new from the ground up, including the chassis. Ford has taken a page out of their 'One Ford' business strategy by creating a Focus for the international market. While our tester was roaming around Kansas, virtually the same car was zipping around the Autobahn in Germany.

The new Focus follows Ford’s latest version of what they call "kinetic design", an approach that was revealed with the new Fiesta. We liked the Fiesta design and find the Focus to be equally appealing. Dressed in intensely bright Blue Candy Metallic, we found our SEL hatchback to be downright attractive.

While we tend to favor the appearance of the hatchback over the sedan, both variants sport a detailed exterior design that is replete with sheet metal creases and surface shapes. Ford has walked a fine line between tasteful and busy with the Focus exterior, but in our eyes, the resulting look is quite compelling.


In the interior, the trend of exotic shapes and styles continues with a cockpit-like dash structure. It too looks attractive, with all of the controls within perfect reach. Like with the exterior design, the interior design offers a subjective level of appeal and one that is clearly aimed at drivers that fall into Generation Y.

Compared to the previous generation Focus, the 2012 model does feel a bit more cramped inside, likely attributable to the space occupied by the updated console. Front seat width and legroom are acceptable for the segment and the new seat design is a vast improvement over the old model.

Backseat space has never been a high point on any Focus and the new model doesn't offer any improvement in this area. Width and headroom are both reasonable, but legroom is at a deficit. The addition of about two inches of extra space would make a huge difference in the comfort level for passengers occupying the rear seats.

Another nitpick we had with the backseat was the lack of cup holders, a perennial Focus flub. While both rear doors house an integrated cup holder, we've found that messy disasters tend to result when the doors are closed.


The new Focus is packed with technology, including features that are quickly becoming a staple of every new Blue Oval product. Our moderately-equipped SEL included MyFord Touch, navigation system, a 10-speaker Sony surround sound system and much more.

Our thoughts on MyFord Touch are already on record and the Focus hasn't changed our outlook. The system is great when it works. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. During our testing, the system operated roughly 60% of the time. The remaining time we found that MyFord Touch was stuck in "maintenance" mode or simply presented us with black screen.

That said, our MyFord Touch experience in the Focus was perhaps the best to date.

While having a navigation system in a compact sedan is not a novel concept in today’s market, this reviewer did have a Zen moment over the ability to watch impending thunderstorms on the weather radar. This feature is bundled with the navigation system as part of the Sirius Travel Link.

By far the undisputed leader of the technology included in the Focus is the Sony sound system. The 10-speaker digital system includes a subwoofer and Sony amplifier in the cargo bay. Having spent time with vehicles costing nearly eight times the Focus, we believe that this system comes closest to rivaling the most expensive aftermarket setups. Sony designed the radio controls in the car, resulting in a look that closely resembles Sony's remote control designs.

The rest of the Focus controls are from Ford’s new global switchgear set, which is a good thing. All of the buttons and switches look attractive and function equally as well. Gone are the days of Ford's square, cheap-looking button sets.

When the original Focus launched, part of its appeal was its European-inspired handling. The new model takes this element and propels it beyond the typical industry marketing jargon.


Powered by a direct injected 2.0-liter engine; the Focus generates 160 horsepower and 146 foot-pounds of torque. Power is adequate and far more refined compared to the previous generation. As is the case with most four cylinders engines, we found that performance is optimal within the higher rev range but the car never really feels underpowered.

Like the Fiesta, the new Focus utilizes Ford’s dual clutch six-speed automatic transmission. This setup basically consists of two manual transmissions in the same case that work in tandem, both equipped with dry clutches. This means that the transmission is essentially an automated manual gearbox.

In theory, the transmission should be a huge asset to the car, but it's not without its limitations. The transmission loves to hesitate when starting up from a complete stop and downshifts can be both awkward and unexpected.

While the timing of the shifts may be off, they are always smooth and extremely quick. Ford has patented a feature that prevents holes in the torque during up-shifts and it pays off; no loss of torque is ever felt, even under hard acceleration.

Placing the transmission in sport mode does alleviate some of up-shifting issues we noted, but it doesn't alleviate the annoying downshifts. On the plus side, the shifting pattern in sport mode practically reads the mind of an enthusiast driver, holding gears until redline and not up-shifting during throttle letup.

Sport mode complements the dynamics of the Focus as well, making it a fun to drive compact. The car is easy to toss around corners with minimal body roll and offers a level of ride quality that is a great balance of sport and comfort. The Focus uses electric steering, but is communicative, accurate and devoid of the numbness experienced with cars from some of its competitors.

With the 2012 model, Ford has also equipped the Focus with a set of four-wheel disc brakes that function great. We found this to be a vast improvement over previous Focus models.

Overall, we walked away from the new Focus fairly impressed. The global compact is easily the best Focus to date, despite a few caveats. If you're shopping for a vehicle in this segment the Focus is definitely worth considering.

FIN Quick Facts​

2012 Ford Focus SEL Hatchback (Production car)
Base Price: $21,065.00
MSRP: $24,470
EPA Ratings: 27 MPG City / 37 MPG Highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 25-28 MPG City / 36.5-38 MPG Highway

Pros: Techno design inside and out, packed with technology and fun to drive.
Cons: Odd transmission behavior, MyFord Touch quirks and tight backseat.


Video Review​

 

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I recently saw one of these at my local dealership and was stunned how good it looked. They said they cant get them fast enough and they sell right off the truck almost.

Take away my ford touch and the powershift and it not only saves a bunch of money but I bet it would be an excellent car. So far, I am not impressed with either from my readings. I have not drove a powershift car but I was introduced to my ford touch and stopped the sales guy half way through and said this is not for me. Im just a simple guy and dont care for it period.

That was a good fair review and I like the video part.
 

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A navigation system that a person only uses a half dozen times a year isn't worth all that extra money. Take that extra money and buy an iPad 2 and you've got yourself a gadget that you'll have more fun with.
 

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Nick, in the video you talk about your preference of the drivers gauges in the Fusion compared to the new Focus dials.
I can say I was really happy that Ford did not use the IMO low rent looking gauges in the Fusion and stuck with the more
classy dials and gauges. If Ford decides to change this I certainly hope it is only for North America market only. The setup
in the Fusion and Edge are terribly budget looking , like some teenagers video game display. And as you can see in the image below of the
Focus driver gauges, they 3D shapes blend much better with the rest of the cars 3D shapes, & angles.
I will take this any day

over this

The flat non distinct design of the driver gauges in the Fusion have zero design cues relative to the inside or outside of the new Focus.

And I just cannot see the rear seat complaint at all. Rear seat passenger space is quite comfy and acceptable. Maybe it would be a good
example of sitting in the rear seat with the video with a average size driver in front for a few miles and give real time opinions on this.
As far as all the reviews I have seen from the rear seat space complainers I have yet to see any of these people using the rear seat in
a real time driving down the road situation.

Also regarding your comments on the quirkiness of the Powershift, it would have been good if you had shown some real examples in the video
of the odd characteristics you complain about. Your one mention of its hesitation in the video I did not get a sense of this at all.
 

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Thanks for the great article. The new Focus is a great car for Ford and will sell well IF the dealers had any to sell. I've been roaming all the Ford lots around here looking at Focuses while waiting for the Focus ST to arrive and all I've been seeing are a few SE models here and there. Some don't have any at all. It's kind of frustrating, but I did get to test drive a Titanium hatch a little while back and it was great. I did not notice any hesitation in the transmission when I drove it and I didn't play around with the MyFordTouch system much, but it was very fun to drive. From the seat of my pants, it felt peppier than my old Focus, but not by much, unfortunately.

Now if Ford offered A/C seats in the Titanium, I probably would not have waited for the ST and bought the one I test drove. Damn the triple digit temps we've been having!
 

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I have almost bought a 2012 Focus, but the problems I am hearing about the transmission really bother me. I test drove one a month ago, and I thought it was flooding out or something. After it warmed up, it shifted fine, but surely they can do a better job than that. Does anyone know if Ford has come up with a fix.
 

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I always liked that the old Focus was offered as the ZX2, a real coupe. I wish Ford would offer a coupe on the new one or better yet, the Fusion or Taurus. The bigger the better. Either one of the bigger cars would make a nice Thunderbird, Torino, or Talledega.
 

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I really like this car, Has ford fixed there assembly problems with the dash supplier, There still is a small supply of cars at the dealers
 

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The dealer stock is an issue. I think a lot of them got caught in the expectation that people weren't willing to ante up for a Focus with a higher price point. So, they ordered a lot of "lower-end" models in anticipating those who worried more about the price over features. Unfortunately, those of us who want a well-equipped Focus have to either search high-and-low for one or wait for one to be built. In hindsight, I guess it's good to have to wait to get one built -- even with some of the delays that have come up due to quality (early MFT issues, dashboards, etc.), it's good to see there's a lot of demand for this vehicle.
 

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I always liked that the old Focus was offered as the ZX2, a real coupe. I wish Ford would offer a coupe on the new one or better yet, the Fusion or Taurus. The bigger the better. Either one of the bigger cars would make a nice Thunderbird, Torino, or Talledega.
I have to agree with you on having a Focus Coupe. It's so obvious that Ford is after Millennials with the new Focus, so a coupe is just makes sense at this point.
 

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Honda has had a coupe version of the Civic forever; same for the Accord and Nissan has one for the Altima. Why did GM and Ford give up on coupes based on their compact and midsize sedans?
 

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A friend of mine almost bought a new Focus but both he and his wife noticed the transmission issue on the test drive and ended up in a Fusion. Have seen the tranny mentioned in other write-ups. Hope Ford can address this quickly.
 

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I have had my SEL Hatch for 3 weeks and love it. Im averaging 35+ mpg and the ride is fantastic.

It replaced my 2005 Ranger as a daily driver. If I want more power, I just get in my Mustangs.

I have noticed that dealer lots are finally getting a nice selection
 

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I have had my SEL Hatch for 3 weeks and love it. Im averaging 35+ mpg and the ride is fantastic.

It replaced my 2005 Ranger as a daily driver. If I want my power, I just get in my Mustangs.

I have noticed that dealer lots are finally getting a nice selection
Nice to hear! got some pictures?

Welcome to FIN!
 
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