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2012 Ford Focus

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  • bricknordbricknord Posts: 85
    Ok, I went and drove a Focus today. SE manual transmission sedan. I also drove a Jetta SE 2.5L with stick shift. I drove an Elantra GLS and Cruze Eco recently. I have not driven the newest Civic but owned a 2009.

    Impressions on the Focus:

    Felt very VW. I sold VWs from 2000-2005, and the Focus reminds me a lot of the VWs of that era as far as the steering and suspension. Great balance of ride quality and handling. The suspension feels a light years more sophisticated than the prev gen Civic or current Elantra. It has a firm but not jarring feel that is very hard to match. For instance, the Honda Fit Sport we used to own had what I would term a harsh suspension. You ran over a dime in that car and you felt it. The Focus feels more like Audi designed the suspension. Just right, like the 3 Bears' porridge. Impressive. The Cruze felt a little less compliant and harsher than the Focus but was still good. The new Jetta suspension disappointed. The front seemed noticeably softer than the rear. Over larger highway bumps the rear felt stiff and the front tended to pogo. Not as cohesive as the other cars. The Elantra has a perfectly acceptable suspension but was less firm and sporty than the Focus or Cruze. I'd rank them Focus, Cruze, Elantra, Civic, Jetta if I had to rank them.

    I also give the steering tops in class. I would say the Civic we had probably was close. The Cruze, in comparison to the Focus, felt too nervous on center and darty--you were always going slightly left or right unless you paid 100% attention. The Jetta steering is good, but not quite as natural in feel as the Focus. The Elantra has the most vague and least precise steering. It's the Buick of the bunch in steering feel. Again, the Focus has the best compromise of quick steering but not too darty. Good job, Ford. My steering/handling rank would be Focus, Civic, Jetta, Cruze, Elantra.

    Interior. The Elantra and Cruze are both very impressive and defy expectations. The Focus is good, but had some low-rent elements show through. The seats were not as firm as the Cruze or Jetta. The Focus seats do sit a little higher off the floor than the Civic, which allows for a more natural driving position rather than sitting on the floor with legs straight out as the Civic tends to make you do. The Elantra had good seats but not the best. I saw some exposed flashing on plastic trim parts on the Focus. The rear door panels on the Focus are of the same low rent variety as the new Jetta...but the front panels at least have some cloth inserts. The curve of the dash in the Focus juts out at the outer edges, just waiting to catch a knee when you enter the car. Rear legroom is best in the Jetta, then Elantra, then Civic, then Cruze, then Focus. Focus is surprisingly tight in the rear, which may be a deal breaker if you have kids. Elantra has a gorgeously appointed interior for the class and price. Overall interior ambience rank: Elantra, Cruze, Focus, Civic, Jetta. Overall interior passenger space and versatility ranking: Jetta, Elantra, Civic, Cruze, Focus.

    Engine/power: Focus had plenty of zip even with the AC on, and you could hear some engine growl but it was the pleasant kind, not harsh. Elantra didn't strike me as particularly bad, but the noise you did hear from the engine was not as pleasant as the Focus. The Cruze has very low engine noise intrusion into the cockpit, very nice. Jetta has a relatively agricultural tone to the engine, and the growl you got when you accelerated was more truck than sportscar. However, the Jetta with 5cyl and stick shift was quite quick when pressed, the fastest here. I have not driven the new Civic, and the main area it supposedly differs from the last gen is NVH. Compared to the outgoing Civic, the Focus is much quieter and feels more solid and substantial--less "tinny". My Civic had mediocre power and sounded fairly thrashy at high revs but this may have improved currently. Rank in power: Jetta, Focus-Cruze tie, Elantra-Civic tie. Rank in engine NVH: Cruze, Focus, Civic-Elantra tie, Jetta.

    Overall, I liked the Focus best, the Elantra second...then it's probably a hash out between the Jetta, Cruze, and Civic depending on what mood I'm in (MPG, power, quiet, etc.).

    Biggest Achilles' heels of all the cars IMHO:

    Focus: rear seat room is worst of the bunch, some low rent plastics.
    Cruze: steering is twitchy and too light. rear seat room mediocre at best
    Elantra: worst steering feel of the lot...low fun to drive factor
    Jetta: suspension is not a cohesive unit front vs. rear. low rent interior. iffy MPG.
    Civic (old): tinny. road noise. not very torquey.

    Biggest pros of each IMHO:

    Focus: sweet suspension and steering.
    Cruze: nice interior. very quiet.
    Elantra: interior seems from car a class up-best in class. overall value for the $
    Jetta: lots of power with 2.5L and 5 spd. interior space leads class.
    Civic: steering is quick and accurate. resale. good value for the $, but watch out for Hyun.

    My personal faves are the Focus and Elantra. The Focus is a lot more fun to drive and feels German. The Elantra gives you way more equipment for the money, and had a nicer interior.

    If you had a car that drove like the Focus with the Hyundai interior and feature set/pricing, you'd have an ideal small car. As it is, you have to decide whether you can live with the crummy rear seat room of the Focus to gain the great driving experience, or go the Elantra route and sell fun to drive down the river to gain usable rear seat space and better bang for the dollar.

    The Focus was a sedan SE stick shift that had an MSRP of 17,995. It had no cruise control, no bluetooth, no alloy wheels, and of course no automatic transmission. The Elantra I drove was $18,500 and had automatic, cruise, bluetooth, steering wheel controls, and alloy wheels. In other words, for virtually the same price, you get a lot more equipment and a better warranty on the Hyundai. That being said, the Focus was lots, lots more entertaining to drive, and if you're an enthusiast without kids in the back, the Focus would be the clear choice. Young families who value practical considerations over driving dynamics...Elantra is the way to go.

    Oh, one last thing I forgot to mention. On all three of the Foci I saw on the lot, I noticed inconsistent panel gaps. The gaps between front and rear doors also seemed larger than what I expect from modern cars. On one car, the passenger front door was noticeably out of alignment a couple of millimeters, sagging a little at the rear and the trailing edge sticking out a hair at the bottom corner. On a second car, the gap between the front fender and front door was different on the driver's side versus the passenger side. Not the end of the world, but my impression after studying all three examples with a critical eye was that the QC process is not super stringent. You'd never see t
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,681
    Great report! Way more useful than the reviews in some auto mags, e.g. the recent C/D comparo where they go on and on about the Elantra's styling (which is subjective and which we can all see for ourselves) and don't say much about the car itself.
  • gambit293gambit293 Posts: 406
    You left out the Mazda3. That is unacceptable.

    Just kidding. Great write-up.

    Interesting comments about the Jetta. I am seeing a fair number of negative comments about the relative quality of the current Jetta, both in user and professional reviews. This would seem to indicate that VW really missed the writing on the wall. While most makers are trending their small cars upwards, VW actually tried to bring the Jetta (one of the only semi-upscale small cars available years ago) down market at the same time.
  • bricknordbricknord Posts: 85
    edited April 2011
    Regarding the Mazda3:

    I've driven it. The Focus reminds me a lot of how the 3 drives. Very nice. The 3 is one of my favorites. We drive a Mazda5 currently, so I like Mazdas. The issue to me is similar to that of the Focus, only worse. The rear seat in the current 3 stinks! If you have a child seat, you might as well forget it. The old body style M3 had much better rear seat room. Other than that, though, great car, love how it drives, very nice suspension and steering, and lots of upscale options if you want them. Equal to the Focus, with actually probably a nicer interior. Super cramped rear seat kills it for me, sadly. Oh, the other killer is poor MPG by today's compact standards. I understand that will be remedied soon, though. Currently, I'd hate to be selling the 3 against Foci and Elantras with 38 mpg...tough sell.

    VW did what they had to do to sell cars. When I sold VWs we lost a LOT of sales because our car, although more upscale, was too expensive relative to the competition. Also, the rear seat was too small (MK4 Jetta) for people with car seats. To stay relevant, VW had to decontent the car enought to be price competitive with the major players. Unfortunately, their timing was bad. They went downmarket right before everyone else went upmarket. Oddly enough, when you drive a new Cruze, Focus, or especially Elantra, you are greeted with a nicer interior than the Jetta. Never thought I'd see that day.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    edited April 2011
    The issue to me is similar to that of the Focus, only worse. The rear seat in the current 3 stinks! If you have a child seat, you might as well forget it. The old body style M3 had much better rear seat room.

    Interesting, I currently drive a Mark 1 2009 Mazda3 and have been in a couple of Mark 2 Mazda3s, and from my perspective at least, there is if anything, more overall leg room in the newer car. Granted my kids are no longer in car seats, but having been down that road in the not too distant past, I'm well aware of the issue and the size constraints when child seats are in the back.

    To take it one step further, compared to the new Focus I sat in last weekend, there's no comparison between it and either generation of the Mazda3 (with the Focus coming out on the worse end of that measure), and as such, the Focus is no longer in the running for me for my next car.
  • bricknordbricknord Posts: 85
    Interesting post and I thank you for it.

    Next time I have spare time, I'm going to go back and check out the Focus and M3 the same day.

    My only M3 memory is that I rented an old gen car a couple of years ago and thought it was decently roomy. I drove a new one back when they came out and remembered thinking the rear seat felt tiny, at least with the front seats adjusted to where I'd have them, with a forward facing car seat.

    I really like the new Focus. It is a really sweet drive. It will be unfortunate if I have to cross it off the list due to a cramped rear passenger area.

    Maybe I'm crazy or senile. I will go back and check the Focus and M3 out as soon as I get a chance for rear seat kid compatibility.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Please keep us posted when you do decide to have another look-see at the Mazda3. I say that because if Mazda makes good on their threat to equip the Mazda3 with their new SkyActive (sp?) system, or better still, a diesel (both cars would of course have to be equipped with a 6-Speed manual transmission) then that car will instantly shoot to the top of my list (now that the Focus has taken itself out of contention).
  • bricknordbricknord Posts: 85
    edited April 2011
    Ok, since the Mazda dealer is about 3 miles from my house, I couldn't stand it and drove down there real quick to compare the rear legroom to the Focus.

    It's a close call. Without the Focus right there beside the 3, almost impossible to tell. I can say that neither is even remotely as good as the Elantra or Jetta, and both are probably a little tighter than the Civic. I can fit a forward facing car seat in the 3, but it's still tight, and likely my daughter would constantly be kicking the back of the seat driving someone crazy.

    You could fit an adult back there for a limited time without them wanting to kill you, but not for too long.

    I would say the new Focus and current M3 have just about the same real world rear legroom, with maybe a smidge of an edge going to the Mazda. Maybe the seat cushion is lower, maybe the front seatbacks are scooped out a little differently in the Mazda to make it seem a tad roomier. I think Ford could have done something different with the front seat backs to carve out the perception of a little more room back there.

    Next time I have a chance, I'll actually take the child seat over to Ford and install it in the Focus to see for sure whether it would work or not.

    I did notice that the 3 seemed to have a little more upscale interior feel than the Focus, but the Focus is not bad in this regard...minor difference.

    The Focus had a little heavier, Euro feel to it. Hard to describe this, but having owned Audis, VWs, Mercedes, Volvo, etc, you get that kind of vibe from the Focus. The competitors, other than the Cruze, all have a lighter, ever so slightly more fragile feel to them that I find typically in Japanese cars. Subtle difference. I prefer the feel of the Focus. The Cruze feels heavier but not in such a good way, and the steering is ridiculously light .

    The Focus is so good it almost makes you yell "WHY?!" when you realize that an inch or two more rear legroom and you'd have an ideal car, including hauling kids. Maybe a year or two into the production run, they'll reshape the front and or rear seat slightly to gain a smidge of knee space. I'd bet some money that Ford salespeople are quickly going to get sick of hearing that the back seat is too small (legroom).

    I don't know. I'll try to figure out a way to make a car seat work in the Focus, I liked how it drove that much better than the Elantra. I sure wouldn't feel like I settled, with the Hyundai, though, or as you mention with what I call SkyNet that Mazda is coming out with. Sorry, SkyActive reminds me too much of the Terminator.

    If you haven't driven the new Focus, I recommend doing it even if you think the rear seat is too small. It's that good. Granted, I drove a manual, and I've read mixed reviews of the dual clutch auto, and can't speak to that from personal experience.
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,950
    Interesting. Did a comparison of the 2003, 2009 and 2011 Mazda3 on cars.com all rear seat measurements are very similar(within a tenth of an inch) except the 2004 has a little over an inch more hiproom. The 2011 Focus is very similar in all measurements to all the Mazdas except the legroom. It is short by 3 inches which in a compact car is a pretty good difference and probably accounts for the reports of a cramped experience.
  • bricknordbricknord Posts: 85
    Interesting, I had not dug into the stats yet. I don't know if all manufacturers measure the same way, so within a car brand the measurements might be good, but front seat travel can vary, measurement methods, etc, to where I don't know how much stock to put in numbers.

    Your numbers, though, back up what my knees and car seat tell me about the Focus. Tight in back. Thanks for the info.

    I'll rarely ride adults in the back of whatever we buy, so if I can get a car seat to work without cramming my little girl's feet into the back of the Focus seat, I'd sure like it to work out.
  • ivan_99ivan_99 Posts: 1,662
    I have 4 kids and an IS...they all fit fine. I'm kicking myself for not getting the Audi TT...kids are small, that's why we get to tell them what to do :)

    In 2005 I had a Mazda 3 for a short time...and they all fit fine.

    Unless you are in a BMW 7 series L (or similar), I don't see you avoiding kids in the back kicking your chair (that's what the stern dad voice is for).

    Giving them more room just presents them with the opportunity to 'windup'.

    When it's time for a baby seat (as opposed to a booster), then it always goes behind the passenger side as I tend to push the drivers seat back (6'3")...so it all works out.

    When we all go out we take the mini-van (let the good times roll).
  • gambit293gambit293 Posts: 406
    I'm watching this conversation pretty closely, as I'm in almost exactly the same boat as many of you. I'm enthusiastic about the Focus, but one of the primary reasons I would switch my current ride is to tote around a baby seat / booster seat / child / small human in the back. I drive a celica right now, so I'm sure the Focus would at least seem to have a large rear seat. But from what you're saying it sounds like it's barely functional as a family hauler. (incidentally, our other car is also a Mazda5).

    If your perception is correct so far, this would seem to be a colossal failure on FMC's part, considering the ambition of this new Focus. This Focus should be aiming at college students, young adults, and yes, young families hoping to get by with something a bit trimmer than the standard Accord or Camry, especially in this day of rising fuel prices and overall improved efficiency.

    But this also raises one perplexing question for me. What are childseat laws like in Europe and Asia? I think we can agree that in much of Europe and Asia, the "C-segment" (or even smaller) is the standard mode of family transit.

    Nowadays, you see so many families hauling about in minivans or large SUVs. The standard reason is, well, we have kids, so we need to haul them around. I'd always thought, well, that's bull****. Fifteen years ago, no one needed an SUV to haul their kids around. Twenty-five years ago, no one needed a minivan. We got by with just sedans or wagons. It seems the only justification for large SUVs and minivans is just to give your family more room to spread out and generally be more obnoxious consumers.

    But I must confess now, rethinking the issue and now being a father myself, it's not that simple. The fact of the matter is that having a family NOW means having to haul around a lot more crap than our own parents did. Not only do you have the childseat gobbling up more space than a typical adult, you probably have a stroller in the back, plus a bloated diaper bag, and god knows what other baby/kid paraphernalia. And some of those big ticket items are now required by law.

    Which brings me back to Europe and Asia. Aren't they required to use child seats? If so, how could this new Focus have been bred in Europe for global consumption? Are European childseats smaller than in the states?

    I'll add one more semi-related note to my already somewhat off-topic mumblings. My understanding is that Europeans have largely caught up to Americans with respect to height (but not weight!). Are they just hunching over more in tiny cars because that's what they've always been used to, or maybe larger car sales are increasing there, and I just don't know it?
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    edited April 2011
    You don't think people are going to cross shop the Focus and Elantra along with the Civic and Jetta? Really?

    Yes, Ford is misleading people to cross shop by calling this expensive car "Focus". These blind shoppers will end up scratching their heads wondering what's this useless back seat doing here...

    I'm just here to remind people that the new Focus is not an updated version of the Ford Escort econobox, but rather, the equivalent product of the fancy foreign-technology Ford Probe FWD sporty car.
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    I'll need more than one or two CR ratings before I think they've got it down anywhere near the territory of Honda, for instance.

    CR realized that the VW (Golf) 5-cyl is much more reliable than the turbo & turbo diesel. That's already a big difference right there. Many Japanese cars got lower reliability ratings.

    The Ford Focus used to be a lemon, but not after Mazda-design engines took over starting in late '03. & by '05, they all have Mazda-design engines.
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    The Focus had a little heavier, Euro feel to it. Hard to describe this, but having owned Audis, VWs, Mercedes, Volvo, etc, you get that kind of vibe from the Focus. The competitors, other than the Cruze, all have a lighter, ever so slightly more fragile feel to them that I find typically in Japanese cars. Subtle difference. I prefer the feel of the Focus. The Cruze feels heavier but not in such a good way, and the steering is ridiculously light .

    Do you mean the ride motion of the car? Typical old-style Japanese tuning tend to rebound quickly, which is useful for spirited quick transitions such as lap time... I don't like it. Mazda3 2.3 & Focus ST 2.3 are tuned that way, but replacing the shocks w/ Monroe feels as nice/comfy & smooth as if being pampered by Marilyn Monroe.
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    edited April 2011
    Unless you are in a BMW 7 series L (or similar), I don't see you avoiding kids in the back kicking your chair (that's what the stern dad voice is for).

    When I was in kindergarten, my feet were barely touching the the floor when sitting on the high-chair back seat of the Super Beetle. Why the hell would kids have to kick the front seat back? The floor was the farthest point my feet could reach. Of course, the Super Beetle has very limited knee room, so it was impossible for my feet to kick forward. So, just train your little kids to behave in an air-cooled Beetle first!
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    To take it one step further, compared to the new Focus I sat in last weekend, there's no comparison between it and either generation of the Mazda3 (with the Focus coming out on the worse end of that measure), and as such, the Focus is no longer in the running for me for my next car.

    Exactly, & the passenger side is especially disastrous.

    This wasn't true when, a year ago, I sat side-by-side w/ the new Mazda3 at the "Focus" focus group, when the passenger side actually had more stretch-out leg room than the driver side, & hence a tad roomier than in the new Mazda3.

    I am only talking about the stretch-out rear leg room, not the knee room, which is more useful for child seats.

    Euro magazines might find the new Focus roomier than the Golf in the back, & I'm pretty sure the U.S. spec changed the leg room, at least on the passenger side.
  • creakid1creakid1 Posts: 2,032
    edited April 2011
    The Focus is so good it almost makes you yell "WHY?!" when you realize that an inch or two more rear legroom and you'd have an ideal car, including hauling kids.

    The new multi-link quiet Focus is too sophisticated to be compared to these herds of cheap econo boxes. If the new Focus also got rear leg room, then the other car companies might as well go bankrupt.

    The new Jetta only offers the "Focus" Control-Blade suspension in the stiff-riding GLI.

    The current Golf is the only enemy the new Focus has to worry, but not for long.

    Can you go test drive the Golf 5-cyl (that's right, the one w/ comfy suspension) side-by-side w/ the new Focus, please? I can't wait to hear the result!
  • smegleysmegley Posts: 7
    edited April 2011
    It sounds to me like too many people expect their cars to be rolling living rooms these days. I did a bit of research to compare the rear seat leg room to a couple cars my folks had when I was a kid (with 2 sibling) and it is in about the same size range. We'd often drive 500 miles with just one 10 minute stop for gas and neither I nor my folks recall anyone whining about the room.

    Someone mentioned above about Europeans needing kid's seats and such, and don't they have the same issue. I lived in Munich 7 years and yes they have the same issue, but its mitigated by the fact that most don't expect the car to be a 5 star hotel lobby. Plus in my experience if a German kid kicks the back of his parent's seat more than inadvertently he/she will be promptly and properly disciplined so it doesn't happen again - something many parents in the USA need to learn.

    I plan on getting a Focus ST hatch when it comes out, and anyone in the back seat who complains will be effectively silenced. Am very glad to be able to finally buy a good sporty reliable compact car with European driving dynamics that I can get serviced anywhere, rely on, and also work on myself with plentiful parts. The closest out there previously was the Golf GTI but having managed the company car fleet in Europe there is no way I trust the medium to long term reliability of VW/Audi/BMW/Merc when I'm outside the city. The Mazdaspeed3 is the other alternative for me, and I do love the car but I couldn't stomach the grinning vomitous front end of that thing staring at me each morning when I walk toward the garage. My only real concern with the Focus is some of the comments on plastics quality in the interior. Have been in the Fiesta and also the new Taurus SHO and there is a bit too much hard plastic for my taste.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,681
    Rolling living rooms? No. But some people need to carry teens and adults (or car seats) in back on a regular basis, and don't want them to be uncomfortable. The larger a back seat a car has, the more utility it has. For example, I have 3 kids, youngest 15, and sometimes all 3 need to ride in back. I don't want them to be all cramped up back there if I can help it. Also, we sometimes drive 1200 miles (one way) to TX. If I could drive a compact with 40+ mpg highway instead of a larger car with lesser fuel economy, that is a win for me. Some compacts have the rear seat space to allow that even with adults. Focus doesn't.

    For people who don't need much rear seat space, the Focus might be the ideal small car. Those who need more room in back might look elsewhere.
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