A small family car that debuted in North America in 2000, the Ford Focus is now in its third generation. Until the 2012 model year, the Focus was globally popular despite its underwhelming presence and lackluster overall performance.
But the car’s status as a reliable, inexpensive choice has resulted in success. About 10 million Ford Focus vehicles have been sold globally since the Focus arrived Europe in July 1998.
With its new styling, longer wheelbase and largely complete makeover, the Focus is gathering increased attention in an increasingly crowded market segment.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
A solo, long trip that includes long stretches of open highway at an average speed above the speed limit, two climbs of a treacherous pass and some city driving all seem like a decent way to test drive a vehicle for a week.
Which is exactly what I did with the 2012 Ford Focus on a recent, three-day, 1,200-mile road trip journey from Sacramento to Palm Springs. My test Focus included the Titanium trim and Titanium Package. It takes the already newly designed hatchback and transfers it into a Euro-style, hi-tech equipped small family hatchback like no Focus before it.
The list is vast: 18-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, upgraded exterior and interior trim, a rear spoiler (sedan), keyless ignition/entry, MyFord Touch technology with an eight-inch center touchscreen (not tested) and Wi-Fi capability, full-sized spare, summer tires and a 10-speaker Sony audio system with satellite radio and HD radio.
During the haul, I often relied on the easy touch cruise control, which was among the most intuitive and specific cruise control systems I’ve ever used. Interstate 5 traffic is notorious for its higher-than-posted speed limit average speeds. Often I had the cruise control set to 77 or 78 mph, and still a steady stream of traffic scooted past me.
As the first 2012 car I reviewed, the Focus got several stares. One morning in the parking lot of my hotel, a fellow traveler asked a few questions and his summary was the same as others:
“Really? A Ford Focus? It looks very European.”
Television commercials for the new Focus include the tagline, “Up to 40 mpg.”
With a monstrous three-day, trek that included two ascents and two descents of the sometimes wickedly steep Grapevine, I had plenty of driving to find out if there’s truth in advertising. The result: From Sacramento to Palm Springs, the Focus averaged 37.4 mpg for the 588-mile trek. On the return trip, the Focus averaged 37.0 mpg.
Cruise control features with single mile increases and decreases without manual acceleration.
Rear-camera display and other navigation screen functions vividly displayed with no mid-day glare.
Light-blue instrument panel indicators and matching color interior night light. Way cool.
Side view mirrors with inset “fish-eye” closer range mirrors to alleviate blind spots.
Push-button gas cover release and capless tank. (There’s a plastic funnel in the trunk.)
The European styling deserves a little more European peppiness.
Radio dials and levers not intuitive.
Facts & Figures: 2012 Ford Focus
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.7 seconds.
Airbags: Front and rear passenger head and dual front side-mounted.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 28 mpg (city), 38 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,765.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.ford.com.
Price As tested: $26,275.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.
What Others Say:
” . . . With available goodies like MyFord Touch and a hatchback body style, the Focus also delivers a little extra usability. If you’re willing to give up a few miles per gallon for a few extra giggles per apex, it’s hard to do better than the Focus.” —- Autoblog.com.
“Like the new Fiesta, the Focus has been plucked straight from the European model — a car that, unlike our Focus, hasn’t been left for dead by the engineering team for a decade. Like the smaller Fiesta, the Focus is edgy, sporty, different, and decidedly European. Even though it’s been tweaked and tuned for the U.S.-market, much of that was done by teams overseas. So it’s the real deal . . .” —- Automobile Magazine.
“The Focus has the makings of a runaway hit. It’s a bit smaller inside than its recently released competitors, but is otherwise a well-rounded package, with styling challenged only by the Elantra and dynamics that can take on anything in the compact class.” —- Cars.com
What The Wife Says:
“I like the looks. It’s certainly vastly improved from the old Ford Focus and its gas mileage estimates are making me re-think the car (2009 Honda CR-V) I bought.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“It’s not often I drive 1,200 miles in three days, but it’s a great way to test a vehicle. Via long, open-highway, high-speed hauls to inter-city, short-tenured jaunts, the Focus couldn’t have done any better. The only exception occurred when the car was slightly underpowered on steep, steady inclines and with the air conditioner on.”
Article Last Updated: September 8, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.