2014 Ford Focus: Euro-styled fuel sipper

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Now 15 years old and in the third year of its third generation, the Ford Focus remains strong in the highly competitive compact field. The 2014 edition is much the same as last year’s model.

The only significant change is a new Sport Appearance Package for the SE trim level. It includes sport cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and an available rear spoiler.

The 2014 Ford Focus has European styling.
The 2014 Ford Focus has European styling. Images © James Raia/2014

Early in its tenure, the Focus reached annual U.S. sales of more than 286,000. The numbers slipped sharply with the second generation to 160,000 in 2009. But with the third generation restyle and upgraded edition, sales are steadily reverting to the car’s early life success.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

With a sleek well-proportioned exterior design and solidly planned interior, the 2014 Ford Focus gives the appearance of anything but a compact car. Then again, it’s positioned in a segment with an ample array of import competition — the Honda Civic to the Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai Elantra to Mazda Mazda3.

Domestic rivals to the Ford Focus are strong, too, including the Chevrolet Cruze and Dodge Dart.

My weekly driver was the Ford Focus Titanium trim, the top-line 5-door hatchback. Like other Focus trims, S, SE, E (electric) and high-performance ST, the Focus is modern and comfortable without a hint of futuristic design or technology overload.

The S and SE editions have a strong list of standard features. The Titanium trims adds the SE options, including Appearance and Winter packages as standard and MyFord Touch package (minus navigation).

The Titanium trim also has a bunch more: upgraded exterior interior trims, rear parking sensors, remote start (automatic-transmission models only) keyless ignition/entry and a rearview camera.

My tester also included the Titanium Handling package ($595). It features 18-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded sport-tuned suspension, a full-size spare and summer tires, and an optional navigation system ($795).

I drove the 2014 Ford Focus a week after test driving the Toyota Venza, the crossover SUV that drives with luxury vehicle tendencies.

As such, the Focus seemed stiff and underpowered. I was wrong. The more I drove the Focus, particularly at highway speeds, the more I liked it. It’s a hatchback with a sporty feel. It’s not particularly quick. And with its 160 horsepower, it’s not a power machine on hills.

But the Focus has no weaknesses. It moves well down the road with a smooth ride and confident feel. In city driving, it has a tight turning radius and far more than while driving other compact cars, I capitalized on smaller parking spaces. And I zipped with ease around ill-designed shopping mall and grocery store parking lots.

As a cargo carrier, the Focus has an easy access hatchback area with a good chunk of space, but an automatic opening hatch would be a keen addition.

Likes:

Ambient lighting trims.

Interior quality and design.

Overall value.

Easy view and efficient rear view camera.

Dislikes:

No automatic hatchback function.

Technology packages not intuitive.

Slight driver blind spot via “B” pillar.

Rear seat room not the best for the segment.

Stereo controls not the easiest to master.

Facts & Figures: 2014 Ford Focus

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.7 seconds.
Airbags: (7).
Fuel economy: 27 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway), 31 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 160.
Transmission, 2.0-liter, 6-speed automatic.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $24,115.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.ford.com.
Price As Tested: $26,300.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage

What Others Say:

“Major reasons to consider the 2014 Ford Focus sedan and hatchback include sprightly performance, an upscale interior, a refined ride and excellent fuel economy.” — Edmunds.

“Want an efficient compact sedan with style, efficiency, technology and comfort that’s still fun to drive? Give the 2014 Focus your close attention.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“Overall, Focus is a fine compact car and one that deserves a prominent place on your shopping list.” — Consumer Guide.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“European styling, great gas mileage, fun to drive, steady and astute on the road. What’s not to like?”

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