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Thread: 2009 Ford Focus

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2009 Ford Focus

    Times are uniquely bad for the car industry. The last time things were even close to as awful as they are right now was the 1970s. And in those days, the cars themselves were awful.

    That's not the problem today. All modern cars are at least good; many are excellent. The problem is people can't afford excellent - and maybe not even good.

    And that could be a problem for the '09 Ford Focus I just got through test driving.

    WHAT IT IS

    The Focus is Ford's entry-level FWD compact. It comes as both a sedan and a three-door hatchback coupe, with a price range that begins at $15,520 for a base S sedan to $18,265 for a top-of-the-line SEL.

    Coupes run from $16,400 for the base SE to $17,865 for an SES.

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Steering is very precise, handling is sporty; it is a fun to drive little car. Power's also good - 140 hp is strong for the segment. It also gets up to 35 mpg on the highway, which only a few cars in this segment can match.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    Price. The least expensive Focus is as much as $5k more expensive than a Nissan Versa 1.6 or Hyundai Accent coupe - both of which now start under $10k. Granted, these two are sparsely equipped and the very definition of econo-box. But in these times, an economy car needs to be economical.

    THE DETAILS

    The Focus has been around for a few years now and the '09 model is more or less a carryover from '08 with a few changes to trim/optional equipment packages.

    It continues to offer things that are less than common among entry-level cars, including heated seats and an integrated electronics/entertainment system called Sync that can do things like download info from your PDA/cell phone or music files from your iPod - and does your bidding via voice command.

    Before The Crash, this gave the Focus an edge over its more economy-minded brethren since many people were in a position to spend a little more in order to get some bells and whistles that more economical economy-type cars just didn't offer.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    The Focus sedan is powered by a 140 hp, 2.0 liter four (143 hp in the coupe with sport-tuned exhaust) that delivers extremely sharp acceleration for an economy car: 0-60 in about 7 seconds. That is easily 2-3 seconds quicker than some of the other cars in this segment, such as the Nissan Versa - including the more expensive 1.8 liter equipped version.

    And yet, you still get 35 mpg capability on the highway - which is pretty solid all around. The 2.0 liter engine is actually built by Mazda - Ford's corporate partner and essentially the same as what you'd find in a Mazda3.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    A five-speed manual transmission is standard and it's your best pick for both mileage and performance. The optional four-speed automatic works ok thanks in part to more aggressive final gearing but it's dated (five-speed automatics are becoming pretty much givens, even in low-cost cars) and the bottom line is small, four-cylinder engines don't usually do their finest work behind automatics anyway.

    You'll also lose a few MPG if you go with the automatic.

    RIDE & HANDLING/DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    The Focus will impress you if you take one out for a test drive. It has a very European feel to it - especially the tight, precise steering and minimal body roll in cornering. The 2 liter engine revs to nearly 7,000 RPM and pulls strongly all the way there. You can reach 80 mph in third gear, easily. Plenty of reserve power left, even at speeds well beyond those that are legal.

    Driven hard, it does not feel "economical" at all.

    And then you look at the fuel gauge - which hasn't budged from Full even though you've been running hard for 50 miles now - and you remember that, yes indeed, this is an economy car!

    STYLING & UTILITY

    The exterior's hunky and purposeful-looking. The coupe has a semi-fastback rear end with integrated, high-mounted spoiler - and there are zippy-looking scalloped "swooshes" pressed into the side panels.

    Again, less an obvious economy car than many others in the segment.

    Another plus is the availability of both three-door hatchback and four-door sedan bodystyles. (The Nissan Versa 1.6, to mention just one, is only available as a four-door sedan). A wagon version would be welcomed, though - as it would give the Focus a bit ore versatility and cargo-carrying capacity.

    Speaking of which: The trunk is 13.8 cubic feet, which is among the best in segment. (Nissan's Versa has exactly the same at 13.8 cubic feet.)

    Air conditioning is also standard - which evens up things a bit when compared with the new crop of el cheapo specials like the $9k Versa 1.6, which don't come with AC included. Base models also get a perfectly adequate AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD player and MP3 capability.

    The Interior is comfortable, with functional touches such as twin 12V power points at the bottom of the center stack (many cars only have one - and the one they do have is often not in a convenient location), twin cup holders in the center console (with adjustable, multi-colored LED "mood lighting") and an extra-deep console storage compartment. I also like the pull-up parking brake lever much better than the foot-brake/handle used on some other cars.

    Audio and climate controls are straightforward knobs you rotate and buttons you push - no overdone "menus" or mice to deal with.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    Here's another area where the Focus' higher MSRP is softened somewhat. All models get side-impact and curtain air bags - six total.

    On the other hand, you still have to pay extra for both ABS and stability control.

    Ford's quality control now ranks up there with the biggies - Toyota and Honda - in terms of recalls, reported major problems and customer satisfaction scores. The only downside is that Ford's reputation hasn't caught up with reality and this is reflected in Ford's faster, steeper depreciation rates. Of course, that will only matter to you if you're leasing or intend to trade-in within the next five or six years. If you're the type of person who keeps a car for eight years or more, depreciation is largely irrelevant.

    The standard warranty covers the whole car for three years/36,000 miles and the powertrain for five years and 60,000 miles.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    If you can handle paying $15k or more for an "economy" car, the Focus offers verve and equipment you won't find in cheaper models.
    Last edited by Eric; 04-04-2009 at 04:16 PM.

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