What's New for 2006
For 2006, an MP3-compatible CD player is standard on all models, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls are included with CD changer-equipped systems. A new Street Appearance package includes unique fascias, a spoiler and a bright-finish exhaust tip.
"Smart design and spirited driving" were the guiding forces behind the development of the Ford Focus. Available as a sedan, hatchback or wagon, Ford's compact car debuted in 2000 with "New Edge" styling, a roomy interior and excellent road manners. Although the car was plagued with recalls in its first couple of years, most of the nagging repair issues have been ironed out.
Designed as a "world car" that appeals to drivers in countries around the globe, the Ford Focus has a little bit of everything. Unlike many compact cars, it doesn't feel cheap from behind the wheel as there's plenty of road feel through its sharp steering and tight suspension. The standard four-cylinder engine also feels more powerful than its numbers would suggest, a trait that makes the Focus a great car for stop-and-go city driving. The Focus impressively earned Edmunds' Most Wanted awards in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
With four distinct body styles, the 2006 Ford Focus has a configuration to fit just about any buyer's needs. The three-door ZX3 is a sporty, fun-to-drive hatchback that has more room than you might expect. For easier access to the rear seats, there's also a five-door hatch called the ZX5. Traditional sedan and wagon models are also available for maximum passenger and cargo space. Ford's designers did some work on the interior for 2005, replacing the car's quirky angular dash with a more refined, symmetrical layout. The current look is less likely to turn off buyers with conservative tastes, but it's the same old Focus, which means easy-to-read instrumentation and simple controls. Unfortunately, materials quality is still mediocre and there are so many different grain patterns it looks like the place was furnished piecemeal. Build quality hasn't improved, either.
In spite of these faults, the low-entry price of the Focus, combined with its balanced handling dynamics and functional design, makes it an economy car worth considering. It may not have the refinement that some economy car buyers are looking for, but for those who want an inexpensive car that doesn't look or drive like every other economy car on the road, the 2006 Ford Focus is a worthwhile alternative.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Ford offers the Focus in four body styles: a three-door ZX3 hatchback, a five-door ZX5 hatchback, a ZX4 sedan and a ZXW wagon. The hatchbacks and sedan come in three basic trim levels -- S, SE and SES -- while the wagon is available in SE and SES trims only. Additionally, an ST sedan is available for buyers seeking a sportier Focus. The S includes basics like an MP3-compatible CD player, 15-inch steel wheels and black exterior trim. The SE adds power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; air conditioning; and a center armrest. The uplevel SES includes 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, body-color exterior trim, cruise control, tachometer and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The top-line ST sedan adds four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, a performance-tuned suspension, sport seats and distinctive trim inside and out. Options include a sunroof, an in-dash CD changer and leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard drivetrain in the 2006 Ford Focus is a refined 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated for 136 hp (130 in California emissions states). The ST sedan features a 2.3-liter four good for 151 hp. A five-speed manual transmission is standard across the line, and a four-speed automatic is optional on all but the base S ZX3 hatchback and the ST sedan. Fuel economy is slightly above average for this class, as both engines have EPA mileage ratings in the mid-to-upper 20s for city driving and mid-30s for highway travel.
All models come with three-point belts in all five seating positions. Optional safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, antilock brakes and traction control (standard on the ST). In NHTSA crash testing, the sedan, wagon and ZX5 hatchback earned a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for the front passenger; the ZX3 hatch earned four stars in both categories. In frontal-offset testing conducted by the IIHS, the Ford Focus earned a "Good" score, the highest possible. Neither NHTSA nor the IIHS has tested a Focus with side airbags: Without the bags, the government gives it four stars for front-occupant safety in side impacts and three stars for the rear, while the IIHS rates it "Poor" for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ford Focus is roomy for its class, offering generous accommodations for its front and rear passengers, even in three-door ZX3 models. Focus seats are chair-height and padded to the point you'd think the seams would burst from all the stuffing. The control layout is simple, but materials quality is unimpressive. Sound quality from the stock audio systems is surprisingly good, and downright exceptional with the optional Audiophile system.
Regardless of trim, the 2006 Ford Focus offers a smooth ride and above-average handling. Although the four-wheel fully independent suspension allows for noticeable body roll while cornering, the Focus stays planted and inspires confidence. The steering system is surprisingly quick and responsive, always providing plenty of feedback from the road surface.