2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

2008 Ford Focus: I Want the ZX3 Back

July 15, 2008


The more time I spend with our 2008 Ford Focus coupe, the more worried I feel about Ford's future. Not only is this refreshed Focus a far cry from the second-gen, European-market Focus TdCi I drove a couple years ago, I feel it's a couple steps back from the 1.0 version of the Focus sold from 2000-2007.

I'm not just talking about de-contenting (goodbye, telescoping steering wheel), nor the needless complexity Ford added to the interior (yes, there's Sync, but there are also about 3 times as many buttons and lights). I'm talking about the driving experience, and this one just doesn't measure up. The old car had a terrific freeway ride, yet despite its soft-tuned suspension, it felt light and tossable, and had great steering feel -- and you didn't have to take it on a back road to appreciate its athleticism. I feel almost none of that in this 2008 Focus SES. The highway ride is harsher, yet the old playfulness is gone. The car feels heavy and the steering has about half as much feedback as before.

I had fun with every single one of the old Focuses I drove, including a beater, Euro-spec ZX5 with a weakling 1.6-liter engine I rented once. But driving this one is only a step up from drudgery and I can't even work up the resolve to pair my cell phone and iPod with its Sync interface. Not even those ST knock-off wheels can change my mind.

I know this Focus is selling well right now, but I think it has little to do with the car itself. Instead, it's about Sync and a general feeling of desperation over high gas prices.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ about 10,500 miles

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