2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: A Lot Going For It

July 27, 2009

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It may not be luxurious, but it's far from cheap.

Some of you seem to think the 2008 Ford Focus Coupe is nothing by a pile of plastic. Let's explore its good and bad points.

Its engine doesn't sound great but gets adequate power out of its 140 horses. It feels better to me than the Suzuki SX4.

As always, I'm obsessed with good, strong air conditioning and the Focus certainly has that.

Its roomy 13.8-cu-ft trunk had no problem swallowing the giant vacuum cleaner I bought this weekend. The trunk's mouth opening makes it easy to stuff full. I would prefer a hatchback, but I have a thing for hatchbacks.

I like the sporty white gauges and cool interior lighting.

I also like the windshield wipers. The washer fluid sprays out evenly and the wipers give you an extra wipe a few seconds after clearing the glass.

Sync is fun when it works properly.

The seats are cloth but they are holding up well and keep you supported.

Good bumpers, a rarity in modern cars, keep body repair costs down.

We're averaging more than 26 mpg in enthusiastic mixed driving.

We've had no major repairs or problems. There are some interior quality issues with things like panel gaps and the misplaced door handles.

Even though its looks are somewhat outdated, it still has a spark of personality.

It's made for some good caption contest Fridays.

Want to add anything?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 24,885 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Welcome to Death Valley

July 15, 2009

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Last week I put the air-conditioning of our long-term Ford Focus to a serious performance test by driving the little blue coupe through Death Valley, California, one of the hottest places on the face of the Earth.

The temps were pushing 123-degrees in the shade, but the Ford's air conditioning was up to the task, easily keeping the Focus cool and comfortable. The air continued to blow cold even when climbing the long, steep grade just outside of Stovepipe Wells, and the engine's water temperature gage remained pegged right in the middle, with no signs of overheating.

Way to go Focus.

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2008 Ford Focus: Fake Vents are Nothing New

May 04, 2009

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As noted before, our Focus' fake quarter panel vent is cheesy as Cheeto nachos. But I realized this weekend that fake vents go way back -- at least half a century back without even looking further.

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2008 Ford Focus: Cabin Still Looks Good

March 30, 2009

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We've certainly had our gripes with the cabin of our Ford Focus. Crappy ergonomics. Loose door handle.

Still, you have to give credit where credit is due, and this weekend I was pretty struck by how pristine the car's interior looks. It's been in our care for over a year now, and has over 17,000 miles on the odo. We're not exactly known for having a kid-glove approach when it comes to our test cars, yet our Ford's cabin still looks pretty much the same as it did when the car first rolled into our garage.

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2008 Ford Focus: Whiner

March 02, 2009

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I've spent a lot of time in our Focus -- so much so that I've pretty much tuned out its shortcomings. Poorly designed interior door handle? No problem -- I barely notice any more, since I've gotten used to nudging the door open with my elbow. Engine too whiny? No big deal -- I just crank up the stereo.

But the Focus was pretty new to the friends I ferried to the movies this weekend. One of them felt compelled to diss the car's rackety engine note as it struggled to pass an SUV on the freeway. Always nice to get a fresh perspective, I guess. And hmm -- guess the engine wasn't the only thing whining in the Focus that evening. On a more positive note, though, everyone was pretty impressed with SYNC.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 16,940 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Mystery Vents

December 15, 2008

When it's raining, and you're stuck behind a driver who insists on crawling at 5 mph as if this were the Storm of the Century instead of just a light drizzle, you find yourself pondering life's mysteries in a desperate effort to pass the time. Why do water bottles have a "best if used by" date? Why is "Dancing with the Stars" such a big hit? And why do some cars -- like our Ford Focus -- have those utterly non-functional vents, located by the A-pillars?

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Feeling Blue

December 08, 2008

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A lot of budget-priced cars look chintzy after dark, thanks to gauge/instrument panel illumination that has about as much cohesiveness as a Kmart clearance bin. However, cohesiveness is the name of the game in our Ford Focus, thanks to gauges and controls that are illuminated mostly in a single shade of blue. This consistency makes things look more upmarket than they would have otherwise, and it extends even to the auxiliary controls on the car's steering wheel.

The cabin feels pretty soothing when the gauges are lit up -- not surprising, since blue is known for being a tranquil color. Ford's designers may have chosen this particular shade for its high-end associations -- known as Tiffany blue, it shares its hue with the boxes used by the famous jeweler. If this color choice was part of some grand scheme cooked up by the car's designers to trigger a favorable subconscious response, then well done, Ford. Oh, and as we've mentioned before, the variable interior lighting is pretty cool as well. If only the same level of thoughtfulness had gone into other aspects of the cabin...

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 14,653 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: The Long-Awaited Sync Video

October 30, 2008

Sync Controls in the Focus -- Photoillustration by James Riswick

We basically bought the Focus to try out the Sync system and we've mostly been impressed with it. While we've blogged about using Sync a few times, no one has actually got around to demonstrating how to use it. Oh, Magrath and I had big plans of doing a fancy video done by our crack video staff, but we never got around it. So when I got the keys last night, I figured I'd finally do the long-awaited Sync how-to video. So here, enjoy.

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2008 Ford Focus: Rock All Night Long

October 06, 2008

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I like the variable lights. They are pretty. It's like driving around in a rock show.

I don't care if you think this is the dumbest blog entry ever, it's the truth.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Oops...It Did It Again

August 25, 2008

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This weekend was my second time in the Ford Focus. The first time I only moved it from one parking spot to another. This time I had it for the whole weekend.

My initial impressions: I think the Focus is attractive in our particular shade of blue. It was fine to drive around in. The interior has a lot of plastic and the seats are hard. But it's perky. No trouble merging onto the freeway. It's relatively inexpensive. I did some grocery shopping and found the trunk was nice and deep. Sync didn't seem to like my iTouch. Too many leftover Napster tracks it didn't want to play. It said something about not being able to recognize them. I can't remember the exact words the loud lady used. But she played my store-bought music without complaining.

Then my passenger got in and said, "this door pull is broken."

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2008 Ford Focus: Right Is Left

August 14, 2008

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Ever have that kind of day when it seems like everything is going wrong? Like when you mistakenly get off the wrong floor from the elevator or you dribble coffee on your newly cleaned white shirt? Well, operating our 2008 Ford Focus made me feel like that.

Last night, without fail, every time I got in the car and went to turn on the headlights, I would end up activating the windshield wipers. OK, I'm just an airhead. For some reason I didn't get it that the windshield wiper stalk is located on the left side, not the right...in THIS car.

We get into so many different cars, a different car every night so I know this is not going to be an issue for someone who lives with the Focus on a daily basis. And maybe it's a dumb gripe. But I just wondered why Ford put the windshield wiper on the left instead of on the right. Left is usually lights/high beams/turn signal -- all lights. See how that works? Here, the stalk functions as both windshield wiper AND turn signal. Thus my confusion.

And since I'm on a griping roll, why does the display have to block out the odometer/trip reading with "Emergency Brake On" when I'm parked, the doors are closed...and I want to take a picture of the tripmeter? Frickin frackin! This is in addition to the red brake warning light that already appears on the display.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 11,420 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Gas Pedal Gauge

June 30, 2008

With gas prices the way they are, you would think we'd appreciate anything that would seemingly help one achieve more fuel efficiency. And we would, if it made sense. Our Focus has an instantaneous fuel economy indicator, as some other cars, such as various BMW's, do. In short, these things are an intake manifold vacuum gauge, essentially just showing whether you're on the gas or off. They "work" like this:

-- Accelerate normally and the needle (or in this case bar graph) swings towards the low end. Shame on you, you're guzzling gas!

-- Let up and cruise, and the needle/graph moves around toward the middle.

-- Lift off the gas and wow! You're getting excellent cell phone reception! I mean great mileage. Well, for a few seconds, anyway.

The trouble with these "indicators" is that because it's an instantaneous status, the needle or bar graph is constantly moving to and fro. A useless gimmick that is distracting at best. C'mon guys, we all know that going gently on the gas -- avoiding jack-rabbit starts from lights and stop signs, cruising at a relatively steady speed on the interstate -- will optimize mileage. Fortunately, this function is part of a trip computer's menu that also includes an average fuel economy indicator, the kind you can typically reset whenever you want.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 9,744 miles.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Compact Blues

June 16, 2008

I'm not sure why, but whenever I mention the Ford Focus, most people wrinkle their noses and make "eeeww" noises. Why is this? If they'd only drive it, they'd find it to be a well-balanced car that steers and handles much better than a lot of the compact competition. It's a kinder, gentler tune of a Mazda3-ish chassis that some find too performance-oriented. Sure beats the heck out of the Corolla's road manners. And our 2008 Ford Focus SES has a PZEV engine that is green and clean and gets high 30's mpg on the highway--only an MPG or two behind a Corolla or Civic.

OK, I'm pretty sure why: it has to be the styling, inside and out. The original one looked a bit spacy (but tolerable as a 3-door hatchback), but the assymetric interior was a horrid festival of plastic. Outside, this new US-spec coupe is a step backwards, or at least sideways; it looks like a old Daewoo, or something. Meanwhile the interior, while a lot easier to look at than before, still seems dated and made of low-rent materials.

Why didn't we get the cool European Ford Focus they sold a couple of years ago? After all, I'm told the chassis is over 95% the same. A year ago someone at Ford told me the Euro Focus cost too much to build. Higher European fuel prices meant that many folks actually preferred compacts over there, but they wanted them well-trimmed with a lot of feature content. As a result, Ford felt they could put more money into the body and interior on the Eurpoean models. It's a more upmarket sort of compact.

Not here. A lot of people here wanted a real (read: big) car or an SUV. Anyone who bought a compact was simply someone who couldn't afford anything more substantial, or so the thinking went.

And then gasoline broke $3 per gallon. Then $4. And it'll probably be $5 before the summer is out. Sure, buying a new car and taking on a payment just to save gas money doesn't make sense in some cases, but a lot of people are doing so anyway. Suddenly the large SUV has fallen out of fashion. Folks who can afford to buy a $45,000 SUV are looking for something that can get 30 or 35 mpg on the highway.

Personally, I've always liked compacts. But since I'm not hurting for cash I've always gravitated towards those with good design, fit and finish. I do not see a compact car as a consolation prize. I think a lot of other folks are suddenly starting to look at this segment the same way, too. Too bad Ford doesn't have their somewhat more upmarket European Ford Focus ready to go in US trim right about now...

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2008 Ford Focus: Let The Light Shine In

June 05, 2008

I drove the I-5 this past weekend. If you haven't been on it at night, it's like any other long interstate in the middle of nowhere. Basically if you closed your eyes for a couple of hours you'd see more than I did during my drive through the Central Valley.

My girlfriend was asleep in the passenger seat so the music was turned off, it was near midnight with another couple hundred miles to go and I was bored out of my mind...

Thankfully the Focus had something for me to keep some brain function going, a selectable color light array. About every ten minutes I pushed the button to get another color. Dumb? Yes. Pretty? Yes. I had nothing better to do other than arrive safely at my relatives house.

Yeah the colored lights are cheap thrills. But even the little stuff can make an otherwise boring drive fun.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Aye, There's the Rub

May 15, 2008

It's almost getting too easy to pick on our 2008 Ford Focus, what with that passenger side door handle falling off, the way the headlights (and horn) don't activate when you hit "unlock" on the keyfob, and such. (Though it's possible that the Focus can be reprogrammed for the lights to flash when you press "unlock," how many people will take the trouble to figure that out?) I'd like to add one more gripe, but, to be fair, counter that with a compliment or two.

First, the gripe: I hate the way the coupe's shoulder belt anchor is positioned. Granted, this is a coupe, so I guess it's not that unusual to have to reach all the way behind you to the b-pillar to grab the belt... But then the anchor doesn't adjust up or down either, and the result is that the belt rubs my neck, and not in a good way. Perhaps this situation could be ameliorated by moving the seat, but only if the steering telescoped, which, of course, it doesn't . Both the wheel and the belt anchor are big issues for shorter drivers. So bottom line is. I'm not comfortable in the driver's seat -- and I'm 5'6".

On the plus side, I really like the way the cup holders illuminate with the cool blue lighting. It makes it easier to see what's in there at night, when you're fumbling around for your keys, your cell phone, whatever. I'm always throwing stuff in the cupholders or console, and it's handy to have a little light.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Focus on the Little Things

May 12, 2008

If you focus on the Big Things when evaluating our long-term 2008 Ford Focus you get all caught up in the whole ancient chassis thing. But if you focus on the little things it doesn't get much better. For instance, immediately after getting behind the wheel several weeks ago I confirmed that the "new" Focus doesn't have a telescoping steering wheel. This is doubly disappointing because it used to have a telescoping wheel, so while the Focus' chassis dates from the Clinton Administration, this "little thing" has gotten worse.

Add to this "little things" list the seat design, which I just noticed yesterday. If you want to use the rear seat in our coupe you, obviously, have to move the front seat forward. But if you flip the front passenger seatback forward, slide the entire seat forward, and then try to put it back in place it stops at the forward-most position in the seat's travel. If you've driven a VW Golf or Beetle from the last decade you know that the front seats will reset to their original location after moving them all-the-way forward for rear-seat entry. The Focus doesn't do this.

As for the driver's seat, I could get it to move at all with the side levers. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but most levers are pretty simple -- you pull them and they do something.

Maybe I should go back to focusing on the big things...

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief, Edmunds.com @ 7,640 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Handle Problem Fixed!

May 07, 2008

We're an enterprising sort around here. With the Focus' faulty door handle placement, we thought it wouldn't be too hard to correct this problem without the need for millions of dollars worth of R&D. So DiPietro and myself took a trip out to J.W. Higgins Auto Yard in Crenshaw to search for our solution... Within minutes, we spotted a '71 Cadillac Eldorado with a suprisingly well-preserved red leather interior. With little effort, we crowbarred off the chrome and wood applique that held what we were looking for. Ten minutes and a whole heap of industrial glue later, voila. We'll see if our door handle design lasts longer than Ford's.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Pull my Handle

May 05, 2008

We've blogged before about the poorly placed door pulls on our Focus Coupe. They are located too far forward and subsequently don't provide enough leverage to easily close the door. This is not only a problem for weak-armed folks, but for the handle itself, as the passenger side one now comes out every time you try to pull the door closed. As the below video shows, it doesn't take a lot of force to do it.

This is simply a design flaw and a curious one given the previous Focus' handles were placed at least six inches aft of their present location. We'll try to get the handle fixed at our next appointment, but there's no getting around the faulty positioning. I'm curious to know if other Focus buyers (sedan and especially coupe) have had their handles pop out. In the mean time, I'll just keep closing the driver side using the plastic trim piece lip at the base of the window.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,213 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: A Sight for Sore Eyes

April 28, 2008

I got the keys to our 2008 Ford Focus SES on Thursday evening and immediately zeroed out the fuel economy meter. By Monday morning I had driven about 100 miles, about 60 percent of which was on the highway. As you can see Ford lived up to its 30+ mpg promise.

True, there are a lot of things the Focus doesn't have... And as this blog has pointed out over the past months there is a certain cheese factor to the styling. But it is capable of good gas mileage and the higher fuel prices go the more valuable that is. Funny how this car even looks better when you know it's saving you dough.

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2008 Ford Focus: Leaning on the Door

April 07, 2008

Ford Focus Door Handle - photo by Warren Clarke

I'd be the first to admit that we automotive journalists are a persnickety bunch. We wail and fuss and moan about the slightest of missteps when it comes to automotive design and performance, because, well, that's our job. The truth of it is, a large percentage of these missteps are anthills, not mountains, likely to escape the attention of all but the most discerning and demanding buyers.

However, the Ford Focus bears a design misstep that I'm fairly certain would be noticed by pretty much everyone: It lacks a useful interior door handle... The one handle that exists is too awkwardly placed to serve any real purpose, and there's no secondary handle to grab on to when opening and closing the door. Brent pointed this out in an earlier blog post, but I'm so bemused by this oversight that I felt the need to call it out again. It's not the end of the world, of course. This weekend, I got used to sort of using my shoulder to nudge the door open, in lieu of grabbing a handle. But it's still an oddly glaring oversight in an otherwise quite satisfactory little coupe.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 5,343 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Interior Missteps

March 07, 2008

2008 Ford Focus -- Brent Romans

Having been driving our 2008 Ford Focus for two weeks now, I've noticed two main interior design missteps that I find annoying on a daily basis. The first is the too-far-forward placement of the door hand grips. They just don't provide much leverage to aid the front passengers in pulling the doors closed, and there are no secondary grips in the armrest. As such, our coupe's doors feel heavier than need be, like they came off a Ford Torino or something.

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