2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

Wrap-Up


  • 2008 Ford Focus Picture

    2008 Ford Focus Picture

    Sporting all-new skin, the Focus thankfully has not been saddled with the corporate tri-bar grille. | October 07, 2009

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Wrap-Up

September 25, 2009

Why We Bought It
Durability
Performance and Fuel Economy
Retained Value
Summing Up

Why We Bought It
Our logic at the beginning of this yearlong road test of the newly redesigned 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe was sound. Ford had been pimping Sync — its new Microsoft-developed multimedia user interface with voice command — with every breath and keystroke. Our in-boxes were flooded with press releases and our Tivos were filled with ads. Turns out, advertising does work. With a budget surplus and a few trial runs under our belts, we went for the cheapest and first model we could find with the New Best Thing Ever. It was a fun experiment in automotive infotainment until seven months later, when we bought a long-term Ford Flex Limited that backed up the Sync technology with a hard drive, navigation system and a large touchscreen.

At least we had the new styling vocabulary of the 2008 Focus to critique for the next few months. Well, we did until Ford, responding to unanimous disgust, changed the appearance of the 2009 Ford Focus to something a little less visually distinctive.

So we reached the end of our term with the Focus with an 8-year-old vehicle platform, outdated styling and a less-than-optimum version of the wondrous Sync. Sure, we could talk about our optional ABS, our optional automatic transmission or the ambient LED lighting, but chances were good that this car, slowly fading into obscurity, would spend its last few months in our test fleet parked at the airport while one editor or another flew away to an exotic destination, waiting patiently for his or her return.

But then the government got all sorts of involved in the auto business. It bailed out GM (which then went into bankruptcy). It bailed out Chrysler (bankruptcy again). And it started a fun little project to get rid of excess tax revenue: Cash for Clunkers. This program jump-started auto sales with a focus on small, fuel-efficient vehicles, so all of a sudden our road test of a small, fuel-efficient domestic coupe was highly relevant. Focus sales were up 44 percent and, it was reported, the car actually sold out.

Durability
"Like a Rock." It was the tagline for Chevy trucks but should probably get affixed to the Focus. Serious problems? None. A door handle popped off, but no drama there since it was replaced under warranty and we just drove the car around during the daylong wait for parts. Other than that, nothing. We put 25,000 miles on our 2008 Ford Focus and followed the maintenance schedule, so every 5,000 miles we paid Santa Monica Ford just under $60 for an oil change, tire rotation, fluid replacement and a general check-over. One time we had a coupon and paid $44.95. That was a banner day in the mechanical history of the Focus. "This is the sort of car you can buy for your kid," one editor was overheard saying. "It just goes down the road and then comes back. It's a workhorse."

Being a workhorse is one thing; being liked is something different altogether. Our 2008 Focus left us with 25,539 miles, which took more than 16 months to accumulate. Only the Smart Fortwo Passion and Jeep Compass had lower odometer readings.

Total Body Repair Costs: $0
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over [16] months): $283.51
Additional Maintenance Costs: 0
Warranty Repairs: 1
Non-Warranty Repairs: 0
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 5
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 0
Days Out of Service: 0
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 0

Performance and Fuel Economy
It could be guessed from simply looking at the specifications sheet how few miles the Focus would accumulate. No navigation. Two doors. Only 140 horsepower. Four-speed automatic. These are not road trip numbers. These are perfectly fine A-to-B transportation numbers, but they do not beg for the thrills of the open road. And our Ford spent most of its time in the city, bringing us to work as any good workhorse would.

But that's not to say that the Focus stayed in L.A. the whole time. We forced one staffer to take it to Death Valley for some quick, hard miles. And we also used it during the inaugural Edmunds Gas-Sipper Smackdown. Unfortunately for the Focus, it scored last in virtually all the tests, but its inclusion tells you that we were nevertheless seeing some pretty impressive mpg numbers. Our best tank was a restrained 40.6 mpg, while our poorest was just 16.6 mpg, less than half the best. Lifetime average: 26.7 mpg.

As for performance, well, it's got 140 hp, so 60 mph comes up in just under 10 seconds (9.7 seconds, to be precise). Hold your foot down for another 7.7 seconds and the quarter-mile passes in 17.4 seconds at 80.6 mph. Thanks to ABS, braking is merely poor with the car's mpg-enhancing tires instead of awful, and we recorded a stopping distance of 132 feet. This car isn't made for performance, and performs accordingly. Performance isn't a negative here, but it's not a positive, either.

Final Odometer Reading: 25,539
Best Fuel Economy: 40.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 26.7 mpg

Retained Value
The Cash for Clunkers program had a positive influence on the sale price and the volume of sales for the latest Focus, but since the program had been designed to stimulate new car sales, it had little effect on the resale value of our 2008 model. Maybe the increased attention on the Focus drove up its resale price a little, but we doubt it, since it's more likely that those who might have been looking for a used car were taking advantage of the program and simply buying new.

We should have expected a lower-than-average resale when the dealer was so willing to negotiate the price when we bought it new. We got about a grand off the top with rebates and walked out paying $17,977.68 on a car that stickered for $19,030. When it came time to sell, Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) had our Focus listed at $12,543 as equipped. Now, if you've been following the long-term blogs, you'll notice that we've just taken delivery of a new 2010 Chevy Camaro SS. Those things don't grow on trees and demand has pushed the price through the roof. We wanted ours fast and chose to sell the Focus quickly in order to get that Chevy into our garage more quickly. So we took an early offer from someone we knew (a parent of an intern) and let the Focus go for $10,500 — $6,487 less than the MSRP. Cash for Clunkers wouldn't have got you such a screaming deal on a dead-reliable car.

True Market Value at service end: $12,543
What it sold for: $10,500
Depreciation: $6,487 or 66% of original paid price ($19,030)
Final Odometer Reading: 25,539

Bringing It All Into Focus
We spent 16 months with our 2008 Ford Focus, during the last three of which the car existed almost exclusively as an airport trolley. A good utensil is the kind that integrates seamlessly with the user and then goes back into the drawer until it's needed again. The Focus is like that — never inspiring, but never offensive.

Maybe office gossip sums it up best. As Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton said, "This Focus is a placeholder, and in our fleet it was like a metallic-blue bruise. It just sort of lingered. You'd forget about it and then, wham! you'd bump into it again. It just wouldn't go away."

True Market Value at service end: $12,543
What it sold for: $10,500
Depreciation: $6,487 or 44% of original paid price ($19,030)
Final Odometer Reading: 25,539
Best Fuel Economy: 40.6 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 26.7 mpg
Total Body Repair Costs: $0
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 16 months): $283.51
Additional Maintenance Costs: 0
Warranty Repairs: 1
Non-Warranty Repairs: 0
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 5
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 0
Days Out of Service: 0
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 0

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.


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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2008 Ford Focus in NJ is:

$220 per month*
* Explanation
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