23 of 31 people found this review helpful
Everything I thought it would be... and more!
By geriacci on
2012 Ford Focus SEL 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 6AM)
I thought I would provide an in-depth review of this fine car for any prospective buyers out there. I purchased a Blue Candy Metallic SEL Sedan model with 303A trim last month. After scouring AutoTrader for about a month, I got lucky and this gem turned up in my own city. I scooped it up even before they had a chance to list it on their website. 1,600 miles later, I have nothing but praise for this car. I'm glad that automakers seem to be giving more respect to the compact segment. After exhaustive research, my selection was narrowed down to the Chevy Cruse, Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra when I started seeing internet buzz for the new Focus. Since it was a Focus, I dismissed it offhand as the capable yet unremarkable car it used to be. Then I started to read some reviews and watch some demo videos on YouTube. I became very intrigued with the MyFord Touch system.
I'm a fairly practical car buyer. My previous car was a 2006 Nissan Sentra, which ran fine and got pretty good gas mileage, but had no personality. This time I wanted a fuel efficient car that would be a little more fun. The Elantra was my #1 choice due to its aggressive styling, above-average size and upscale interior. After the Focus turned my head, I was torn between the two. The Elantra has better gas mileage and a better warranty. But the Focus has more to offer technology wise. Sure, the Elantra Limited trim also has a touch screen with navigation and a premium stereo, but the Focus has a 10 speaker Sony system with a subwoofer. The Elantra only has 6 speakers and no sub. My Sentra had a sub in the trunk and I was reluctant to give that up. Focus also has an advantage with Microsoft Sync (which so far has worked really well). Iím not sure what the extent of the voice command usage is on the Elantra (nobody ever had a Limited in stock in my area, plus I couldnít find many details online). At the end of the day, I was lured away from the Elantra by the seemingly superior tech in the Focus cabin.
When I actually went to test drive the nearest one (about an hour from my town), I was blown away by its appearance, both inside and out. Any pictures you see online really donít do this car justice. People still canít believe this car is a Focus (my brother in particular was stunned). The tech does not disappoint, though the touch screen is occasionally slow to respond (usually only when you first start the car). Touch sensitivity is quite good, and voice commands yield the desired results 9 times out of 10. I still get a kick out of requesting albums and songs by voice (so far the funniest one has been Princeís ďIrresistible B***hÖĒ if you didnít know, the selection is repeated back to you, so itís often amusing to hear the frumpy computer voice repeat the occasional odd phrase). Itís infinitely better than screwing around with an iPod interface while youíre trying to drive. If you donít like using voice commands, the touch screen iPod interface is excellent. MP3 sound quality is quite good, but I can still tell the difference when I put in a CD. You can also use a regular USB flash drive for music if you donít want to pay iPod prices (flash drives also respond to voice commands).
The sound system is quite good overall, though the highs are occasionally a tad shrill (I think the multiple front speakers are probably to blame for this, i.e. too much separation of higher frequencies). You can always adjust the EQ to your liking, though (you get a 3 band EQ- bass, midrange, treble; there are no genre settings i.e. Jazz, Country, Dance, etc.). At first, I assumed the EQ settings would need to be similar to what I have always used (+2 or 3 bass, -2 or 3 treble, default midrange and -1 or 2 towards the rear speakers). This didnít sound very good at all, though. In addition to the bass, I ended up increasing the midrange and treble, which is something Iíve never done in a car stereo before. There is a lot of power in the woofers (355 watts courtesy of an amplifier in the trunk) and you donít need to crank the volume in order to get great bass. The bass is very tightly controlled, however. Often times a song will start out heavy on the bass and you can feel/hear the speakers pull it back a little bit to avoid a potential speaker blow-out (this is usually only noticeable on songs with very heavy bass). The bass response is still excellent, thoughÖ easily the best Iíve personally experienced from a factory sound systemÖ and Iíd rather have the system pull the bass back than have a speaker blowout. The CD player reads CD text, which is awesome for those of us who use it on mixes. The iPod interface will display album artwork when it is available. The only annoying thing Iíve encountered with the stereo is that it will sometimes switch inputs when you turn the car back on. For instance, Iíll leave the car listening to a CD. When I get back in, the car is tuned to USBÖ not sure why. Luckily this only happens if something is plugged in to the USB drive, and it doesnít happen all the time.
The navigation system works extremely well, though searching for a POI (point of interest) or setting a destination does take some getting used to. The visual navigation screen has a couple of different views, including upcoming exit information and turns. You donít need to worry about missing a turn because not only is your next turn displayed on the driver screen (in the Information display next to mileage, trip info, etc.), but you get voice alerts when your turn is coming up. The voice alert even tells you what your next turn will be before you get on an interstate exit (ďTake Exit 254, and in 2/10ths of a mile, turn right onto Highway 6Ē). The system got me through the confusing Chicago interstates and into Michigan without incident this past weekend (it even displays the speed limit for you!). Sirius Traffic Link gives you gas prices of upcoming stations and traffic alerts for your entire route. You can search for gas stations, restaurants and even stores via the POI setting. This feature was incredibly helpful while driving around in an unfamiliar city. After the 6 months of free Sirius service expires, youíll have to pay $1.99 per month to keep Traffic Link. Iíd say itís probably worth it, but I wonít know for sure until itís gone and I see the full extent of what Iím missing.
So far the air conditioning has been excellent; I was able to keep it on automatic even during the last few blazing hot weeks. The dual zones work well considering the size of the car. It has a max defrost feature that Iím hoping will work nicely come winter. Hands-free Bluetooth phone service works quite well. I can converse at a normal volume and the calls come in nice and clear (bear in mind, quality of calls will also depend on your carrier and the coverage you get). My HTC Evo Shift automatically pairs with the car when I get in, and voice dialing is supported (ďCall Mom and Dad CellĒ). I have heard that voice dialing will not work for every phone, though. There is a SYNC-cell phone compatability chart here: http://www.nsapp.fordtechservice.dealerconnection.com/sync/usEN/sync_us_EN_iop_2_00.pdf
The display provides battery level and signal strength. You can browse your contacts on the touch screen. Text messaging on the touch screen is not supported on my phone, so I canít comment about that. My phone also does not support ringtone transfer to the car speakers. I can stream music from the phone, but I canít select the music from the touch screen, only on the phone itself (though when I browse the phone on the stereo interface, a couple of my ring tones do show up). I donít have the Parking Assist feature, only the rear sensor (rear camera only comes with Parking Assist). Since I have to park pretty close to the wall, the sensor beeps every time I back out of the garage.
The car handles quite well (my brother was very impressed and he is an auto snob when it comes to American cars) and the ride is very smooth on the interstateÖ no more struggling to maintain cruise control speed when I go up a hill as with my previous car. Cruise control works very well, including the ability to increase or decrease speed without having to reset it. Plus if you have to brake, you can hit the resume button once you are able to cruise again and the previously-set speed resumes. Acceleration is a lot better than my last car. I no longer have to put the pedal to the floor trying to get on the interstate. The transmission shifts smoothly at high speeds but does occasionally act a little confused at low speeds (mostly when first accelerating after breaking). I know some people are really annoyed by this, but it doesnít bother me. I donít use the Sport mode so I canít really comment on it. My brother used it and was impressed, for whatever thatís worth. The car is fairly quiet at high speeds with very low wind noise (though I hear the Cruze supposedly has the quietest cabin in the segment).
The front windows are both one-touch up and down (very handy for those pesky tolls). The glovebox and center console are fairly roomy, but there are no other spots to put a cell phone or loose change, unless you use the cup holders. The cup holders are deep enough to accommodate bigger fountain drinks. Plastic bottles and cans donít feel too secure but so far I have not had one tip over. The holders are deep enough that tipping shouldnít be a problem. Itís true that back seat leg room is not great, but the seats themselves are comfortable. The fold down center console (only available with the leather package) is a nice touch, though the drink holders are a little small. The auto dimming mirror works extremely well. I havenít had much of a chance to test the auto-sensing wipers yet. I havenít been able to get the Homelink button programmed correctly, so Iím still using my clunky garage door remote. There is supposed to be a ďLearnĒ button on my garage door receiver but I havenít been able to locate it.
The seats are quite comfortable. Itís so nice to have a power driver seat again, and the manual lumbar support is sweet (note: both are available only with the leather package). The base of the seat could be a little wider for me personally, but keep in mind that Iím a bigger guy (6 ft, 270 lbs). Front seat leg room is great, though I do have my seat all the way back. I donít need to have it there in order to drive comfortably, but I prefer to have the maximum amount of leg room. The trunk is pretty roomy for a compact. Itís not as deep as my last car, but itís wider and can fit more. I LOVE the capless fuel tankÖ my brother opened it and observed, ďDid you know that your fuel cap is missing?Ē Iím sure I will love it even more come winter (no more fumbling around in low temperatures).
Mileage has been excellent so far. While tooling around the city, I get an average of 32-33 mpg. On the interstate, I was getting 40-41 mpg for a good majority of the trip to Michigan (when traveling at 70 mph or slightly below). Once I went past 71, the mpg went down to 38-39. So far my peak mpg has been 45 while going 65 on the interstate for about 15 minutes.
In summary, I am very pleased with my purchase and have no regrets (though the push button start on the Titanium model might have been niceÖ). This car strikes the perfect balance of luxury and practicality. The technology in the cabin is excellent and I am already very spoiledÖ I donít think I could ever go back. I have received many compliments on the body designÖ people can hardly believe it is a Ford, let alone a Focus. I hope you prospective buyers found this review helpful in your decision.
One final note- my girlfriend, possibly the most frugal person I know (and who once said she would NEVER buy a brand new car), likes it so much that she ordered a Titanium model for herself! She ordered it on July 18th and it is scheduled to ship the last week of August. So the supposed production delays canít be that bad if she can get one in about seven weeks.
SYNC with MyFord Touch, premium Sony sound system, Navigation, iPod/usb drive accessibility, excellent fuel economy
More rear leg room would be nice, but if you don't usually have anyone back there, it doesn't matter. A little slot or pocket for a cell phone, wallet or other small items would be nice. Smoother shifting at low speeds would also be welcome.