I have had my '12 Focus SE with sport package and 5 spd manual transmission for a couple months now. I have driven it about 4,000 miles so far and I'm still in love with this little hatchback. The other two cars I was seriously considering when shopping were the Mazda 3 with the SkyactivG and 6 spd manual, and the new '13 Dodge Dart II with the 1.4l multi-air and the 6 spd manual. Based on test drives I found the Dart II to have the best power, but it took quite a trip into the higher end of the tachometer to wring it out. The Mazda, by far, had the slickest transmission, which felt like I was in a Miata, but the interior felt dated and generic. The Focus is was the best all around.
I love the roominess of the Focus, and so do my two sons. There's plenty of little stowage trays in the back for the kids to use. The rear seat lower cushions pop out easily to fold the seatbacks down flat and provides a cavernous space when needed. After driving similar class cars with the 6 speed manual transmissions, I honestly don't feel they had any advantage over this 5 speed. Shift and clutch feel are nearly as nice as the Mazda, and the Focus' wider powerband makes better use of the gears. Side mirrors have excellent view. Handling is phenomenal for a car that rides so nice on the highway as well! I have not had a single issue with this car, but it's only been a short period.
I have to nitpick here. In every other vehicle I've driven with cruise control on the wheel, the CC buttons were on the right hand side, while the stereo controls were on the left. They're reversed on the Focus and it bugs me a bit that I have to take my concentration off the road to adjust the settings of either one, but I assume I'll get used to that. I'm also finding that with such a steep rake of the windshield that any dirt or grime really effects visibility and glare and dashboard reflection. Finally, I wish the power door lock controls were on the door and not the dashboard. I'm averaging 31.4 MPG at the moment in mixed commuting, which isn't bad, but I'd like to see that go up some.
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