2014 Ford Focus SE Sedan (2.0L 4-cyl. FFV 5-speed Manual w/opt. 6-speed automated manual)
Driven On 9/24/2013
Despite strong competition from redesigned competitors, the Focus continues to be a top pick. It's one of the sportiest-driving economy compacts and gets high marks for interior materials. The clunky twin-clutch gearbox and funky infotainment controls are its two most glaring weak points.
PerformanceThe Focus shines in all performance categories save driveability, where the transmission is plagued by some low-speed jerkiness. Once at speed the transmission works well, and steering and handling remain competitive with the new Mazda 3.
The 2.0-liter 160-hp 4-cylinder gets the Focus to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, matching the Mazda 3. Helping the Focus is a quick-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmission with launch control.
The brake pedal offers a nice firm feel, but the best panic stop was an unimpressive 131 feet. The SE model has drum rear brakes instead of discs, but they still felt plenty powerful on the road.
Quick and precise turn-in with excellent feel through the thick and grippy steering wheel. You always know what the front tires are doing. Only the Mazda 3 steers as well in this class.
Sporty suspension tuning makes the Focus fun to drive, whether on backroads or freeway on-ramps. Precise through corners with a slightly tail-happy manner when you really push it.
The PowerShift transmission gets confused/jerky during rolling stops and thick traffic. But the steering is precise, the brakes are intuitive and the cruise control never overshoots.
ComfortDespite its taut ride, the Focus is a comfortable car with well-padded seats front and rear. The four-cylinder engine is not only one of the strongest in the class, but it sounds good, too.
The front seats are covered with cheap-looking cloth but are comfortable and hold you in place. Door armrests are hard. No center armrest for the rear, but seats have plenty of padding.
Those comfortable seats help soften things here. The Focus' ride is German-taut but supple enough to handle small bumps with ease. Larger bumps cause the occasional big bounce.
Our sound measurements say the Focus is one of the noisier cars in this class, but we wouldn’t call it loud. The engine doesn't get thrashy at high rpm like some fours. Minor whistling at rear doors.
InteriorAlthough the interior is well-made, the design is a little over the top, with priority on form over function, and the center stack is a bit confusing. The front seats are simple to get in/out of, the rear requires more contortion. Storage cubbies are skimpy.
The SE's center stack suffers from a small screen and unlabeled mystery buttons -- we'd actually opt for the controversial MyFordTouch system. Climate control dials are easy to use.
The front doors open wide making for easy ingress/egress. Getting into the back seat requires ducking your head dramatically. Feet can also get hung up, and your leg will brush the wheel well.
Excellent headroom up front but the dramatic center stack makes things feel confined versus competitors. Rear headroom is tight, with cramped door-side elbow room and scrunched foot space.
The windshield is large but heavily slanted. Roof pillars get thick toward the bottom making it difficult to see through corners. Side glass area is chopped but rear window is large. No backup camera.
Weak versus competitors. No front bin and small center armrest storage. Cupholders incapable of holding drinks in place. The 13.2 cubic-foot trunk has a wide but short opening, nice square load area.
ValueWe continue to be impressed by Ford's quality. The automatic-like dual-clutch transmission costs extra and the SE doesn't come with disc rear brakes, but the Focus provides strong value plus rare sporty driving characteristics for the segment.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Considering the price and level of materials, the Focus remains right at the top of the class. Plenty of soft-touch areas, solid-feeling controls. We did notice one intermittent dash rattle.
At the SE's base price of $19,310, it comes with a 6-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control, alloy wheels, fold-flat rear seat and front floor mats. Rear disc brakes and an automatic cost extra.
The 6-speed PowerShift transmission is a $1,095 option. Satellite radio costs a further $195 for a total price of $20,600 as-tested. You're getting a well-made car for people who like driving.
The EPA rates the Focus SE with the 6-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmission at 31 mpg Combined (27 City/37 Highway). We averaged 30.2 mpg overall, about mid-pack for the segment.
The Focus' 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage are competitive. Well short of the Kia Forte's 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain coverage, though.
Ford offers roadside assistance for 5 years/60,000 miles, which is better than most rivals. It should be factored in that Ford has seriously stepped up its quality in the last several years.
Fun To DriveNot quite as exciting as the new Mazda 3, but with its quick steering and sharp handling the Focus will make you smile anytime you take a corner with vigor. That the Focus' transmission can't be manually shifted hurts its fun factor.
Low-speed transmission clunkiness and strange center stack controls aside, the Focus offers a fun, sporty and thoroughly comfortable driving experience.
The engine has more sauce than most rivals, and sounds good. The taut ride is why the Focus can attack curves. The quick-shifting transmisison has launch control. Now that's personality.