2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test - Introduction

2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Introduction

January 22, 2008

It's no secret that the 2008 Ford Focus seems like it has overstayed its welcome. But when the Focus was introduced, it was big news, winning 1999 European Car of the Year and 2000 North American Car of the Year. It's been a sound, fun-to-drive car that just happened to be small. Edmunds even added a 2000 Ford Focus ZX3 hatchback to our long-term fleet when it was new. So why, eight years later with no significant changes, have we bought another one?

Sync. Yes, Sync. Ford's multimedia melding of hands-free goodies that make the 2008 Focus relevant again to the youth market pushed it headlong into our garage for a 12-month, 20,000-mile long-term test. The latest sales trends indicate a substantial swing toward affordable entry-level cars, and the 2008 Ford Focus SES will give us insight into the consequences of making such a decision.

What We Bought
Gone are the Focus hatchback and the wagon. For 2008 the only available body styles for the Ford Focus are the sedan and coupe. We have enough sedans in our garage already, and the new 2008 styling treatment — especially the character line that begins at the ersatz appliqué vent — looks less forced on the two-door. With this Focus coupe, the target is the youth market, so it was a no-brainer to opt for the cooler-looking, albeit less practical, model and also save 400 bucks in the bargain.

Next up for our consideration was trim package. The base S model comes with steel wheels and wheel covers. No thanks. Moving up to the SE package adds a few nice touches like 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels, power windows, power mirrors and remote door locks. Better, but not by enough.

The SES package held our attention from the first words we read on Ford's Web site: "The Focus for the Driver." Cool. European-inspired suspension, 16-inch alloy rims and a rear spoiler give this car some kind of edginess. Most important, the SES is the only package that has Sync, Ford's newest gizmo, as standard equipment.

The Sync is, after all, the reason we have this car. There are a handful of small two-doors in this price range that stack up well against the aging Focus. But none of them have an audio system that gives you voice-activated control over your MP3 player, or reads text messages back to you. Since the Sync system is a priority for us, we decided to make the stereo a priority as well and upgraded from the standard unit to Ford's $645 Audiophile package. The package adds four coaxial speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer. Sirius Satellite Radio cost us an additional $195.

Once we decided what we wanted, dealer stock proved to be limited. The only Focus to be had with the goodies we wanted also had the expensive ambient interior lighting option — some $295 for color-changing LED lights in the footwells and cupholders. Oh well.

At the price of $385, ABS was well worth the added expense for this Focus, which is only available with front discs and rear drums. We checked off the box for the four-speed automatic transmission, an $815 decision. The five-speed manual would have been more fun, but the automatic is the far more popular choice of real-world Focus buyers.

When we entered the market for this car, the Focus was already available with rebates. Our buyer received $500 customer cash and, armed with the Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®), received another $500 in discounts. The MSRP of our new Focus was $19,030; pre-tax, we paid $17,977.68. Add tax and fees to the equation and we walked away $19,707.13 poorer. There are more rebates available now (if only we'd waited).

Why We Bought It
While we're still kicking and screaming for Ford to bring over the high-strung European Focus ST, the Focus available to us is still essentially the same car that brought raves from consumers and enthusiasts alike. It's been tweaked and redesigned and tweaked some more, but the essentials are still the same. Trouble is, the competition isn't. A lot has changed in the last eight years, and more than a refresh and some tinkering is required.

But the real reason we bought the Focus lies in the middle of the instrument panel. Can Sync's voice-activated convenience transform the audio entertainment experience? Can it make a cheap car seem expensive?

Over the next 12 months the predominant question to be answered is: Is an eight-year-old platform still viable in today's market? Or is it misleading to think of the Focus as a consumer car at all, and instead is the Focus still the driver's car in urban clothing we remember? Stay tuned to our long-term blogs for updates.

Current Odometer: 1,502 miles
Best Fuel Economy: 27.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 21.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 24.6 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests