2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test - Miscellaneous

2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

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2008 Ford Focus SES: Parting Shots

September 21, 2009


After an extended tour of duty, our 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe is gone. (Read the wrap-up here.) After some 25,000 miles of Sync, ambient LED lighting, fake vents and it not being a hatchback, we were more than willing to let it go. While no tears were shed, dozens and dozens of words were written for this installment of Parting Shots. Don't forget to leave yours after the jump

"Aside from Sync, all the good stuff dates from the original platform of eight years ago. Bring back the hatchback, keep the price cheap, and make it forever. It'll be the Ford Ranger of passenger cars." -- Michael Jordan, Executive Editor Inside Line


"The Focus gets the Hertz Award for Least Interesting Long-Term Car Ever. Given the choice, I always picked something else, Smart included." -- Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com


"Although it wasn't the Euro-market Focus RS I crave, our long-term Focus proved to be durable, comfortable, affordable and economical. For many that makes it the perfect car. I'd recommend it with a clear conscience." - Scott Oldham, Editor-in-Chief, Inside Line


"While I don't think this Ford Focus is anything to get excited about, I also don't think it's all that bad. The interior is bland at best and the coupe body just doesn't work on this car. HOWEVER, the Sync system alone would be a deal maker for me if I was looking for a decent commuter car. The driving dynamics are also better than other compacts like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra. Ultimately the Focus is a car that's easy to forget and even easier to live with. It asks nothing of you - not even your attention, certainly not your passion or enthusiasm. You just point it straight and go to work, never thinking about it all day long, then point it straight to go home - for some, that's the perfect car." - Brian Moody, Automotive Editor


"If they offered it to me at the rental counter, I would politely ask if something else were available." -- Al Austria, Vehicle Evaluation Engineer


"I rented a car in Massachusetts a few months back. Had the option of a Sync-equipped Focus (same blue as ours) or a base Altima. I picked the Syncmobile and never regretted it for a second." - Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant


"The Ford Focus is really quite impressive...at least as far as cars from the Clinton era go." Karl Brauer, Editor-in-Chief, Edmunds.com


"Inexpensive A-to-B transportation, with some cool features thrown in -- this is what the Focus meant to me. It wasn't much, but strangely, it was enough. Farewell, humble friend - I'll see you on the other side." - Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor


"The poor Focus doesn't get the respect it deserves. If I were younger, I would definitely consider the Ford Focus as a starter car. I'm older now so I need more luxury features for my weary bones. But the Focus is perfectly adequate. I could see it as a college cruiser or the car you buy when you get your first job. And you get the added benefit of fighting with SYNC. It keeps you from having to go home and pick an argument with your husband/wife/roommate/parent/significant other." - Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


"Forget the Mk2 European-spec Focus. I never could get over my resentment that this car wasn't a ZX3 hatchback and didn't have that car's steering feel or even its telescoping steering wheel. Sync isn't enough." - Erin Riches, Senior Editor, Inside Line


"I drove our Focus a lot. That should not be misinterpreted to mean I liked it. I clearly recall the first moment I plopped into that car, and instantly thought, "one and a half, maybe two generations behind the market." Steering feel, engine character, cornering attitude . . . just a little waffly and unrefined. Of course, the Focus was plenty cheap, and it did run reliably, and it had a front license plate so it didn't get a no-plate fix-it ticket when I left it in Lot B at LAX. So it served a certain beast-of-burden role just fine. I accept there's a need for beasts of burden, but that's about as glowing as my praise for the Focus can get." - Kevin Smith, Editorial Director

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Our Favorite Caption

July 31, 2009


Thanks to lowmilelude for this week's favorite caption. That's his second week in a row. Woohoo!

These are the others that made us smile:

The Focus on the set of "The Past and the Curious" (ergsum)
To compete with BMW's "iDrive", Ford offers "uHaul" (ergsum)
Restored, ignored, a Ford and no cord. (ergsum)
Well, I guess I'll take the focus...(jshhuber)
Is there any room on that truck for me?...the fiesta's coming. (vwthing1)
Eenie meenie minie NO (stpawyfrmdonut)
Pahrump concours d'elegance (stpawyfrmdonut)
Clear that ramp! I'm going to jump the laundromat! (actualsize)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Bonus Round: The little red wedge is a Citicar. I don't know about the other two, that's why I was asking you.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: You Write the Caption

July 31, 2009


Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt took this picture of our Ford Focus with these fellow coupes.

Dig that 1970s-era electric car and those two classic coupes circa 1940s.

We offer: Focus on Modern Style

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite at 4:00 PM California time.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Bonus question: Can you identify the make and model of the cars in the background?

*** Just added a closer shot of the mystery coupes, click through to view ***

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2008 Ford Focus: Would I Make Room in My Own Garage?

July 28, 2009


In today's COTW open thread for our 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe, the discussion centers on whether the Focus is a decent buy (or lease) if you absolutely have to have a new car and aren't overly concerned about engine refinement or steering feel.

"What do you guys think about leasing one for say 4 years?" fuhteng writes. "You don't care about the depreciation, and you aren't paying much for a car that will always be under warranty. My girlfriend is looking something newer than her old Accord, and these threads have got me thinking about the Focus. She is also looking at the new (smiley-faced) Mazda3."

I think if the deal was right (read: very affordable), I could get behind someone leasing a Focus. Mind you, it's true I don't like the 2008-2009 Focus anywhere near as much as the 2000-2007 models because of changes to the chassis tuning and styling. But I'd still take this car over any of the other American- and Korean-brand offerings in this price range, not to mention the Nissan Sentra, the Toyota Yaris and (probably) the Corolla.

But there are some cars I would take over the Focus if I could come anywhere close on price. Maybe I couldn't, but here they are. And, oh, by the way, I like sedans. My Focus would be a sedan.

Honda Civic EX (no drum brakes, dammit!)
Honda Fit (oh, wait, I do like drum brakes)
Mazda 3
Mitsubishi Lancer
Subaru Impreza 2.5i

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Open Thread

July 28, 2009


What do you want to know about the 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe?

Have you driven one? Write a review in the comments section.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: You Asked For It

July 26, 2009


When we said we were skipping the Ford Focus as car of the week, you insisted we give it a go.

It's nothing personal against the Focus. The car has just been with us for over a year and we figured you already knew all about it.

So, before we part with our blue devil, we'll give it a chance as car of the week.

See, we do listen to you sometimes.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: IIHS Frontal-Offset, Side-Impact Crash Tests

July 21, 2009


Side-impact crash protection was never a strong point of the earlier ZX3 hatchback version of the Focus. It was no surprise, really. Side airbags weren't standard and awareness of what might happen if a small SUV came at you from the side wasn't as high as it is today. It's little wonder that the respawned 2008 Ford Focus coupe has bigger, heavier doors than the ZX3.

The IIHS is just getting around to testing the Focus coupe, but other than the lack of fake fender vents, this 2009 Focus coupe is just like ours. And it earned top "Good" ratings in both the side-impact and frontal-offset crash tests.

So even if I don't want to admit it, our 2008 Ford Focus is a better, safer car than the Focus ZX3 that still tugs at my heartstrings. More photos of the bashed Focus after the jump.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor.

Here's the blue Focus coupe before the test. Maybe we should remove the fender "vents" from our long-term car.

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2008 Ford Focus: Our Favorite Caption

May 01, 2009


Thanks to gjupp for this week's favorite.

There were a lot of good entries this week, some a little naughty, some more than a little silly.

Here are the honorable mentions:

This Ford takes a licking and keeps on ticking (toye)
Your car clean...lickity spit! (rick8365)
Even Santa is feeling the economy pinch! (e10rice)
Ask about our Musk carpet treatment! (bkapps)
It's not clean until it's STAGWOW clean! (ergsum)
Cleans everything but the Sync (mnorm1)
Ask about our special Beaver waxing. (ergsum)
Today's Special: Free Turtle Wax (actualsize)

This one by ergsum was way too long but I liked the effort:
Deer Inside Line,
Hoofing fawn racking up the miles. Got a wash, only two bucks, so little doe. Locals drooled over my ride. Thought it was a MuskStag.

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus: You Write the Caption

May 01, 2009


Our associate editor Mark Takahashi took this photo of the Ford Focus at a very unique establishment.

I suggest "Spit Shine"

What's your caption?

We'll post our favorite at 4:00 PM Santa Monica time.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Drive Me Buggy

April 27, 2009


The arrival of spring and summer means more than just the final bell of the school year. It's bug time. And this weekend's 950-mile roundtrip drive on I-5 cut through California's central valley farmland, a haven for all sorts of grille-loving insects.

With 37-plus mpg from the Ford Focus, we breezed past fuel stations, skipping the typical road-trip windshield and bumper washings, which got me thinking: What's your favorite tried-and-true method of cleaning splattered insectual roadkill off your car's front end?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 19,568 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Tin Lizzie?

February 10, 2009


There is lots of talk these days about a turn to basic transportation, simple automobiles meant to serve a generation of practical consumers. But as you can see from this picture of Henry Ford with a 1921 Ford Model T, this is not exactly new thinking.

Ford just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Model T. This car first rolled off the assembly line on September 27, 1908 and didn't stop until May 26, 1927, by which time more than 15 million had been made. It changed a bit over the intervening years, but not much. As Henry Ford said, "I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one - and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."

Plenty of people will tell you that some kind of adventurous new thinking is required to build a modern cheap car, a cross between the NASA space program and the cheap computer club that led to the Apple personal computer. The trouble is, this sort of thinking results in a lot of effort to make things cheap rather than good, and the result is bad little transportation pods that can't pass safety or air emissions regulations. Really, the Tata Nano isn't a good model for the basic car of the future.

But why not the Ford Focus? Though this platform for Ford's world car is two generations old, the newer designs differ more in tuning than in specification. Inside this soggy, unpleasantly styled little coupe there's a Mazda 3 or a Ford Fiesta yearning to breathe free. All it needs is a little tuning. As BMW has proven over the decades, sticking with the same fundamental platform over a long period of time gives you the opportunity to develop it, and development not innovation is really the secret to affordable goodness.

Of course, we're going to be getting our version of the Ford Fiesta fairly soon, so there's not much point in pursuing this. But if I were looking to create a basic car, I'd be thinking twice about something new that's actually crummier and cheaper than something old.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line @ 16,233 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Key Fob Battery Bites the Dust

January 05, 2009

ford focus key fob.jpg

Over the weekend, the battery in the key fob of our 2008 Ford Focus said farewell to this sometimes cruel world. Its demise seemed a bit sudden, considering the car is only 11 or so months old.

Anyway, the situation called for a new battery. The car's owner's manual provided the relevant details and instructions.

First, I made a quick trip to the drugstore to purchase the replacement battery -- a CR 2032 that was about the size of a coin. The store only had that battery in a two-pack, which ran just over 8 bucks.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: The Detroit That Might Have Been

December 05, 2008


Every time I see this Focus in the parking garage, I'm reminded of what might have been. It's drowning in bad design now, covered up with lazy sheetmetal flourishes and embarrassing chrome devices, transformed into some kind of shrunken Mercury Marquis. But once the Focus represented the leading edge of thinking at Ford, and all the best engineers and stylists worked on the project.

You can still sense a little personality here, even though the car has been dumbed down over the years to suit a dumbed-down audience. It feels poised on its long-travel suspension and steers with an instinct for an apex. This is not the rally-bred Focus SVT that we remember, but it drives far better than most of its competition in the cheap-and-cheerful market segment, balancing a comfortable ride with alert handling in a sophisticated way.

It's fashionable to blame Detroit for its current predicament. Not the right kind of cars for the modern world, the pundits say. But the truth is, Detroit has been making the right kind of cars for the modern world for decades. But the trouble is, no one would buy them.

The Ford Focus is a perfect example. Partly its failure was the fault of the cars themselves, as anyone who can remember the quality issues of the first year's production of the made-in-Mexico Focus can attest. Partly this was the fault of the buyers, who looked toward import brands for fuel-efficient small cars as a matter of experience and prejudice. Partly this was the fault of Wall Street analysts, who have been forcing Detroit to compromise quality for profits for decades and couldn't understand the idea of a great small car.

So now we're left with the Ford Focus SES. It's been selling surprisingly well in the wake of last summer's spike in fuel prices, and it offers more car for less money than much of the competition. But it's still only a pale reminder of what might have been, a world-class small car with a Ford label. Let's hope the Ford Fiesta will do better once it gets here in 2010.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 14,850 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Vibe Up, Focus Down

November 17, 2008


With many calling October 2008 the worst industry sales month since the dark days of World War II, it's no surprise that Ford Focus sales have taken a nosedive. Last month, Focus sales plummeted 18.2 percent relative to October of 2007. Guess it takes more than Sync and decent mileage to ward off the bad ju-ju when the economy tanks.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Trunk Open?

November 11, 2008


Whenever I walk up behind the Ford Focus, I always think the trunk is popped open. The shadow across the bottom and the wide seams near the taillights make an optical illusion.

At least I think so. Scott thinks I'm nuts. Do you see it?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Is It Really That Bad?

July 17, 2008


For those who enjoy driving, our long-term 2008 Ford Focus SES -- despite its "upgraded tires...as well as...front and rear stabilizer bars for improved handling," in the words of our model review -- is only slightly more pulse-quickening than a dump truck. On second thought, the edge might go to the dump truck; I've never driven one, so I'll have to reserve judgment. Yet there are evidently plenty of non-enthusiasts who like the Focus just fine, judging by the car's 28% sales spike through June. Could it be that our blue bullet isn't so bad after all?

Nah. Like Erin, I think those sales numbers are more indicative of a general state of panic in the face of rising gas costs. Consumers are understandably trying to maximize their MPGs, and that's causing them to overlook what might otherwise be deal-breaking shortcomings -- such as the foul styling, raucous engine and joyless chassis that come standard on every Focus.

What kills me about our Focus is that Ford can obviously do a lot better -- look no further than its global C1 platform, which underpins the stylish and dynamically excellent Mazda 3 as well as the Volvo C30 and the European Focus. However, the Mazda can't match the Focus' fuel economy, and the C30's both thirstier and more expensive. That's why it's kind of exciting that the European Focus is coming our way in 2010. If it matches or exceeds the fuel economy of the current Focus while providing Mazda-like driving dynamics, it could be a real tide-turner for Ford.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 10,375 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Keyless Remote Confirmation

June 05, 2008

I'm one of those people who checks the alarm clock setting three times before I'm satisfied that yes, indeed, the alarm is all set to wake me at the chosen hour. When I lock or unlock a car's doors, it's the same deal, I like some sort of confirmation, either visual (flash the lights say once to confirm it's locked and twice to show it's unlocked) or audible (brief horn chirp, not a loud honk). Or even both.

When you thumb the lock button on the Focus' key fob, it let's you know by flashing the lights once. And if you have OCD and hit it a second time within 3 seconds, it will also give you a brief horn beep (too loud, however, I'd rather a chirp like some other cars). Ok, so that works. But when you hit the unlock button, there's no double flashing of lights, so as you walk to the car you hit the button again to discover that yes, the doors had unlocked and if it were nighttime, you would've noticed that it also turned on the interior lights.

In dire need of a more noticeable daytime confirmation that the doors unlock when you hit the button, I pulled out the manual, only to discover that the circa 1988-style remote keyless system doesn't allow you confirmation options. All kidding aside, it's not a big deal, and again, if it's dark enough outside you'll see the the interior light come on when you hit the unlock button. Should you want to get a light flash and horn beep to locate the car in a crowded garage, just hit the lock button twice within 3 seconds.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor at 8,892 miles.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Aye, There's the Rub

May 15, 2008

It's almost getting too easy to pick on our 2008 Ford Focus, what with that passenger side door handle falling off, the way the headlights (and horn) don't activate when you hit "unlock" on the keyfob, and such. (Though it's possible that the Focus can be reprogrammed for the lights to flash when you press "unlock," how many people will take the trouble to figure that out?) I'd like to add one more gripe, but, to be fair, counter that with a compliment or two.

First, the gripe: I hate the way the coupe's shoulder belt anchor is positioned. Granted, this is a coupe, so I guess it's not that unusual to have to reach all the way behind you to the b-pillar to grab the belt...

But then the anchor doesn't adjust up or down either, and the result is that the belt rubs my neck, and not in a good way. Perhaps this situation could be ameliorated by moving the seat, but only if the steering telescoped, which, of course, it doesn't . Both the wheel and the belt anchor are big issues for shorter drivers. So bottom line is. I'm not comfortable in the driver's seat -- and I'm 5'6".

On the plus side, I really like the way the cup holders illuminate with the cool blue lighting. It makes it easier to see what's in there at night, when you're fumbling around for your keys, your cell phone, whatever. I'm always throwing stuff in the cupholders or console, and it's handy to have a little light.

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2008 Ford Focus: On the Freeway

April 14, 2008

Ford Focus - photo by Warren Clarke

In some ways, car-journalist world is like a funhouse-mirror version of the real world where aspects are exaggerated and what's opposite is true. In the real world, I'd gulp and squirm at the thought of putting too many miles on my daily driver. However, in car-journalist world, putting some miles on a test car leaves me with sense of real accomplishment, like a newly potty-trained toddler surveying his first porcelain-bound number two.

I had to make a couple of treks to a distant land called Orange County this weekend, and in the process, put about 200 miles on the 2008 Ford Focus...

It goes without saying that with just 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, the Focus sometimes feels a bit out of breath in high-speed passing situations on the freeway. Still, in other ways, it was a pleasant enough companion. If I'd actually plunked down money to buy the car, I'd pat myself on the back for having selected a ride that offers a great sound system and decent driving dynamics for not a lot of coin.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 5,735 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Joan Rivers and a Sable Wagon

April 03, 2008

Really old Focus keys -- Photo by James Riswick

Shorty after our long-term Ford Focus arrived a few months ago, Magrath and I had the following conversation regarding the Focus keys sitting on my desk (pictured).

Magrath: "Hey, have you seen the keys to the Focus?"

Me: "Yeah, they're right here."

Magrath: "Oh god. I was hoping those were to your Mom's '86 Sable wagon."

Do they open the doors? Yes, and I suppose that's all they need to do...

But this antiquated key and fob are indicative of an entire car created by the Joan Rivers school of automotive design. Unfortunately, a major facelift and some plastic chrome botox can't mask an aging car that screams in a raspy engine note: "I cut corners!"

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,250 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Where'd You Go?

March 19, 2008

Photo by Caroline Pardilla

Sometimes we get so many cars in our editorial test fleet that we run out of places to park them in our reserved section of the garage (not pictured above). And it's times like that when it's great to have a car that flashes its lights and/or beeps when you press the unlock button on the key fob because you never know where the previous driver of the car parked it.

However, last night when I went down searching for our 2008 Ford Focus it wasn't located in our usual spots so I pressed the unlock button on the key fob as I usually do. Um, no response...

I pointed it east, west, north, south and still no response. I started to wonder if the previous driver had ended up parking it on a different level or a different section altogether. Then I tried pressing the lock button and sure enough I spotted some lights flashing a little ways down.

When I got closer to the car and pressed the unlock button again just out of curiousity, I saw that it actually just turned on the dome light inside the car which isn't especially bright. There's no way I could have seen that from where I was originally standing.

A few weeks ago when I was looking for our Tundra in the garage, its high-pitched "beep, beep" led me to it parked around the corner and out of sight from the original parking spots. See? THAT was handy.

I'm sure owners of the Focus would just adapt accordingly (read: press the lock button instead of unlock to locate their car) but I just wondered why the signals were set up like that.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus: Down With Quarter Panel Vents

March 14, 2008

And now, the award for the most overused styling detail of 2008 goes to -- the chrome quarter panel vent. Yes, from the $80,000 Jaguar XJ all the way down to our $18,000 Ford Focus, no new car is complete without a glimmering chunk of chrome pop riveted to its flanks. Our Focus cheapens the idea even further by not even bothering to have an actual vent. Instead, there's merely a piece of not-very-convincing black plastic... C'mon people, punch a hole already, we don't care if it actually goes anywhere.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 3,910 miles

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