Used 2011 Ford Focus Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2011 Ford Focus provides reliable transportation, but overall there are better choices to be had for a small car.




What's new for 2011

The Ford Focus coupe has been discontinued for 2011, leaving only the sedan.

Vehicle overview

Let's cut to the chase: Wait a few months to buy a 2011 Ford Focus. There is a radically improved, top-to-bottom redesigned version coming soon that'll have you kicking yourself should you go ahead and pull the trigger on a 2011 Focus. While it offers simple, fuel-efficient transportation with the unique convenience of Ford's Sync system, the current Focus pales in comparison to its rivals from abroad. The new car, on the other hand, has the potential to be a class leader.

The reason for this colossal gap in desirability from one model year to the next stems from the fact that North America skipped a Focus generation. While Europe got a second-generation car, the American market soldiered on with essentially the original Focus introduced 11 years ago. Styling was altered (twice), feature content was enhanced and a two-door coupe came and went (it's been discontinued for this model year), but the current Focus is very much a dinosaur.

In some ways, the Focus actually got worse as it got older, inexplicably eliminating its telescoping steering wheel, discontinuing its hatchback body styles and trading its once spry handling for a rather soggy, comfort-oriented ride. While it has become a much more reliable car, the magic we once heralded has been gone for years.

If you can wait, we'd highly recommend hanging on for the next-generation Ford Focus. Its world-class engines, driving dynamics, interior quality and exterior style are bound to make waves. However, if you can't wait, we'd recommend the current crop of compact sedan leaders such as the 2011 Honda Civic, 2011 Hyundai Elantra, 2011 Kia Forte and 2011 Mazda 3 instead. And if you like the idea of Sync and buying American, the smaller Ford Fiesta is a wonderful little car that provides a glimpse of just how good the next Focus will be.




Trim levels & features

The 2011 Ford Focus is a compact sedan available in S, SE, SEL and SES trim levels. The base S gets you 15-inch steel wheels, power locks, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split rear seatback, a tilt-only steering wheel and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The SE adds 15-inch alloy wheels, power windows and mirrors, and satellite radio. The optional Ford Sync Equipment Group adds voice-activated controls, real-time traffic, directions assistance, Bluetooth, iPod control, an auto-dimming mirror, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

The Focus SEL adds 16-inch wheels, foglamps, a sport-tuned suspension, heated mirrors, heated leather front seats and the Ford Sync Equipment Group. The SES is equipped similarly, but has 17-inch wheels and special front and rear fascias, but not the heated leather seats. Both the SEL and SES can be optioned with the Moon and Tune package, which adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker sound system with a subwoofer.



Performance & mpg

The 2011 Ford Focus is powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque. A cleaner version of that engine sold in California-emissions states earns PZEV tailpipe-emissions certification and produces 132 hp and 133 lb-ft of torque.

A five-speed manual is standard on all trims but the SEL, which comes with a standard four-speed automatic. That transmission is optional on the other trims. In testing, an automatic-equipped Focus went from zero to 60 mph in a slow but class-typical 9.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy with the automatic is 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. Sticking with the manual ups the highway number to 35.

Safety

The 2011 Ford Focus comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Focus also comes standard with Ford's programmable MyKey system, which allows parents to specify limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume for their teenage drivers.

In government crash tests, the Focus received four out of five stars in a frontal collision. It got five stars for side impact driver protection and four stars for side impact rear passenger protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Focus its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset crash test and the second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the side crash test.

Driving

Behind the wheel of the 2011 Ford Focus, you'll likely be pleased with the relatively quiet and smooth ride quality. Engine performance is also respectable for a small car, but the four-cylinder can sound noisy and the four-speed automatic is increasingly outdated by competing models' five-speed units. To its credit, the Focus has commendable steering response and feedback when driven hard, but it's just not as fun as past Focus models. Those hankering for a bit more fun and refinement are going to be happier with a Honda Civic, Kia Forte SX or Mazda 3.

Interior

At night, the cabin of the 2011 Ford Focus has a high-tech feel about it, thanks to a soothing cool blue glow from the gauges and optional customizable ambient lighting. But these lighting effects do little to mask some interior missteps, including cheap-looking plastic interior bits that don't fit together particularly well.

Comfort is adequate -- even for extended road trips -- but without a telescoping steering wheel, taller drivers will find its seating position a far-reaching affair. Luggage capacity is also suitable for road trips at nearly 14 cubic feet, with 60/40-split-folding rear seats at the ready for even more storage. One other nice attribute is Sync, a voice activation system that allows hands-free operation of mobile phones, iPods and other MP3 players. It also gives the driver the ability to acquire driving directions, traffic conditions and other information by pairing it with Bluetooth-enabled phones.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.