When it comes to compact cars, there are a lot of choices out there. Practically every mainstream automaker offers one. More than just bare-bones economy cars, the latest models have become tech-rich and comfortable road-trip cars. Some even have some personality and flair. So how to choose? Well, you'll be off to a good start by checking out the 2017 Ford Focus.
The Focus is one of the oldest cars in its class — its last redesign was back in 2012 — but Ford has kept it fresh through the years. A good example is the Focus' optional Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen interface. It's easy to use and is packed with features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Even if you don't get that feature, though, the Focus will impress you. It's one of the more enjoyable cars to drive when it comes to driving around turns, yet it's also suitably quiet and comfortable on the highway.
Of course, the Focus has a lot of competitors, and if we're honest, some of them are just plain awesome. The 2017 Honda Civic was redesigned just last year, and it's one of our favorites in the class. It's faster, more fuel-efficient and just as enjoyable to drive as the Focus, with a bit more room to spare in places such as the backseat and trunk. The 2017 Mazda 3 is enjoyable to drive as well, with a bit more reasonable price and impressive fuel economy numbers of its own. For lots of value, be sure to check out the 2017 Kia Forte that offers a much more upscale driving experience than you'd expect from a car with such a competitive price tag. Chevrolet's new 2017 Cruze, which is also offered as a hatchback this year, is another solid option.
It's important to note that the Focus Electric has its own set of rivals, including the 2017 Fiat 500e, the Nissan Leaf and the new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. Though the Focus Electric is OK, the 500e is typically less expensive to lease while the Bolt promises more than double the range of most small EVs. The Bolt is going to be the one to get in this class.
For the regular gas-powered Focus, though, it's still right in the mix of the segment's best. It comes in all sorts of configurations, and it continues to prove that driving something compact doesn't mean you have to drive something boring.
The 2017 Ford Focus comes standard with antilock brakes (rear drum brakes are standard on the S; four-wheel discs are standard for the SE, SEL Titanium and Electric), stability and traction control, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Ford Sync system includes an emergency crash notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. A rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system (which can be used to set electronic parameters for secondary drivers) are also standard.
Optional for the Titanium trim level is a Technology package that includes a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and a lane departure warning system.
During Edmunds performance testing, in a simulated panic stop from 60 mph, a Focus SE (with the rear disc brakes) came to a stop in 120 feet, which is average for the class. A Focus with rear drum brakes stopped in 131 feet, which is definitely below average. The Electric took 126 feet.
In government crash tests, the Focus earned an overall rating of five stars (out of a possible five), with five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Focus a top score of Good in its moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact and roof strength tests. The Focus' seat and head restraint design was also rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts, and it received the second-highest score of Acceptable in the institute's small-overlap front-impact test.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Ford Focus is a compact car that's available in a choice of sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. There are four main trim levels available — S, SE, SEL and Titanium — as well as the Focus Electric. The high-performance Focus ST and Focus RS are reviewed separately.
The S model (sedan only) comes with 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, hill start assist, a rearview camera, a 4.2-inch central display, power front windows (manual rear windows), power locks and mirrors, Ford's MyKey (limits speed, audio volume, etc., for young drivers), Sync voice controls, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and two USB ports.
The next trim level is the SE. Essentially, it's the base trim level for the hatchback. On top of the standard S equipment, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color exterior mirrors and door handles, cruise control, power rear windows, a trip computer, a front center armrest, additional front headrest adjustments, rear air vents, steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. Hatchback models also get a rear spoiler and a removable package tray.
A number of option packages are available for SE models. The SE EcoBoost Appearance package features the three-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission (the manual is unavailable with this package), unique 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, foglights, LED running lights and black exterior trim. The Cold Weather package bundles heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and all-weather floor mats.
The SEL adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, foglights, LED running lights, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, a 10-speaker Sony audio system, and the Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, enhanced voice controls and multicolor ambient interior lighting.
Spring for the top-of-the-line Titanium model, and you get the contents of the SEL plus remote start, a rear spoiler, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, a keyless-entry keypad, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats and a rear center armrest.
A navigation system is optional for the SEL and Titanium. The optional Titanium Technology package includes automatic high-beam headlights, a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning. A self-parking system is also available.
Offered only as a hatchback, the Focus Electric is equipped similarly to the Titanium, although leather upholstery and the power driver seat are optional. The Electric gets exclusive xenon headlights and LED taillights as standard.
Much like its upscale interior, the driving characteristics of the 2017 Ford Focus help it stand out in its class even after several years on the market. For starters, it's one of the most comfortable compact cars to drive on the highway, and it has very enjoyable handling manners. Basically, the ride quality is smooth, quiet and docile on the highway or over broken city streets, but it still manages to handle corners well and feel especially sporty for the class. It strikes a great balance between comfortable and entertaining.
The underwhelming powertrains, however, work against the Focus. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is adequate in daily driving but isn't very exciting. The dual-clutch automatic transmission (it operates like a standard automatic for most intents and purposes) is mostly hit-or-miss due to its marginal slow-speed city performance. To get any meaningful response from the gas pedal, you really have to floor it. The base S trim level comes standard with a five-speed manual, though, and we enjoy the driving experience with that transmission much more.
Aside from the standard 2.0-liter engine, there's the turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine and the Focus Electric. The 1.0-liter engine is also available in the smaller Ford Fiesta, and it makes much more sense there, but in the Focus it's a bit outmatched and acceleration suffers. The Focus Electric isn't very fast, either, although the battery-powered motor delivers some snappy acceleration from a standing start. Handling isn't as sharp in the Focus Electric as it is in the standard model, but it's still one of the better-driving EVs in this price range.
One of the 2017 Ford Focus' best attributes is its interior design. This is a vehicle that could definitely be classified as an economy car, but the cabin doesn't feel cheap or cut-rate at all. The materials have a quality look and feel, and all the controls are laid out in logical and simple format. The Sync 3 (available on the SEL and Titanium trim levels) touchscreen infotainment interface is easy to use and includes the latest smartphone app integration systems.
Though we like the view from the driver's seat and the roomy front seat in the Focus, it's a little bit harder to like the backseat. It's definitely a squeeze for adults, and competitors such as the Honda Civic and the Nissan Sentra do much better in this area. Out back, when you start packing your luggage into the trunk, the Focus is a bit closer to average. The Focus sedan checks in with 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, which is about 2 cubic feet shy of class leaders.
The hatchback model, meanwhile, offers 23.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats, expanding to 43.9 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down. Both numbers are respectable. Because of its oversize battery pack, the Focus Electric hatchback offers a more modest 14.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 33.2 cubic feet total.
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.