If you are a fan of the Ford Focus like I am, it would be tempting to say that the current generation car, launched in America for the 2012 model year, sparked a revolution in the ruthlessly competitive compact car segment. After all, it is the best-selling car model worldwide two years running. Every single one of Ford’s competitors has released a new generation in the two years since, and each has been aimed, so the legend goes, squarely at the magnificent Ford Focus.
Given the length of product development cycles in the automobile world, the sentiment above is almost surely inaccurate. Toyota, VW, Mazda etc. had a pretty good idea of what their finished products would look like before the Focus took the world by storm. However, none of this diminishes the impressive success of the Focus, both as a car and as a sales figure in Ford’s healthy corporate ledger.
The Focus boasts impressive handling for a front drive car, coupled with an engine near the top of the power range in its class. It deserves all due credit for injecting fun back into the driving experience in a vehicle segment which over the past decade has been inhabited by the bland specimens that earned the class it’s derisive “econo-box” nickname. It should be noted that the previous generation Focus was precisely one of those bland specimens. The current Focus not only broke free of the segment’s expectations, but of its own ugly and uninspiring previous incarnation.
Due for some sprucing up for 2015, the Focus sees some substantial changes for what is merely a mid-cycle product refresh. Most notable is the introduction of the corporate grill, shared by big brother Fusion and little brother Fiesta. Critics who applauded the “Aston” front fascia at the 2013 Fusion’s introduction might be suffering from fatigue, having stared at it for two straight years now. The reception of the same front styling for the Focus has been less enthusiastic, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still looks damn good.
A re-organized interior also makes up for one weak spot in the previous model years: a cluttered center stack. The MyFord Touch system has proven to be a Rorschach test among automotive journalists, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears with regard to automotive infotainment technology. Love it or hate it, it will be around for at least a few more years, until Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay infiltrate the mass market. Don’t expect Ford to be at the forefront of adoption for these two platforms, given its own recent switch from Microsoft to Blackberry’s QNX system. Ford will likely want to take one more shot at developing its own product before handing the reins over to the mobile OS overlords.
Also new for 2015 is Ford’s 1.0L EcoBoost engine, borrowed from the Fiesta. The engine makes 123 hp in the Fiesta, a number that shouldn’t change in the Focus. It will be fuel efficient (official EPA numbers have not yet been released, but expect something close to 33/45), but it will not be quick. Don’t expect a 0-60 run in single digits. There are plenty of extras you can add to spice up your ride though.
Your other option is the standard 2.0L inline-four that makes 160 hp, unless you want to step up to the 252-hp Focus ST, which is a car that deserves its own separate review. Six-speed automatic and five- and six-speed manual transmissions are available (the six-speed manual is only available paired with the 1.0L or in the ST). As a result of Ford’s decision to remove the manual transmission from the 2015 Fusion, the Focus has become our only option to get a stick shift in a practical package with a blue oval on the hood, a possibility that still matters to some of us.
Minor chassis improvements are also promised. Given that the current Focus has arguably the best chassis setup in its segment, any improvement would be a welcome bonus, and will help keep pace with the likes of the new-for-2014 Mazda 3 and the upcoming Golf GTI.
Some argue that the competition has caught up to or surpassed the Focus in terms of driving dynamics and interior quality, but these virtues help maintain the Ford Focus’s position at the top of the compact car heap. It seems un-American that such a wonderful car was born in Ford’s European design studios, but it’s so good that we don’t really care.