Last week HybridCars.com got yet another chance to drive the Focus Electric, only this time on a more varied test route, with gradients and sharper corners, plus we added additional passengers to see if it had any impact on the driving experience.
Furthermore, we were also given an opportunity to drive it back-to-back with a three-cylinder EcoBoost powered Focus, which recently went on sale in Europe.
Although the three-cylinder EcoBoost isn’t scheduled to arrive on our shores until next year and Ford still hasn’t said which vehicle it will make a home in apart from it being a “small car,” this was a good chance to weigh in the merits of pure electric against frugal gasoline engine propulsion.
Ford rates the Focus Electric at 110 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) with a real world driving range of 76 miles.
Although no official U.S. data is yet available on the Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost, in Europe, the 98-horsepower version delivers 49 mpg in the EU urban and extra-urban Driving Cycle tests, so once EPA findings have been completed, fuel economy ratings could be at least 15 percent greater (the 123 horsepower version is slightly lower at 47 mpg).
In driving, both cars are quite surprising. The Focus Electric has more torque off the line and it weighs noticeably more, thanks to the lithium ion battery pack located behind the rear seat, yet dynamically both cars feel fairly close. Steering input, with the EPAS system is good on both and up hills; even with full-size adults in the back seat the EcoBoost performs a lot better than expected. The Electric almost felt effortless, particularly at lower speeds.
Although it sounds and behaves very much like a small, European market turbo diesel, the EcoBoost three-cylinder is an impressive engine. However, the car we sampled featured a manual gearbox, so it would be interesting to see how it would fair with a six-speed automatic.
Braking in both cars is good and following on from our initial sample of the Focus Electric several weeks ago, we were very impressed by that car’s braking system, specifically that once in regenerative mode it doesn’t feel like you’re dragging a Redwood behind you, unlike some other pure electric cars we’ve tested over the last few years.
In fact, the only real compromise besides range; concerns the reduced trunk space because of the battery pack. However, a divider mechanism means you’ll still be able to place a decent amount of groceries back there, making it perfectly suitable for trips to the supermarket.
As for pricing, the Focus Electric currently starts at a MSRP of $39,200. Add in the 240-volt home charger ($1,500) and it’s still a fairly hefty sum, although a $7,500 eligible Federal Income Tax credit alleviates the pain somewhat.
By contrast a regular Focus in the U.S. currently starts at $16,500 and if and when the EcoBoost model does arrive on our shores, it will likely sticker at less than $20,000.
So one gets twice the mpg rating of the other, but also costs around twice as much. Although both cars utilize the same the basic structure, interior and suspension, it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. If you can afford to live with the Focus Electric and really want a pure electric car, this one does represent a good alternative to the likes of the Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf, plus its higher price and limited range are offset not only by the $7,500 credit but also reduced operating costs.
Yet for many consumers, a lower entry price is likely to make the EcoBoost model more worthy of consideration in the short term, especially as it delivers similar performance, a larger trunk space and isn’t range limited (even though the idea of a three-cylinder, mainstream passenger car is still a bit foreign for most American motorists).
However, it will be interesting to see, over a five-year period, which of these two cars actually represents the most cost-efficient to own. Should we investigate the possibility of such a trial if the opportunity presents itself? What are your