2012 Ford Focus

It’s official. The small car wars have begun. It started with the introduction of both the 2011 Chevy Cruze and 2011 Hyundai Elantra last year—of which the Elantra is a truly compelling package. But with the 2012 Focus—available in early 2011—Ford is bringing some real competition for the seeming-to-have-it-all Elantra. Both cars offer incredible fuel efficiency in a good-looking and well-designed package, laden with some seriously cool technology.

Today, a market that for years has been known as the resting ground of uninspired econoboxes, is lively with competition—even the venerable Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic will be getting much needed refreshes to maintain competitiveness. Whereas before the small car market was content to just limp along with anemic sales, it’s current vibrancy is being pushed along by rising gas prices, increased environmental awareness and looming stringent fuel economy regulations.

And the 2012 Ford Focus is perhaps the most interesting of these new small car offerings to date. In my 2011 Elantra review, I said the Elantra was the equivalent of an automotive Unicorn. And if that’s the case, the 2012 Ford Focus is a Unicorn with demon horns. Let me explain.

It Can Turn You Into a Race Car Driver, But Sips Gas With the Best of Them

The 2012 Focus comes with a group of standard features—torque vectoring control chief among them—that make even the least confident drivers among us feel like they know exactly what they’re doing when they hit a corner at high speeds. What is torque vectoring control? Suffice it to say that it uses the car’s brakes to apply more force to the inside wheels in a corner, with grip subsequently being transferred to the outside wheels. The result? A driving experience normally reserved for high-performance motoring. Seriously, it’s that fun.

Fun to Drive and 40 miles per gallon.

While torque vectoring can be given the lion’s share of the credit for the Focus’ driving dynamics, the vehicle also benefits from beefy front and rear stabilizer bars, available four-wheel disc brakes, and a substantial 160 horsepower 2.0-liter engine.

When I had the car full throttle in the canyons surrounding Malibu last week, it took a hold of my wild side and pushed me to take it to the limits. I was entering corners cautioned for 25 mph at 50 mph and hardly slowed down, coming out the other side feeling energized by the experience. I did this corner after corner and every time the result was the same.

Ford Focus

And while performance is normally associated with lower fuel economy, the 2012 Focus is estimated to return 40 mpg on the highway (official EPA fuel economy hasn’t been released yet). Don’t get me wrong, if you drive this car like I did for a couple of hours on windy back roads, you likely won’t get anywhere near 40 mpg. But when driven as you would normally drive a car on a day-to-day basis, you’ll find it behaves like a docile puppy and sips fuel in a miserly fashion. With a standard louvered grille, advanced engine technology and low wind resistance, the Focus is designed for it.

The Opening Bid is Incredibly Reasonable, But it Tops Out at The High End

While the 2011 Elantra has Value with a capital “V” written all over it, the Focus’ value is in the fact that it is far more customizable, can be loaded with a bewildering array of advanced technology options, and is available as both a sedan and hatchback. Sure, the low end Focus starts at around $16,000, but when you fill the hatchback with every doodad possible you can expect it to cost around $28,000. That seems to be where things are headed and the market keeps telling automakers that it wants the ability to load a car to the gills. In fact, Ford says that most of their buyers opt for a significant amount of upgrades—and car companies have to make money somewhere.

Standard at $16,000, you’ll get the sedan version with a manual transmission, electronic stability control with torque vectoring, front disc/rear drum brakes, and most of the things Americans expect as basic features in a modern vehicle—including power windows, telescoping steering wheel, A/C, tire pressure monitoring and remote keyless entry.

From there on up you add a ridiculous list of equipment, so that at about $28,0000 your Focus hatchback includes a massive 8-inch touch screen with navigation and the MyFord Touch driver interface, a 10 speaker (including subwoofer) 355-watt Sony sound system, a moonroof, back-up camera, sport tuned suspension, HD radio, Sirius satellite radio, push-button start, cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes, 18″ wheels, rain-sensing wipers, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and an AUTOMATED parallel parking system that parks the car without you touching the wheel in less than 24 seconds.

It’s Comfortable, Stylish and Functional

The 2012 Focus seats fit me like a glove. Granted, I’m not a large person, but even more expensive cars struggle to make a two hour drive without starting to cause stiffness. The dash was easy to read and pleasing on the eyes and all the various buttons and dials were positioned for easy reach.

Ford Focus

Since Ford made this Focus to be distributed around the world, the styling was developed in a way that the whole world could enjoy. With what Ford calls “kinetic design” (similar to Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture”), the designers gave the 2012 Focus an understated modern look reminiscent of the British racecars of old. Between the sedan and the hatchback, the hatchback does the best job of looking good. The interior is also modern without being over the top.

All that style and comfort is enhanced by the fact that the Focus is also an incredibly functional car—especially given that it’s available as a hatchback. The hatchback has over 114 cubic feet of total interior volume, of which more than 90 is reserved for passengers—keep in mind it’s a hatchback and that 90 can expand or contract based on folded second row seats. For perspective, the 2011 Toyota Camry has a total of 116.4 cubic feet of interior volume.

Wrapping it Up

If these new entrants into the small car arena are any indication, the next few years should bring small car cutthroat competition like never before—and the 2012 Focus is poised to be one of the most popular. While it’s not the most affordable small car out there, it brings so much technology to the table that it borders on overwhelming the competition with its intellect. And if the intellect doesn’t get you, just throw it into a few corners with wild abandon and you’ll see what I mean.


  • Very low emissions
  • Nifty Sync communications and entertainment system
  • Overall competence at reasonable price
  • Uncomfortable seating
  • Anti-lock brakes do not come standard
  • Somewhat nerdy exterior design

Price quote for Ford Focus

2012 Ford Focus
Base MSRP: $16,000
Is this the vehicle for you? Want to find out what kind of deals are available? Fill out some basic details and we.ll have a dealer in your area send you a price quote to get the ball rolling.
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  • Anonymous

    “And while performance is normally associated with lower fuel economy, the 2012 Focus is estimated to return 40 mpg on the highway (official EPA fuel economy hasn’t been released yet). Don’t get me wrong, if you drive this car like I did for a couple of hours on windy back roads, you likely won’t get anywhere near 40 mpg… “

    So, exactly what kind of fuel mileage did the writer get from test driving the Ford Focus ?

  • Brad Berman

    @Anon – Nick didn’t have enough time with the car to do a full MPG evaluation. Media drivers kept switching between vehicles, etc. We hope to do a full eval in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

  • Anonymous

    Small car? Americans should check what small means. Small is Fiesta or smaller. For us Focus is a medium size car.

  • Anonymous

    Brad, Thanks for the reply. BTW, doesn’t most, if not all, latest Ford have trip computers?

  • JJJ

    Completely agree, it’s embarrassing to see “small car” next to a picture of what appears to be a medium vehicle.

  • JJJ

    “I was entering corners cautioned for 25 mph at 50 mph and hardly slowed down, coming out the other side feeling energized by the experience.”

    Did the author consider that those 25mph speed signs were because of poor viability and not due to potential for skidding? Most of the canyon roads surrounding Malibu are open for cyclists, and what happens when you turn the corner and there’s a guy going at 15mph in front of you? What if there’s a disabled vehicle or wild animal just around the edge?

    It’s unfortunate to see such blatant disregard for others lives on this website. Generally speed limits, even the cautionary ones, are posted for a reason.

  • DownUnder

    Small to the American standard : )
    Medium everywhere else.

  • Anonymous

    Agree does not really qualify as small car in the rest of the world – but it’s a start for the US market.

    And finally a good looking Ford Focus. I come more and more to the conclusion that Ford is the only American car manufacture that should survive. They finally get it – they work on better fuel efficiency, have a good reliability in the meantime and last not least that start to design good looking cars. If I ever go to buy an american car, I’m very confident that it will be a Ford.

  • Anonymous

    i’m going to guess city will yield about 29 mpg if this is similar to other 40 mpg hwy cars.

    let the betting begin!

  • Anonymous

    Focus Hatch has 22 cu. ft. cargo space. Thats as much as Crown Vic.

    And the Hatch model is launched in USA, Europe, Russia and probably in Asia in the next year. Whereas Sedan is launched only in specific markets.

    Also the Hatch alone is getting the Electric model. So buy a Hatch and enjoy the plenty of rear space. Its easy to load bigger items by folding the rear seat. You cannot do this in Sedan.

  • Anonymous

    Gone were the days when there were America specific models which guzzled gas. Higher gas price has nearly bankrupted this country.

    This Focus will be sold with the same engine the world over. Its part of One Ford Plan. We have to buy what the rest of the world buys.

    Also note that this Focus will be a Flexfuel model, so you can use E85 if you find it nearby.

  • Anonymous

    Read the details.

    Focus Hatch has 114 cu ft total space while Camry has 116.4. The big difference is that Focus has all as 1 space where we can load bigger items, whereas in Camry the trunk space is separate.

    And Focus costs atleast $3K less than Camry and also gives 40 MPG to Camry’s 32 MPG.

    Makes lot more sense to buy a Focus Hatch.

    Also Camry has ceded #1 slot to Corolla/Matrix combo.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t Ford Focus have ‘just’ 90.7 cu. ft. passenger room?

    I think that’s smaller than: Corolla (92 cu.ft.), Matrix (94) or Prius (94).

  • greg g

    Ford should rethink its naming entirely. Focus, Fiesta, Fusion? Seriously? These sounds like more like energy drink brands than 20k automobiles.

  • blondie

    I think these carsn are the bomb and i know that is little kidd language but hey when you have a car this awsome then it doesnt realy matter. Now does it?……

  • Vio

    I am planning on buying a hybrid. Does anyone could advise me on how to choose it? I want a car with a high mhp and that is holding the roads. Of course, if there are components I need to look at, please let me know. I appreciate your help.Thanks a lot!

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  • Robert Fisher


    Speaking from Britain where Gasoline currently costs £1.37 a litre (£6.21 a gallon) a lot of Ford Focus’s in this country will be diesel. To be honest 40mpg is rubbish my 2003 mondeo diesel does 45mpg. This new focus diesel 140hp does 67mpg. Still good fun to drive lots more torque than the petrol.

  • Ginny Spell

    I have a 2012 ford focus se….. the gas mileage on this car is a JOKE!!!!! we are getting an average of 21.5mpg and acceleration and speed are both green(good)…… other than gas mileage the car is great, its very comfortable and a smooth ride

  • Steve D

    What happened to the full test in a few weeks? That was almost a year ago. A comparison test between this and the Hyundai Elantra would be great, two cars aimed at the same market and with similar mileage.

  • Mary Jane

    I’m assuming you’ve already bought your car. Hope you’re happy. If not, Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2012 has section on fuel efficient hatchbacks. For some reason, the Ford Focus hatchback wasn’t mentioned. Priuses seem to remain best for gas mileage, though they’re pricy and 2011 models have back end spoilers that block the view.

  • Leonard Mosbrucker

    I rented a 2012 Ford Focus SEL last week here in Phonenix, AZ. I love this car…30 MPG sightseeing, around town and fun to drive. Step it down and you are in for a ride….Love It.

  • Viktor from Ukraine

    Nice one! I’am trying to run my own blog on short term renting of any kind accomodation, especially apartements in Donetsk and I took some inspiration and ideas from yours one. And this article has really peaks my interest.

  • Anonymous

    Why buy a hybrid or electric car at more than twice the cost of a regular car that is comparable in size and features?

    You can buy a lot of gas for the extra $20K you would pay for a hybrid or Volt. Don’t make sense to me at all. That’s over 150,000 miles at $4 per gallon at 30mpg. So your cost per gallon is higher on hybrids, not to mention the cost of replacing the batteries when they go bad.

    But if you are only doing it to join the Hollywood tree hugger save the planet bunch, then please go right ahead. I applaud your convictions.

    The number of diesel cars that can be sold per year in the US is limited by the government. Why? Politics and Lobbyists. Most think diesels put out more pollution than gas cars. Gas is cheaper per gallon right now anyway but people don’t know that diesels get much better mileage because there is more energy in diesel fuel per gallon than gas. People are dumb.

    There is no reason cars should cost $40K+ anyway no matter what the technology which isn’t’ new BTW. The car manufacturers are just ripping off the planet huggers. Briggs and Straton had the first hybred car back in the ’60s. Engine driving a generator charging a battery driving a motor. That’s new? No. People being willing to pay twice the cost for it? Yes, that’s new.

  • Anonymous

    Medium Size. Europeans should check what suburban driving and open ranges mean. You’re cure little cars I nice for you to run 4 miles to the train station, then ride the train to work. Try a 50 mile ride to the home store to pick up 100lbs of feed, some lumber and pick up the 3 kids on the way home. All while not having to plop down for a second vehicle to haul trash to the dump once a week, tow a trailer, or make a 6 hour cross state trip to see the grandparents….I’ts all about perspective.

  • tapra1

    What is torque vectoring control? Suffice it to say that it uses the car’s brakes to apply more force to the inside wheels in a corner, Tech Updates

  • S.O. Hall

    I would get your car checked out. Either you are a fast driver (although your “green” status indicates otherwise), you’re driving in extreme stop-and-go situations, or your Focus is not performing as it should. The worst gas mileage I’ve gotten is 35 mpg, and topped out at 42, without cruise control. My driving style attempts to maximize my mpg, but you should certainly do better than 21.5 mpg. Good luck.

  • David

    I have two 2012 fleet Focuses (Foci?) (5 door) that regularly turn in 35 to 36 MPG each month. So I bought one for my wife – and the best we have ever seen is 32.5 (4 door). The in-dash is always 1.5 MPG low, so we used fill-to-fill like the old days. Ford dealer says he has seen a couple like mine, most like the fleets, and one that was at 31 until 12,000 miles, then jumped to 35. No realiable answers why ecomony is so scattered. Wife drives 30 miles each way each day to work, freeway all the way, traffic running 70 or so. Any explanations out there? thanks

  • Bloggin

    What I am waiting for is the 50+mpg Focus 5-Door Hybrid, under $23K. This will be the car that will finally give the prius appliance some competition.

    Alan M. of Ford stated it can be done, as it’s just putting a Focus 5-Door ‘top hat’ on the frame, instead of the C-Max hybrid top hat in the same assembly plant.

    Hopefully Ford will announce this once the C-MAX is launched in a few months. The C-Max is nice, but everyone don’t need a mini van, and the new Fusion as nice as it is, is really too big.

  • cruise from dublin

    I rarely leave a response, however i did some searching
    and wound up here 2012 Ford Focus | Hybrid Cars. And I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it give the impression like a few of these responses appear like left by brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are writing on additional sites, I would like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Would you list of all of all your community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  • SLF

    I love the Focus, tho it has had its problems I have a 2001 Focus wagon. 300k miles on it. and still runs great I’ve never had any major problems with it. had the timing belt changed 3 times trans flushed 2 times. and it runs like a champ still. its been very reliable car.. I’m currently shopping around for a good deal on another focus.
    Super satisfied with it!

  • Joe

    You said it right I just picked up 2012 sel and I love it but total let down with mpg. I’m averaging 21.6 mpg that’s way worse than estimated. Anyways beats the F150 I dumped lol.

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