2009 Ford Focus Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 3, 2009

The 2009 Ford Focus is a solid choice if you're looking for a roomy car that rides well, with a base price that starts around $15,000.

To put together this conclusive review on the new 2009 Ford Focus, TheCarConnection.com's editors researched road tests and reviews from a wide range of sources. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove several different 2009 Focus models, including the coupe and sedan body styles, and offer more insight and details where they help you with your own research.

Last year the Ford Focus was extensively redesigned, with fresh styling cues on the outside and an all-new interior—although a platform originally introduced in '99 remains underneath. But some of the consumer complaints about exterior styling and a lack of performance registered at Ford, so for 2009 the Ford Focus receives a new look for the coupe, along with sporty engineering additions.

The 2009 Ford Focus is available as either a traditional sedan or two-door coupe. Available trim levels range from the base S through to the new-for-2009 SEL trim, while SE and SES trims fill out the middle. The Ford Focus coupe is only available in SE and SES garb. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that powers the Ford Focus delivers 140 horsepower in the Focus sedan and, thanks to a new sport-tuned exhaust, 143 hp in the Focus coupe. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic.

One of the major criticisms of the 2008 Ford Focus was that it looked, well, ungainly. Some might say it was simply ugly. Either way, styling wasn't a strong suit, so Ford took the Focus coupe—the more controversial of the two models—back to the drawing board and quickly penned some updates. The result is an improvement, but it's still not eye-catching—at least, not in a good way. Styling on the sedan is unchanged for 2009.

Review continues below

Compared to the previous generation, the 2009 Ford Focus is significantly quieter inside. The super-cheap feel of the previous Focus interior is a thing of the past. The new look is more substantial and dimensional, as evidenced by such detailing as the sculpted rings surrounding the instrumentation. Safety has also been addressed with the addition of standard side and curtain airbags for those up front. In addition, 2009 sees the addition of an antiskid system to the options list, a feature that was sorely lacking.

The interior of the 2009 Ford Focus features Ford SYNC, a voice-activated, hands-free communications and entertainment interface that links the car to all manner of phones, PDAs, MP3 players, and portable storage devices. Developed with Microsoft, this $395 option delivers unparalleled device integration. It works quite well, depending on your cell phone and how you store your music on your MP3 player. Using SYNC gets easier over time, as you learn the cadence of specific commands. Teenagers should feel immediately comfortable.

6

2009 Ford Focus

Styling

Whether as a coupe or sedan, the 2009 Ford Focus is neither anonymous nor good-looking on the outside, but interior design is a strong point.

In 2008 the Ford Focus saw its model lineup trimmed from four body styles to two, but for 2009 the Ford Focus lineup expands with a new trim level. Although completely redesigning the Focus for 2008, Ford has reconsidered the appearance of the coupe, which debuts this year with yet another new look.

The 2009 Ford Focus lineup is relatively straightforward; choices are limited to either sedan or coupe body styles. Consumer Guide says that "S, SE, SES, and new-for-2009 SEL trim levels are available," though "S and SEL are sedan only; the S coupe has been dropped."

Exterior styling is not exactly the Ford Focus's strong point, even in Ford's rapid rethink of the coupe for 2009. Regarding the coupe, the "gawky profile doesn't mesh with the restyled front and back at all," according to Cars.com, and reviewers at Jalopnik are not impressed with "what the Dearborn-based automaker calls a 'sporty new look.' We call it lipstick." Autoblog lists some of the changes for the 2009 Ford Focus coupe as "a larger lower air intake that's supposedly inspired by the new Fiesta, and those garish faux fender vents are now completely gone." Kelley Blue Book reviewers report that "base S models come with 15-inch steel wheels; the SE gets alloy rims of the same size," while "SES and SEL variants move up to 16-inchers" and the "SES coupe rides on 17-inchers." Overall, Autoblog says the Ford Focus 2009 coupe "has surely lost its visual luster, but that's a good thing from a design standpoint."

Unlike the exterior, the cabin of the 2009 Ford Focus is much the same as last year's model. The interior is, in fact, a winner in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com; even those who slam the exterior styling praise at the cabin design. Autoblog notes that "hardly anything has changed" inside the Ford Focus coupe, which still features a "T-shaped swath of silver plastic...with clearly laid out controls for the stereo and HVAC placed front and center." Consumer Guide praises the "well-arranged dashboard [that] has mostly intuitive and handy controls," although the gauges "can be hard to read in changing lighting conditions." Cars.com claims that "almost every aspect is improved" over the previous generation, "and the striking, winged dashboard draws the eyes immediately." Kelley Blue Book adds that one of the benefits of the more mature dashboard design is that it offers "improved storage spaces, better-positioned controls and attractive ice-blue backlighting."

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2009 Ford Focus

Performance

Aside from the brakes, the 2009 Ford Focus has all the qualities of a top-notch commuter, though it lacks a sporty edge.

The 2009 Ford Focus fits well into its designated role as a comfortable commuter thanks to its soft ride and high fuel economy. However, despite Ford's claims of a sportier Focus, the Ford Focus 2009 is still by no means a road rocket.

All versions of the 2009 Ford Focus feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine "that produces 140 hp in sedans and 143 hp in coupes," according to Consumer Guide. The power boost for the two-doors comes courtesy of a retuned exhaust that Autoblog says "allows the only engine option...to breath[e] better." Power is generally adequate, but far from spectacular. In the Ford Focus 2009 coupe, Autoblog reviewers find that "the 143-hp 2.0L engine is not nearly enough to make anyone feel fast," and Consumer Guide reports that the Ford Focus "has just adequate power for highway merging or ascending long grades." Cars.com adds that the Ford Focus sedan's "engine isn't peppy and doesn't induce much confidence of the line." For the number enthusiasts out there, Edmunds says the 2009 Ford Focus will hit "60 mph in 8.0 seconds."

In terms of transmissions, Edmunds reports that "the standard transmission on all Focus trim levels is a five-speed manual," although a "four-speed automatic is available as an option." Neither transmission wins accolades in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, although Cars.com finds that "the four-speed automatic shifts upward smoothly enough...when you're not lead-footing it." Consumer Guide agrees, commenting that "the automatic provides timely downshifts," but they recommend the manual since "manual-transmission models feel snappier." Criticism of the manual comes from Autoblog, where reviewers feel that the "unremarkable five-speed transmission, rubbery clutch and tall shifter" all combine for "an ordinary, economy car driving experience from a vehicle whose exterior promises more."

Like any true economy car, the 2009 Ford Focus offers above-average fuel economy. For the sedan with automatic transmission, Cars.com reports that the "EPA figures are rated at a very respectable 24/35 mpg city/highway. In comparison, the 2008 Honda Civic gets 26/36 mpg." For the Ford Focus with automatic transmission, the official EPA ratings drop to 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.

One area where the 2009 Ford Focus makes a name for itself is in the ride and handling department. While most agree that it's no slouch, TheCarConnection.com editors note that it doesn't have the crisp handling feel that pre-2008 Focus models possess. MyRide.com calls the 2009 Ford Focus "a very competent handler," and Cars.com adds that the latest Ford Focus "maintains its reputation as a solid handler with a steering wheel that has a somewhat heavy feel to it." Consumer Guide praises the sedans for their "communicative steering and decent grip in fast turns," while they feel that the Ford Focus "SES coupes are sportier, with better grip and balance overall." Car and Driver observes that the Ford Focus's "independent suspension seems to have become a bit softer and more compliant," which leads them to believe that "those seeking luxury in their small cars will approve; those who equate small with fun will be disappointed."

The brakes on the 2009 Ford Focus, Cars.com says, "offer little reassurance. The pedal needs a thorough push to bring a response, making you feel as if you're trying to slow a full-size SUV rather than a small economy car."

8

2009 Ford Focus

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Ford Focus offers generous passenger room up front and a comfortable set of seats but can't match competitors in terms of quality.

The latest comfort and quality trend has been decidedly positive for Ford, and the same holds true with the new 2009 Ford Focus. While the current generation holds many improvements over previous Ford Focus models, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com still, however, cite some elements worthy of criticism.

Inside the 2009 Ford Focus, Car and Driver reviewers find that "the front seats are flat and firm but offer little bolstering." For daily drivers, though, Cars.com says that "the seats offered plenty of support on long commutes." Consumer Guide notes that the Ford Focus' "legroom is quite good for the class, and headroom is outstanding in models that don't have the sunroof." The rear seats don't fare quite so well, though, as Consumer Guide reports that "headroom and legroom n the sedan are decent for the class," but "in the coupe, smaller adults will fit in the back [only] for short trips." Car and Driver also warns prospective buyers that "climbing back [to the rear seats] is a gymnastic feat, because the front seats don't automatically slide forward and there's a hanging seatbelt you'll have to battle your way past."

When it comes to overall utility, the 2009 Ford Focus is just average. While Kelley Blue Book praises the "improved storage spaces," reviewers at Consumer Guide grumble that "interior storage is merely okay. The glovebox is skimpy, as are the front-door map pockets." As for the trunk, Cars.com reports it is "plenty big for the class," and while "the rear seats fold flat to expand the cargo area," they also note "not much will be able to make its way through the narrow opening they leave. This feature could work for golfers or other athletes with oddly shaped gear, but it probably won't help those with bulky luggage."

The Ford Focus 2009's interior materials are certainly improved compared to previous models, but that doesn't mean they are near the top of the class. Car and Driver feels that "too many surfaces are cheesy—notably the faux aluminum trim, the hard-plastic door inserts and the flimsy trunk carpeting." Consumer Guide adds that the "interior materials disappoint overall," and even the "dashboard on the SES model is dominated by dull, silvery plastic trim, which reeks of cost cutting." Cars.com also points out that "the quality of the leather was passable" on their seats, "though nothing spectacular." Car and Driver isn't so kind, noting that "there are vinyl interiors that look better than the Focus's leather."

Despite the many gripes concerning quality on the 2009 Ford Focus, road noise doesn't appear to be a cause for concern. Edmunds reviewers find that the "interior remains quiet on the highway, as there's little wind or engine noise," and Automobile Magazine calls the Ford Focus 2009 "surprisingly quiet." However, the hard-to-please testers at Consumer Guide feel that "road rumble is marked, and the tires thump over expansion joints."

6

2009 Ford Focus

Safety

In the battle to keep the bottom-line price down, Ford skimps on safety features like ABS, yet upgrades comfort features.

The 2009 Ford Focus holds its own in crash tests, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com still criticize the Ford Focus for not having standard ABS on even the highest trim level.

The Ford Focus offers a mixed bag of results in NHTSA crash tests. While the Ford Focus sedan earns respectable four-star ratings in both front and side impact tests, the Ford Focus coupe scores a meager three stars in the side impact category—the lowest that vehicles score currently. However, the 2009 Ford Focus coupe does earn a perfect five-star rating for front impact tests. The IIHS doesn't differentiate between body styles and awards the Ford Focus its highest possible rating, "good," for frontal offset impacts. In the IIHS side impact test, the 2009 Ford Focus earns a second-best rating of "acceptable."

As an economy car, the 2009 Ford Focus doesn't offer all of its safety features as standard equipment, even on the top-level SEL trim. However, that doesn't mean the Ford Focus is a safety slouch. Cars.com states that the Ford Focus 2009 "comes with six airbags, including standard side-impact and side curtain airbags." Unfortunately, they also find that "stability control—which the government will mandate on all cars in 2010—is not even available as an option." Consumer Guide reports that the safety-conscious can upgrade to antilock brakes for $745, an optional feature that also "includes traction control [and] antiskid system." Autoblog reviewers "bemoan anti-lock brakes being optional even on the up-level SES."

One oft-overlooked safety characteristic is driver visibility, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2009 Ford Focus offers generous sightlines. MyRide.com reviewers point out that "the view all around is very good," while the "angle of the windshield relative to the driver provides an excellent view of the road."

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2009 Ford Focus

Features

The 2009 Ford Focus offers a surprising number of interior comfort and convenience features for an economy car.

The 2009 Ford Focus goes a long way toward making up for its other flaws with its tech-heavy features list, which is about as good as it gets in the economy car segment.

Standard features vary quite a bit according to trim level on the 2009 Ford Focus lineup. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the base S model is a very stripped-down vehicle, though by the time you get up to the SEL trim, the 2009 Ford Focus comes together quite well. Edmunds notes that the base S includes "air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, center console, split folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, digital-media player connection, tachometer, rear defogger [and] intermittent wipers." Moving up to the Ford Focus SE brings "power mirrors (sedan), heated power mirrors (coupe)," and full power accessories, along with satellite radio, according to Consumer Guide. For the top-end Ford Focus 2009 models, Kelley Blue Book says that "moving up to the SES and SEL adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control switchgear, upgraded interior trim, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, fog lamps and the slick SYNC in-car communications system." SYNC earns high marks from reviewers, with Cars.com reporting that it "allows drivers to integrate their MP3 players and Bluetooth-enabled phones into the system so they can use just one button and voice prompts to play their music or use their cell phone. It can even read text messages aloud."

In addition to the standard features, the Ford Focus 2009 lineup offers a lengthy list of options. One of the more appealing features for the Ford Focus is the upgraded stereo, which Cars.com says "showed a lot of range—rock, rap, and pop all sounded good—and was a surprise in an entry-level car." Kelley Blue Book reports that the 2009 Ford Focus "SE offers the Driver's Group Package (cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, electrochromatic rear-view mirror) and the Moon and Tune Package (power moonroof and audiophile sound system with six-disc CD/MP3 changer)." One less appealing option for the Ford Focus 2009, according to Car and Driver, "is the ambient interior lighting, which allows the driver to select the color of footwell and cup-holder lighting—this option would be tacky in a limousine."

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September 2, 2016
2009 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SES

Great economy car

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Sharp looking, great power, and mileage with room for five.
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July 23, 2015
2009 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SES

Great car with 245000km

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Great car with no issues except low speed engine vibration. Lots of interior room for 4 adults. Exceptional fuel mileage and very low maintenance costs. Highly recommended for small family or older adults! As... + More »
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Styling 6.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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