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Compact cars have evolved greatly since the grim old days of "econoboxes," and the 2014 Ford Focus is as good a case study as any. It's attractive, fun to drive, well-equipped, and affordable--and it's eliminated pretty much all of the grim and noisy downsides of smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. We even named the current Focus our 2012 Best Car To Buy in its first year on the market.
The Focus ST, its hot-rod sibling, is not only a blast behind the wheel but competes surprisingly well with European hot hatches and is one of the high-performance bargains in the market.
The design of the 2014 Focus skips the no-frills small-car image entirely, and it looks good in all of its guises, whether as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. But it does tend to look the best dressed in Titanium trim, where a set of coordinated details give the design some 'pop.' For better or worse, the cabin appearance takes design and styling to a new extreme. Some might find it a bit too swoopy and overstyled (and it does impinge on space a bit more than it should), but the vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface scrulpting give it a look and feel that's original and complex--a definite plus in a crowded class of look-alike small cars.
You're likely to be happy with the Focus in most respects--it's a rather roomy, versatile, and refined small car. The only thing that we see as a flaw is the overly styled instrument panel layout, which detracts from front-seat space and usefulness. Whether you choose the sedan or hatchback, you get back seat accommodations that are virtually the same, with just enough legroom and headroom to fit even those over six feet. With the leather upholstery, there's no skimping on look and feel in back; you won't get mid-size comfort, but there's enough comfort back there for most six-footers.
The 160-hp, 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that powers most of the lineup comes paired with either a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. But what's new for 2013 is a high-performance Focus ST variant that can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. Packing a 240-hp turbocharged EcoBoost four and a six-speed manual—no automatic—it calls out to serious driving enthusiasts. Ford's electric power steering system provides nice weighting and it performs well, providing precise control but not transmitting much feel of the road.
Safety-wise, the Focus holds strong; it's one of the few compact sedans to have earned both a five-star NCAP Overall Score and IIHS Top Safety Pick status—including an 'acceptable' score in the tough new IIHS small overlap frontal test.
Prices on the Focus start around $17k, including destination, for the base Focus S, up to about $30k for a loaded Titanium with navigation and Active Park Assist, among other options. The 2014 Ford Focus stretches, arguably, between three tiers of vehicles in the U.S.: S and SE models make a reasonably strong value proposition against other compact sedans and hatches. Base S models are indeed quite basic, but they do include air conditioning, CD sound, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. SE models add cruise control, larger wheels, fog lamps, and Ford's MyKey system.
- Precise steering, deft handling
- Composed, refined ride
- Focus ST is a hoot
- Extroverted styling
- MyFord Touch is a standout in this class
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- Space-robbing dash design
- Cluttered base audio controls
- Pricer than other compacts
- Road noise