2015 Ford Focus Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 18, 2015

The 2015 Ford Focus lineup gets a clean new look for 2015, as well as a high-mileage three-cylinder engine option and revamped cabin comforts. From efficiency-minded models to the high-performance ST, it remains one of the best-driving small cars on the market.

Get into nearly every version and variant of the 2015 Ford Focus family, and it's likely you'll understand why this is the best-selling nameplate in the world—as well as why it fits in so well in the U.S.  It's fun, attractive, and well-equipped, all while staying affordable; and the speedy Focus ST might just be the antidote to any bad small-car memories in your past. 

This year, the entire Focus lineup gets a design refresh, with revamped interior materials, and there's a new, economical 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine option. The rest of the lineup carries over, with a wide range of models that includes frugal gasoline models, an all-electric Focus Electric, and a high-performance, high-bang-for-the-buck Focus ST.

The most noteworthy design change to the 2015 Focus is right up at the front. The Focus gets a version of the blind yet ornate, wide-mouth grille that both the Fusion and Fiesta have received the past couple of years. It's arguably very close to the look of the Ford Focus Electric the past several model years, now extended to the entire model lineup. Otherwise there are relatively minor changes (like a restyled trunklid and new rear lamps), although we think that the front end does fit nicely with the existing profile; the cleaner front end should lend a calming hand over a design that's been seen by some as a bit too swoopy. Inside, the Focus remains on the overstyled side, but the vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface sculpting give it a look and feel that's original and complex—a definite plus in a crowded class of look-alike small cars.

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The 160-hp, 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that powers most of the lineup carries over with no changes. It provides plenty of pep for the Focus, whether fitted with the five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. Step up to the high-performance Focus ST, and you can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. Both the ST, and the new mileage-minded 1.0-liter EcoBoost model only gets a six-speed manual gearbox.

Those who appreciate lean performance will love that an SE Sport Package returns for 2015, bringing a touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddle-shifters for PowerShift automatic versions.

Although the Focus isn't packaged with quite the level of space-efficiency as some models in its class, 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--although Ford has upgraded switchgear and trims and reconfigured the center console for 2015. In front or in back, there's 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; although you won't get mid-size comfort. And Ford has made some suspension changes that might keep the cabin quieter in the 2015 model.

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. We see no reason why its ratings will change this year as it hasn't received any structural changes. Although for 2015, the Focus will get a standard rearview camera system, displaying either on a 4.2-inch base screen system or the eight-inch screen of MyFord Touch. Also look for the BLIS blind-spot warning system and a lane-keep system to be featured in top trims.

The Focus lineup includes models that meet needs from rather basic commuting, with base Focus S models, all the way up to top Titanium trims, which have navigation, Active Park Assist, and other extras and effectively play the role of premium sedan without a premium price tag. A heated steering wheel is offered for the first time; and Ford's infotainment system in the Focus now has full AppLink capability, enabling enhanced voice commands, and for notifications to be read out loud. 

9

2015 Ford Focus

Styling

The 2015 Ford Focus gets a new nose and a more detail-oriented interior; and it remains one of the most extroverted compact-car designs today.

The 2015 Ford Focus looks (and feels) far more upscale than most other compact cars, and it skips the no-frills small-car image entirely. You won't find a stripped-down base model here; it looks good in all of its guises, whether as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. Although we do see it at its best-dressed in top Titanium trim, where a set of coordinated details give the design some 'pop.'

For 2015, the Focus lineup gets a design refresh, with the central points of change focusing in on the front-end appearance and revamped interior materials.

The Focus gets a version of the blind yet ornate, wide-mouth grille that both the Fusion and Fiesta have received the past couple of years. It's arguably very close to the front-end design of the Ford Focus Electric the past several model years, now extended to the entire model lineup.

Otherwise there are relatively minor changes (like a restyled trunklid and new rear lamps), although we think that the front end does fit nicely with the existing profile; the cleaner front end should lend a calming hand over a design that's been seen by some as a bit too swoopy.

The sheetmetal and profile of the current Focus fits right in with the rest of the Ford model lineup, with its combination of side-sheetmetal creases and curves, contrasting with the smooth but rather aggressive front-end design. The rising beltline, as you move to the back, actually works just as well with the sedan here as with the hatchback, and it's complemented nicely with the bulging fenders in front and in back, echoing the arching roofline and create a very dynamic look from the outside. The huge taillamps might look a little odd and different from the side, especially in the hatchback, but they nicely frame the corner in both body styles.

It's fair to say that, within the cabin, the Focus remains a bit on the overstyled side; yet the vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface sculpting give it a look and feel that's original and complex—a definite plus in a crowded class of look-alike small cars. Ford has gone with more of an open design for the larger Fusion sedans, so the look of the Focus (and Fiesta) instrument panel follows a different design ethos.

That said, there's nothing intensely 'small car' about the Focus. Throughout the model line, the Focus grabs your attention in the details. Trims and finishes look classy and inviting, and there's a nicely tailored look to the entire interior that extends to door trim and even seats--especially in those top Titanium models. With revamped materials for 2015, including new satin chrome trims and seat upholsteries, the Focus gets a somewhat brighter, sharper look up close. 

The high-performance ST variant stands out in a way that some enthusiasts will appreciate, as it's nicely restrained compared to some other hot hatches in this category—with larger wheels, a somewhat lower stance, and different lower bodywork being the key differences, with deeply bolstered Recaro sport seats and some color-matched stitched accents inside.

8

2015 Ford Focus

Performance

It's the 2015 Ford Focus ST that makes the most of this model's potential; although it's athletic and nimble in any of its versions.

If you value crisp steering response and agile handling, the 2015 Ford Focus should remain one of the go-to- small-car models; it offers more driving excitement than many other compact cars—even if, in standard-engine models, it might not come in terms of acceleration.

Most Focus models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; with direct injection and variable valve timing, it makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, and it's paired with either a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic.

Realistically, that engine provides plenty of pep for the Focus, whether fitted with the five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. Step up to the high-performance Focus ST, and you can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph.

We still haven't driven the new, efficiency-minded 1.0-liter EcoBoost model of the Focus SFE on U.S. ground. This engine makes 123 horsepower, as well as an impressive 148 pound-feet of torque at just 1,400 rpm; and it earns EPA ratings of 30 mpg city, 42 highway.

If you really want to get the most out of the handling and capability in the Focus, the ST might be your thing. It instead comes with a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that allows the Focus to get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds, and to a top speed of 155 mph. There's no available automatic transmission here--only a six-speed manual.

Both the ST, and the new mileage-minded 1.0-liter EcoBoost model that's on the way, will only have a six-speed manual gearbox. That's just fine because no matter which model, we really do like the manual gearbox; get it and you'll have one of the best-driving cars in the segment. Even though it's not the quickest, and you have to rev the engine to get to its perky side, it's an agreeable combination, with a light, easy clutch takeup. As for the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission, it does a good job keeping the revs up when you need them, but it can be rough at times at lower speeds.

The Focus ST provides as much of a performance rush as you might guess; it doesn't disappoint. What's surprising, though, is how well the car is engineered and integrated; there's none of the twitchy tuner-car attitude that can affect the Mazdaspeed3 and Mitsubishi Evolution, and Subaru WRX STI, for instance. With steering and suspension different than in other Focus models--there's a quick, variable-ratio steering rack, a suspension lowered by 10 mm, and a rear suspension that moves its mounting points outward--this is a model that feels like a performance car, beyond what's under the hood.

Throughout the rest of the lineup, the Focus is one of the better-handling cars to begin with. Ford's electric power steering system provides nice weighting and it performs well, providing precise control but not transmitting much feel of the road. The suspension is quite firm, yet it doesn't crash over some of the harsher stuff.

Those who appreciate lean performance will love that an SE Sport Package returns for 2015, bringing a touring supension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddle-shifters for PowerShift automatic versions.

About the only disappointment here is that low-end Focus S and SE still include sub-par rear drum brakes, while most rival models include four-wheel disc brakes.

7

2015 Ford Focus

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 Focus offers top-notch cabin materials and great comfort in front; we just wish the instrument panel didn't take up so much space.

The interior of the 2015 Ford Focus can feel far more like that of a European sport sedan than a budget-priced hatchback. And a refresh adds some new trims and upholstery that add to the detail-oriented look of the cabin. Meanwhile, it's well-designed in most respects—with roomy seating, plenty of versatility, and a refined feel throughout. Although you might agree that the overly styled instrument panel layout can detract from usefulness and front-seat space.

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.

If you want a little more versatility, the hatchback is the way to go—even though technically the amount of cargo space is about the same. Seat-folding is a bit more involved than in other compact cars—you can't release the seatbacks from the cargo area, and the headrests do get in the way—but the counterpoint to that is that the rear seatbacks aren't just park benches. You'll find a nicely contoured space for adults in back, even though there isn't much legroom.

Go with one of the lower-priced Focus models, and you'll still get good front-seat support—better than what's offered in rival models. Get the upgraded sport seats of the Titanium model, and you'll have both thigh and back support for long trips, plus a little more lateral support. The top-tier Recaro seats in the Focus ST might not be for everyone; be forewarned, they're very snug, and their single-piece design won't work with all torso heights—so test them out first.

The Focus makes some major strides in powertrain refinement; in nearly any of the models, you can hit redline without the boomy, thrashy sounds that were a small-car commonplace not too long ago. The exception is road noise; it's pretty typical for this class, and coarser road surfaces tend to ring into the cabin.

Actually, our most significant complaint—perhaps the only significant one—is of the instrument-panel design; with its sharp, angular design, it tends to cut into front passenger knee space.

Ride comfort is impressive, even though the Focus is one of the firmer-riding small cars, its more sophisticated suspension tuning filters out the most jarring bumps.

9

2015 Ford Focus

Safety

There's nothing missing here for security-minded small-car shoppers; and new active-safety features add more assurance to top-of-the-line models this year.

The 2015 Ford Focus remains built on a global structure that's engineered for top safety performance across a wide range of international crash-test standards. In addition, the Focus offers up many features and safety-tech options that are unusual in mass-market small cars.

Electronic stability control, with a torque-vectoring system, is standard across the model line, as are front, side, and Safety Canopy curtain bags. This year Ford has added an available Blind Spot Information System as well as lane-keeping as options, although you do need to ante up to one of the higher trim models to get them.

We've found outward visibility to be quite good compared to that of some other small cars, although rearward vision can be tough in some instances. A rear-view camera is newly standard, and it's now included whether you have the smaller 4.2-inch info screen or the full-fledged 8-inch MyFord Touch infotainment system. You can also opt for an active park assist feature helps by actually steering the car into a parking space—allowing you to focus on things that might be in the way.

The Ford Focus earns a top 'good' rating in all categories of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing—with the sole exception being an 'acceptable' score in the small overlap frontal category. The federal government posted improved ratings for the Focus, including five-star overall safety ratings (with a better five stars for frontal impact) to the 2015 Focus; although with a structure has essentially carried over.

10

2015 Ford Focus

Features

The 2015 Ford Focus is as well-equipped as other compact cars, but the Titanium is the way to go for those wanting a premium car without price premium.

The 2015 Ford Focus is available in a wide range of models, from very price-minded S models to efficiency-minded SFE trims, or to sportier SE and Titanium models, with the latter looking and feeling as if they might be entry-luxury cars. And then, separately, there's the high-performance Focus ST.

Ultimately, S and SE models make a reasonably strong value proposition against other compact sedans and hatches. Prices on the Focus start around $18k for the base Focus S, up to about $30k for a loaded Titanium with navigation and Active Park Assist, among other options. 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.

Move up to the Focus Titanium model and you'll get dual-zone climate control, an upgraded Sony audio system, MyFord Touch, HD Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, sport seats, a sport suspension, and summer performance tires on sport wheels.

One segment-exclusive feature that will be available in the Titanium is Active Park Assist, which helps you steer into a parallel-parking space. It's more a convenience feature than a safety one, but it's the sort of feature you don't usually see even optional on cars in this class.

8

2015 Ford Focus

Fuel Economy

With the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost SFE model, the Focus Electric, and a surprisingly efficient Focus ST, there's a lot to include here when mileage matters.

With its direct-injection engine and available six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, plus improved aerodynamics, and a host of other advancements, the Ford Focus made some significant advancements in fuel economy with its last redesign. Opt for the manual gearbox and the ratings are a bit lower—mainly perhaps because the five-speed keeps a bit higher on the highway.

Models with the base four-cylinder achieve 26 mpg city, 38 highway with the PowerShift automatic, or 26/36 with the five-speed manual. When optioned with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package (only offered with the automatic), the ratings go up to 27 mpg city, 40 highway. And the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost model hasn't delivered the sort of fuel economy that Ford may have hinted earlier; its EPA ratings have landed at 29 mpg city, 40 highway.

Take the performance route with the Ford Focus ST—which doesn't require premium fuel, like most other performance cars—and it's not as bad as you might think. The 240-hp EcoBoost turbocharged engine still gets 23/32 mpg.

Keep in mind that there's also the Focus Electric, a limited-availability, all-electric version of the Focus that's the best bet for short-distance commuters and achieves the best efficiency rating of anything in the lineup: an EPA-rated 105 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

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February 8, 2016
2015 Ford Focus 5-Door HB ST

Wish it had more poiwer.

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This is my 2nd Focus. Much improved over 2012. Wish it had more power and crash avoidance.
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November 22, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

1 liter Ecoboost Focus

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Although I own a Mustang GT and a Fusion Hybrid my favourite one is the Focus. My wife and I often travel to Europe and have always rented cars in this category ( compact,small engine,six speed, fun and... + More »
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November 18, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

Bad transmissions -stay away from this car

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FORD HAS A PROBLEM-THESE CARS HAVE A BAD TRANSMISSION DESIGN-DON T PLAN TO BUY ANY MORE FORDS FOR NOW
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October 20, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan S

I have a 2015 Ford Focus with a 2 Liter

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Nice Car - Goes great on the Highway and nice in the city of Ann Arbor!
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September 21, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

Great looking little car with great fuel efficiency.

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It drives smooth as silk and looks more expensive than it costs. It's fun to drive and the safety features give me peace of mind.
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August 23, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

Not reliable!!!

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I brought the car for work.. I'm a uber driver, so I put alot of miles on it. When I first got the car it jerk a little bit but the dealership said that the way the car works. But after a few months the engine... + More »
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July 30, 2015
2015 Ford Focus 5-Door HB SE

Outsnading gas mileage while fun to drive.

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First trip on my new 2015 Ford Focus SE with 1.0L 3 cylinder, Ecoboost, 6-speed manual averaged over 45 mpg, a few times average was in the 48 mpg range. Awesome mileage! Plenty of power, 6-speed transmission... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2015 Ford Focus

2012 Ford Focus Titanium

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The Focus replaced my previous Ford G6E Turbo and for me, I downsized from a large family car with a rear-drive layout and 360 bhp. But, I was surprised how quickly I adapted to the smaller Ford and... + More »
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