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2012 Ford Focus Photo
8.0
/ 10
On Performance
BASE INVOICE
$15,635
BASE MSRP
$16,500
On Performance
The 2012 Ford Focus is merely average in straight-line performance, but it feels surprisingly athletic, with exceptional poise.
8.0 out of 10
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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10

Expert Quotes:

steering is adequately weighted and satisfactorily accurate...but there’s a steady whiff of artificiality about it, not to mention a quickness just off-center that may pester persnickety pilots
Car and Driver

There's also a five-speed manual, but with just the five cogs and a flaccid clutch it's not really optimized for either performance or fuel economy.
Edmunds' Inside Line

Acceleration was smooth but leisurely.
Popular Mechanics

a willing dance partner on the tight, curvy corners on and around Mulholland Drive
Winding Road

one of the most well-planted compacts in the segment
Autoblog

While turbocharged EcoBoost power is on the way next year, the Focus lineup includes a single engine now, an all-new 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder making 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, and paired with either a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic.

The new engine has Ti-VCT variable valve timing, though you have to rev it to tap into its perky side. But Ford has done a good job in making the Focus feel light-footed off the line, with low first-gear ratios in either gearbox, and the dual-clutch gearbox does a great job keeping the revs high and uninterrupted. Take off, foot to the floor, and the Focus feels quick. If you want to do the shifting yourself, you have to make do with a little +/- button on the side of the shift knob instead of paddle-shifters or a separate gate. Fortunately, the PowerShift transmission does come with a Sport ('S') mode, just below Drive, which smartly holds revs for grades and corners, holds upshifts significantly longer, and downshifts a gear with the slightest tap of the brake pedal.

The other option for shifting yourself is the five-speed manual gearbox—which is only offered on S and SE, not SEL or Titanium. The linkage is sweet, if a bit long, and the clutch feel more soft than sporty.

While the powertrain requires a little diligence, the ride-and-handling compromises are about the best it gets. The Focus handles as well as—or better than—the most deft handler in the class, the Mazda3, with a suspension that doesn't crash and bang over rough transitions, nor punishes over heaves or potholes. 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 electric steering system is awesome in transitions, too, never binding up or feeling off its game. While the suspension allows a bit of give, it loads and unloads in the most transparent, predictable way possible, yet isolates you from harshness.

And on the subject of brakes, there's nothing to complain about; S and SE models come with rear-drums instead of discs (in the name of cost-cutting), but pedal feel and stopping power felt about the same at legal speeds.

Conclusion

The 2012 Ford Focus is merely average in straight-line performance, but it feels surprisingly athletic, with exceptional poise.

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