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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Coupes are sportier, with better grip and balance overall
The automatic on SES coupes is geared slightly shorter for better acceleration
Didn't punish the driver in terms of ride quality
Performance-wise, the 2010 Ford Focus was never meant to be a truly "sporty" car. What it does well is fit into its designated role as a comfortable commuter thanks to its soft ride and high fuel economy. This year's new Focus, much like last year's, is still no road rocket, despite Ford's claims that they have made it sportier.
For 2010 the Ford Focus features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine "that produces 140 hp in sedans and 143 hp in coupes," according to ConsumerGuide. There is also a "cleaner version of that engine that earns PZEV tailpipe-emissions certification" available in California emissions states, notes Edmunds. Power is generally adequate, but far from spectacular. In the Ford Focus 2010 coupe, Autoblog reviewers find that "the 143-hp 2.0L engine is not nearly enough to make anyone feel fast," and ConsumerGuide 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 that "in testing, an automatic Focus coupe went from zero to 60 mph in a lackluster 9.7 seconds."
In terms of transmissions, Edmunds reports that "the standard transmission on all Focus trim levels is a five-speed manual," and a "four-speed automatic" is available. Both transmissions fail to particularly impress reviewers, although Cars.com finds that "the four-speed automatic shifts upward smoothly enough" but only "when you're not lead-footing it." Edmunds observes that "the four-speed automatic is increasingly outdated by competing models' five-speed units." The reviewers at Autoblog contend that the "unremarkable five-speed [manual] transmission, rubbery clutch and tall shifter" all combine for "an ordinary, economy car driving experience from a vehicle whose exterior promises more." ConsumerGuide points out that "the automatic provides timely downshifts," but they recommend the manual since the "manual-transmission models feel snappier."
As an economy car, high mileage is the Focus' bread and butter, and true to its intentions, it provides 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.
While most agree the 2010 Focus is no handling slouch, TheCarConnection.com editors note it doesn't have the crisp handling feel that pre-2008 Focus models previously possessed. Edmunds finds that "the Focus has commendable steering response and feedback along with a decent amount of grip when driven hard," but it is not quite as fun to drive as the Honda Civic or Mazda 3. MyRide.com calls the 2009 Ford Focus "a very competent handler," and ConsumerGuide 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' "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."
One of the more maligned aspects of the 2010 Focus' performance is its brakes. Cars.com says that the brakes "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."
With a good compromise between ride quality and dynamics, the 2010 Ford Focus retains its position as one of the better-handling economy cars—although the brakes let it down with their poor stopping power.