- Normal hatchback styling
- Fun to drive, like any Focus
- DC fast-charging available at last
- Much-needed longer range is here
- Low volume, limited availability
- Severely compromised load bay
- Still a compliance car
- Range only average
The fun-to-drive 2017 Ford Focus Electric finally gets the range boost and DC fast-charging it's needed for years, but Ford's sole electric car is still only available in a few markets.
Now in its sixth model year, the 2017 Ford Focus Electric is the sole battery-electric vehicle sold anywhere in the world by Ford. After falling to the bottom of the list on range and features for several years, the electric Focus gets a higher-capacity battery and the option of DC fast-charging for 2017—bringing it back to at least the middle of the electric-car pack. The Focus Electric comes in only a single trim level.
The Focus Electric remains a "compliance car," one sold only in limited numbers in a handful of regions to allow its maker to meet zero-emission vehicle sales requirements in California. That means Ford dealers outside those regions may be unfamiliar with the car. It competes with the Nissan Leaf, the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq Electric. By far its strongest competition, however, will come from the new Chevrolet Bolt EV, with a rated range of 238 miles that's twice that of the newly upgraded Focus Electric.
We rate this year's Ford Focus Electric at 6.3 points out of a possible 10. While it's a competent electric car that now has at least average range, it brings little that's special to the table, and both Ford and its dealers are notably unenthusiastic about selling it. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The compact five-door hatchback is an adaptation of a gasoline model, built on the same assembly line in Michigan as all other North American Focus versions. It is virtually unchanged from the model launched for 2012. While it was initially identifiable by a unique grille design, the gasoline Focus was restyled with a very similar look in 2015. Only a couple of chrome "Electric" door badges and the charging port on the left front fender indicate that the Focus Electric has no engine under its hood. For 2017, a differently shaped charge-port door is the sole indicator of the new model year and longer range.
Focus Electric performance
The Focus Electric is powered by a 107-kilowatt (143-horsepower) electric motor that drives the front wheels. It draws electricity from a lithium-ion battery pack enlarged from 23 to roughly 34 kilowatt-hours, boosting EPA-rated range from a bottom-of-the-list 76 miles to 115 miles. Its energy efficiency also rises slightly, from 105 to 107 MPGe combined. (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is an efficiency measure that specifies the distance a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as in 1 gallon of gasoline.)
The battery cells are provided by Korean maker LG Chem, which supplies similar cells for the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car—meaning that Ford has piggybacked on General Motor's extensive cell test and development work. The Focus Electric pack is liquid-cooled—unlike that of the Nissan Leaf, which is only air-cooled—and that should make it somewhat more resistant to temperature extremes.
The Focus Electric delivers the same enjoyable roadholding that gasoline Focus models do, despite several hundred pounds of extra weight. But that weight sits low, with the battery under the floorpan, so the car feels well planted. The electric motor's torque makes it a particularly good car for urban traffic jousting. It runs well enough on the highway, though It starts to lose steam under heavy acceleration above 50 mph.
But like most electrics, the Focus Electric is at its punchiest moving away from a stop—and the motor is powerful enough to spin the inside front wheel accelerating out of turns. Ford has tuned the regenerative braking to be somewhat on the aggressive side, but the feel will still be relatively familiar to drivers used to automatic-transmission cars.
Focus Electric quality, comfort, and safety
Inside the electric Focus, you might never know you're not in the gasoline version. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered, and the interior materials are better looking than many compact hatchbacks. A few screens in the digital instrument cluster display and center-stack display are different, showing energy consumption and remaining range.
The main drawback inside the Focus Electric is its rear load bay. Despite adding DC fast-charging (whose hardware is mounted up front, under the hood), the car's onboard charger sits in a box that stretches from wheel arch to wheel arch in the cargo area in a hump perhaps 10 inches high. While Ford has fitted a clever movable floor that either tilts down to meet the bottom of the hatchback opening or lifts up to give a level floor in what remains of the load space, this is a major compromise.
Nissan fixed a similar problem in the third year of Leaf production; the fact that Ford hasn't in Year Six indicates its essential disinterest in the car. The onboard charger operates at 6.6 kilowatts, which is now pretty much the minimum for any battery-electric car, giving a recharge time of 5.5 or 6 hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charging station.
The Focus Electric is not separately rated for safety by the NHTSA or IIHS, but the gasoline versions of the Focus do well on crash-safety ratings.
Focus Electric features and pricing
The single trim level of the Focus Electric is roughly equivalent to a higher-spec gasoline Focus. Ford offers a smartphone app that lets an owner remotely monitor charging behavior and other operating characteristics. The car now comes with Sync 3, Ford's latest voice-activated infotainment system, a replacement for the unloved MyFord Touch system fitted to earlier model years.
The 2017 Focus Electric carries a base price of about $30,000, which likely bears little connection to Ford's cost of building such a low-volume vehicle. It had launched in 2012 at $10,000 more, but Ford had to cut its price as market leader Nisan did. Buyers of the car qualify for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, a $2,500 purchase rebate in California, and a long list of other state, regional, and corporate incentives—including single-occupant use of the carpool lane on California freeways.
Putting the Focus Electric in perspective, it's a competent electric car that has seen no quality issues, and owners seem generally satisfied with their electric Fords. On the other hand, it's a very low-volume entry sold only in limited regions. It can be viewed either as a cautious experiment in which Ford dips its toe into the electric-car market or solely