- Precise steering, deft handling
- Composed, refined ride
- Focus ST is a hoot
- Extroverted styling
- MyFord Touch is a standout in this class
- Space-robbing dash design
- Cluttered base audio controls
- Pricer than other compacts
- Road noise
Even without considering the top-performance ST, the 2014 Ford Focus is one of the best-driving small cars on the market--with the impression of being an accessible premium car, not a spruced-up econobox.
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.
2014 Ford Focus
The 2014 Ford Focus is extroverted inside and out, with just the right of sportiness and a premium, closely detailed look.
The 2014 Ford 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.'
The exterior design of the Focus looked daringly different when it was introduced a couple of years ago, but now for 2014 it fits right in alongside the newly redesigned Fusion mid-size sedan and the 2014 Fiesta, which gets a new front end with the same new family appearance. The sheetmetal contains a mix of creases and curves, while the rather aggressive front-end design and thin front grille are a new Ford design trait shared with the 2013 Escape.
As with most other current models in this class, there's a rising beltline, as you move to the back. Here it's complemented nicely, as the bulging fenders in front and in back echo the arching roofline and create a very dynamic look from the outside. A subtle curve runs from the headlights all the way to the taillights, just below the beltline, and a sharper crease starts after the front wheelwell and runs through the door handles. 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.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. On the other hand, Ford has gone with more of an open design for the Fusion, so the look of the Focus (and Fiesta) instrument panel might be a mere blip in the evolution of Ford interiors.
Throughout the model line, there's really something special in the details, compared to most other affordable small cars. Trims and finishes look classy and inviting; the turquoise gauge pointers are a nice touch; 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.
The styling of the high-performance ST variant is 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. Inside, the ST can be optioned with deeply bolstered Recaro sport seats, which give this hatchback an even more 'premium' look and feel.
2014 Ford Focus
The 2014 Focus is athletic and nimble no matter what, but the Focus ST is the way to go if you want to make the most of its performance potential.
Throughout much of the 2014 Ford Focus lineup, you'll find performance that isn't particularly quick in terms of acceleration, but very sporty if you value crisp steering response and agile handling.
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.
Choose the manual gearbox and you'll have one of the best-driving small 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. Furthermore, there's no Sport mode--only a little +/- button on the side of the shift knob.
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.
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.
Separately a handling package on the Titanium trim adds a sport suspension, summer performance tires, and painted alloy wheels.
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.
2014 Ford Focus
Comfort & Quality
The interior of the 2014 Focus is spacious and comfortable, with the refinement of a larger vehicle; we just wish the instrument panel didn't take up so much space.
There's something charming and premium about the interior of the 2014 Ford Focus. It can feel more like a European sport sedan than a budget-priced hatchback.
You're likely to be happy with the Focus in most respects--it's a rather roomy, versatile, and refined small car--you might agree that the overly styled instrument panel layout 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.
Even the front seats in the lower-priced Focus models have good 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; they're very snug, and their single-piece design definitely doesn't fit all; so try before you buy.
Actually, our most significant complaint is of the instrument-panel design; with its sharp, angular design, it tends to cut into front passenger knee space.
The hatchback is definitely the way to go if you want a little more versatility, although the amount of usable cargo space, numbers aside, is about the same. To get that nearly flat cargo floor, 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. They're nicely contoured, and although there isn't all that much legroom for taller adults, it's a well-designed 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.
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.
2014 Ford Focus
With some standout options and top-tier occupant safety, there's nothing missing here for security-minded small-car shoppers.
The Ford Focus models are 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.
We've also 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 available on upper trims with MyFord Touch, and on the Titanium you can 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 Focus does also did manage to earn top scores in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as the IIHS Top Safety Pick designation and a respectable 'acceptable' rating in the tough small overlap frontal test. It's one of few compact sedans to earn this top-tier combination of top five-star NCAP results and Top Safety Pick status, but it's worth noting that both the Chevrolet Cruze and Dodge Dart do one better, with top five-star scores in each NCAP subcategory.
2014 Ford Focus
The tech-savvy 2014 Ford Focus Titanium is the way to go for shoppers who want a premium small car and don't insist on a luxury badge.
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. Then at the Titanium level, the Focus has a lot more equipment, noticeably more detail and flair and, overall, a premium ambiance that makes it feel like it could go up against compact models with a luxury badge.
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. 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.
Stepping up to the Titanium earns you dual-zone climate control, MyFord Touch, an upgraded ten-speaker Sony sound system, HD Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, sport seats, a sport suspension, and sport wheels with summer performance tires.
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.
What you get inside the Focus is quite different between the S and SE versus the Titanium. MyFord Touch—the touch-screen system combining audio, connectivity, and navigation features—is standard on the Focus Titanium and optional on the SEL, giving the Focus a high-end, feature-rich feel. Other models get a modestly retouched version of the Fiesta's control layout—including the oddly angled, V-shaped arrangement. Top and center on those models, instead, is a colorful, high-contrast info screen.
2014 Ford Focus
The limited-availability Focus Electric is the most efficient one in the lineup; but even the performance-oriented Focus ST is better than most other hot hatches.
If you want an extremely efficient Ford Focus—even one that doesn't have a gas tank—you can get one. That would be the 2014 Ford Focus Electric, which comes with an EPA-certified 105 MPGe, a measure of the distance it can travel electrically on the energy content of 1 gallon of gasoline. With the price of this model now lowered to $35,995—and rebates and credits lopping $10,000 or more in some localities, this model could be a great deal for green-car shoppers who commute a short distance.
With its direct-injection engine and available six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, plus improved aerodynamics, and a host of other advancements, the 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 because the five-speed allows revs to be a bit higher on the highway, we think.
When optioned with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package (only offered with the automatic), the ratings go up to 28 mpg city, 40 highway.