- High-performance Focus ST, hyper-performance RS
- High-mpg 1.0L EcoBoost model
- Titanium model takes on luxe badges
- Refined ride
- Smooth, cohesive styling
- Space-robbing dash design
- Cluttered base audio controls
- Road noise
- Priced higher than many rivals
features & specs
From efficiency-minded models to the high-performance ST, the 2016 Ford Focus remains one of the best-driving small cars on the market.
The Ford Focus family of compact cars is the best-selling nameplate in the world, and it fits right into the U.S. market, too. With a wide choice of engines, a sporty design, and extremely well-tuned ride-and-handling attributes no matter which model in the lineup you head to, it's a compact that will entirely erase any undesirable small-car impressions.
For some, it may be unexpected in a vehicle lineup that includes a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine. The small engine is part of Ford's EcoBoost turbocharged lineup of engines, quite perky, and now offered with a 6-speed automatic transmission as well as a manual. The introduction of much-improved Sync 3 infotainment systems is the other major move to an otherwise carry-over lineup as the Focus heads into 2016—not counting the eagerly anticipated, all-wheel-drive Focus RS performance model expected to arrive in spring 2016.
Last year the Focus got a version of the ornate, wide-mouth grille that both the Fusion and Fiesta have received in their current versions. Otherwise there are relatively minor changes (like a restyled trunklid and new rear lamps), although we think that the front end fits 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-alikes.
Most of the Focus lineup is powered by a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine. It provides plenty of pep for the Focus, whether fitted with the 5-speed manual or 6-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. And those who appreciate lean performance will appreciate the SE Sport Package, bringing a touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddle-shifters for PowerShift automatic versions.
Step up to the high-performance Focus ST, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, making 252 hp, and you can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. That model is paired exclusively to a 6-speed manual.
The Ford Focus meets or exceeds the level of refinement and cabin detailing in some luxury-brand small cars, and that's saying something. It's a top-notch interior, although its space-efficiency is a step behind in front due to a confining dash design. Ford has upgraded switchgear and trims and reconfigured the center console, though. In front or in back, there's just enough leg room and head room 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.
The 2016 Ford Focus family provides impressive safety credentials—and that holds true whether you're weighing these compact sedans and hatchbacks up against others in the class, or versus smaller luxury models. There are available blind-spot monitors as well as lane-keeping as options, although you do need to ante up to one of the higher trim models to get them. And the Focus lineup lacks any top-tech forward-collision systems or automatic-braking technologies, which keeps it out of the running for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honor list.
Outward visibility in the Focus is quite good compared to that in other compact cars, although rearward vision can be tough in some instances. However a rearview camera is newly standard, and it's now included on all versions. 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 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. The Focus lineup now offers a heated steering wheel, too. Noteworthy across much of the lineup this year is the availability of new Sync 3 infotainment. Completely replacing the MyFord Touch touchscreen systems, Sync 3 brings a fully capacitive screen with pinching and swiping capability, a streamlined menu structure, smart-charging USB ports, and AppLink capability for on-screen operation of various smartphone apps. It's a very good new system, but still not without its faults.
The most efficient Focus can manage up to 30 mpg city, 42 highway, 35 combined with the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual. The least efficient? Predictably that's the super hot Focus RS that runs down to 19/25/22 mpg.
2016 Ford Focus
The 2016 Ford Focus remains one of the most extroverted compact-car designs on the market.
You know the no-frills small-car image? The 2016 Ford Focus, in its current generation, now going on its fifth year, has always eschewed that. The Focus looks and feels far more upscale than most compacts, and you won't find a true stripped-down base model here. In four-door sedan or five-door hatchback form, it looks great—although in Titanium trim, a set of coordinated details push the design to its best.
Last year, Ford gave the Focus a mild restyle, with a new front-end appearance, as well as some revamped cabin materials. The ornate, wide-mouth grille that both the Fusion and Fiesta have received the past couple of years, is actually quite close to what the Ford Focus Electric has had since its introduction, but it's now extended to the entire model lineup.
Outside of that, Ford kept last years changes to a minimum in the design department; and that's a good thing as the current generation of the Focus got it all right at introduction. A restyled trunklid and new rear lamps gave last year's model just the right nip and tuck, and the cleaner front end should lend a calming hand over a design that's been seen by some as a bit too swoopy.
Even today, the exterior and profile of the current Focus fits right in with the rest of the Ford model lineup. Its combination of side sheet metal creases and curves, contrasting with the smooth but rather aggressive front-end design, adds up to a very dynamic look. The rising window line, 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. Huge taillights may seem a bit odd at first, especially in the hatchback, but they do nicely frame the corners.
The high-performance ST variant, and the even higher-performance RS, stand 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.
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. Up close, the revamped materials the lineup was given last year, with new satin chrome trims and seat upholsteries, bring it all together.
2016 Ford Focus
The 2016 Focus feels athletic and nimble no matter which way you have it; although the ST and RS versions are the pulse-quickening kings of the lineup.
The Ford Focus includes a wide range of vehicles that have some dramatic differences under the hood, in terms of acceleration and performance; yet across the model line, the Focus remains the pick versus other comparable models if it's crisp steering response and agile handling that you value.
For most of the model line—in the Focus models that you're most likely to see at the dealership—there's a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated inline-4 under the hood. With direct injection and variable valve timing, it makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, and it's paired with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. That engine provides plenty of pep for the Focus, regardless of transmission choice.
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 inline-4 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 here—only a 6-speed manual.
In the Focus RS, which is expected to reach the market in spring of 2016, as a late-entry 2016 model, what's under the hood will be quite different. A 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-4 will make 350 hp, with a full-time all-wheel drive system with dynamic torque vectoring putting power to the pavement for optimum performance, and a special 6-speed manual transmission. A driver-selectable sport suspension, upgraded brakes, and a sport exhaust, as well as plenty more performance upgrades, should make this a model that takes on the Subaru WRX and STI.
We still haven't driven the new, efficiency-minded 1.0-liter EcoBoost model of the Focus SFE in the U.S. This engine makes 123 hp, as well as an impressive 148 lb-ft of torque at just 1,400 rpm; and it earns EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg city, 42 highway, 35 combined. For 2016, Ford is offering this with a 6-speed automatic as well, although that drops to 28 mpg city.
The automatic isn't always the smoothest at low speeds, but it does a good job keeping the revs up when you need them.
Throughout most of its 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.
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. An SE Sport Package is available and brings the most driving fun for the money to the lineup, with a touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddle-shifters for PowerShift automatic versions.
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.
2016 Ford Focus
Comfort & Quality
The Focus has better cabin materials than most compact cars, yet the instrument panel keeps the front seats from feeling as spacious as they could.
Mainstream compact cars have tended—rarely without exception—to show weaknesses in comfort and refinement. Yet the 2016 Ford Focus remains that exception; its cabin can feel far more like that of a European sport sedan, than a very affordable hatchback.
Last year's refresh added some new trims and upholstery that brought a more detail-oriented look to the cabin. Meanwhile, it's well-designed in most respects—with roomy seating, plenty of versatility, and a refined cabin feel. Although you might agree that the overly styled instrument panel layout can detract from usefulness and front-seat space.
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 get good thigh and back support for long trips, plus a little more lateral support and a plusher look. The top-tier Recaro seats in the Focus ST won't be for everyone; be forewarned, they're very snug, and their single-piece design won't work with all torso heights.
Whether you choose the sedan or hatchback, you get back seat accommodations that are virtually the same. If you want a little more flexibility, go with the hatchback. Technically the cargo space between the two models is the same, but the hatchback's space is far more usable.
Seat-folding is a bit more involved than in other compact cars—you can't release the seat backs from the cargo area, and the headrests do get in the way. But the counterpoint here is that the rear seat backs aren't just park benches. You'll find a nicely contoured space for adults in back, even though there isn't much leg room.
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 exception is road noise; it's pretty typical for this class, and coarser road surfaces tend to ring into the cabin.
In all, 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.
2016 Ford Focus
Active-safety features are surprisingly well-represented here, on top of some very good crash-test ratings.
The 2016 Ford Focus family provides impressive safety credentials—and that holds true whether you're weighing these compact sedans and hatchbacks up against others in the class, or versus smaller luxury models.
The Focus remains built on a global structure that's engineered for top safety performance across a wide range of international crash-test standards. As such, the Ford Focus earns a top "Good" rating in all categories of IIHS testing; its sole exception is an "Acceptable" score in the small overlap frontal test.
In federal testing, the Focus achieves five-star overall safety ratings, as well as top five-star scores for frontal and side crash categories.
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 available blind-spot monitors as well as lane-keeping as options, although you do need to ante up to one of the higher trim models to get them. There's also a lack of top-tech forward-collision systems or automatic-braking technologies available in the Focus.
Outward visibility in the Focus is quite good compared to that in other compact cars, although rearward vision can be tough in some instances. However a rearview camera is newly standard, and it's now included whether you have the smaller 4.2-inch info screen or the full-fledged Sync 3 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.
2016 Ford Focus
The Focus offers pretty much everything you'll find in other compacts, although the Titanium goes premium, without the premium price.
From price-focused S models to efficiency-minded SFE trims and sportier SE and ST models, as well as top-spec Titanium models, there are a lot of different ways to get into a 2016 Ford Focus.
The Focus S and SE models, we think, add up to the best value for the money in the lineup versus other compact sedans and hatchbacks. Base S models are indeed quite basic, but they include air conditioning, CD sound, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Focus SE models add cruise control, larger wheels, fog lamps, and Ford's MyKey system.
Move up to the Focus Titanium model and you add dual-zone climate control, an upgraded Sony audio system, Sync 3, 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.
In a loaded Focus Titanium, with navigation and Active Park Assist, among other options, you can blow past the $30,000 barrier; although there you'll end up with a model that actually outdoes some base luxury-brand models, like the Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA250, for features.
Noteworthy across much of the lineup this year is the availability of new Sync 3 infotainment. Completely replacing the MyFord Touch touchscreen systems, Sync 3 brings a fully capacitive screen with pinching and swiping capability, a streamlined menu structure, smart-charging USB ports, and AppLink capability for on-screen operation of various smartphone apps.
While Sync 3 is much slicker than the MyFord Touch system its replacing, we found that it's not without its faults. The 2016 Ford Focus Titanium we tested it in had issues switching between day- and night-time modes on the touchscreen, and there was a slight lag in button presses.
2016 Ford Focus
From the 1.0-liter EcoBoost SFE models—now with automatic—to the Focus Electric, there's a lot to take note of here.
The 2016 Ford Focus remains one of the more fuel-efficient models in the compact-car segment with its standard engine. The 2.0-liter direct-injection inline-4 and available 6-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, plus improved aerodynamics, and a host of other advancements, bring its EPA ratings of up to 27 mpg city, 40 highway, 31 combined.
Opt for the manual gearbox and the ratings are a bit lower—mainly perhaps because the 5-speed keeps a bit higher on the highway.
Yet, you can do even better. In versions with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine, EPA ratings rise slightly to 28/40/32 with the new 6-speed automatic, or 30/42/35 mpg with the 6-speed manual.
Go the performance route with the Ford Focus ST—which doesn't require premium fuel, like most other performance cars—and you'll still earn 22/31/25 mpg from the 252-hp EcoBoost turbocharged engine. If you're able to control your right foot and keep the revs down, that is.
The blisteringly quick Focus RS has been rated 19/25/21 mpg by the EPA. That's with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged monster under the hood, however.
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).