GATHERING LEAVES IN A FORD FOCUS
A Ford Focus rewards you for green behavior

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Ford Focus SEL (Zoran Segina for LACar)


By Zoran Segina
FORD FOCUS SEL

I’m looking at a duo of five-leaf plants on the dashboard of the 2017 Ford Focus SEL. They may resemble Cannabis Sativa genus, but they actually represent Anticipation and Speed in the Eco-Drive mode with more leaves the better. I lost two Anticipation leaves, but managed to keep all five Speed leaves. Page 175 of the 500-page manual (what is this, a spaceship!) explains that Anticipation shows how well I anticipate stopping in traffic, not engaging in over-acceleration and so on. Huh? In a thicket of LA traffic? Every traffic light I encounter is unsynchronized. Sitting in one traffic jam after another, what is there to anticipate?  In the rush hour jungle of Southern California traffic eco leaves do not grow.

Five Speed leaves are explainable.  In the last several days, I engaged in interesting freeway accelerations. Focus SEL comes only with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six speed automatic transmission. Its 160 horsepower is undoubtedly not the best in class, and for those craving neck-snapping acceleration there is turbocharged Focus SVT.  One can reach even deeper into the wallet for the new Focus RS model with 350 ponies under the hood. It is quite possible, however, to tear the asphalt with the modest-looking SEL if one keeps the engine revolutions in the proper range and engage in little anticipation of the openings in the traffic (although this may not be the Anticipation the Eco Mode designers had in mind.)  The Focus architecture is European-based, and the test SEL remains solid and responsive despite the passage of time.  The car’s proportions make it nimble, allowing the driver to change directions with ease. Keep the engine in the right torque range and Focus accelerates with authority. It is a model unchanged since 2012, but—its age notwithstanding—Focus SEL is still an exceptionally well-built car. This mid-level hatchback gobbles the freeway like its much more powerful and expensive automotive brethren—confirmed by a puzzled look of an aggressive BMW 540 driver heading South on the 405 and wondering how come the small Focus is somehow always ahead of him.

That combination of the performance, ability to drive in the Eco Mode, and more than reasonable sticker price, makes the Focus a favorite among everybody I asked about the car.  Jim likes it.  My mechanics are impressed by the looks and the price. The Tall Girl, who has an exceptionally discerning taste and cannot be swayed by brand names, finds Focus comfortable and starts to inquire how soon could she get one.

Ford Focus SEL (Zoran Segina for LACar)

Familiar design has been modernized.

The front fascia is split in two segments with black diamond grille on top and lower ventilation opening sitting on a black spoiler.  The upper section is adorned by protruding headlight assembly not only for the looks, but, undoubtedly, because of better visibility. Fog lights occupy the bottom. Two out of four creases on the hood extend to the A pillars. The side profile is enhanced by a crease stretching from the A pillars to the protruding taillights and another one just above the rocker panel.  The Focus’ beltline has always risen from the front to the rear. Rear view mirrors are heated and have nice two-tone finish with built-in blinkers. The mirrors have split screens of which the small convex one extends the view. Rear window has a spoiler above it. The gas tank on the right (to satisfy the German market) is cap-less, and its cover design cleverly follows the taillight contours. The roofline is accented by two black strips. The rear bumper has black accents on the lower part.

The test car rode on 17-inch sporty looking wheels wrapped in Conti Pro Contact 215/50 R 17 H rated tires.  The Focus has disc brakes on both axles.  Automatic transmission has a sport mode in which the driver upshifts or downshifts by pressing buttons on the shifter. I found the system to be more a bother than it’s worth.  An authoritative step on the gas pedal in D(rive) mode, and monitoring right RPMs, does the job equally well.

The driver looks at a dashboard with a tachometer on the left and speedometer on the right. The square electronic screen sitting between the two contains multi-function display showing average fuel, odometer, speed, trip times, distance travelled, and distance to empty.  The large center screen does not have satellite navigation, but there is Sirius satellite radio and connectivity controls. The audio system is controlled by a large button.  Selecting audio source (AM, FM or satellite radio) can be moved only forward, so one has to repeat the entire cycle to switch for FM to AM.  The area below houses two-zone climate control. There is connectivity galore with two USB ports on the center console, chargers for I-phone, and 12-volt plugs assuming the user knows what to connect and where.

Three-spoke steering wheel is contoured for better grip. Vehicle info and cruise controls (which require some digital dexterity to operate) are on the left, audio controls are on the right.

Ford Focus SEL (Zoran Segina for LACar)

In a car designed for world little details matter.

Large windshield visors protect glare from a steeply raked front windshield. The driver’s visor can be extended to provide better cover on the side.  The exploratory trip around the cabin shows that the costs savings measure—to keep the Focus SEL affordable—have been carefully thought out.  Front seat controls are mechanical, but there is sun/moon roof with an eyeglass holder next to the operating button. Switching rear view mirror from day to night mode is mechanical.  In the dark, opening the driver’s door activates a faint glow around the door handles, cup holders and side panels. It’s like being on a boat—red lights on port (left ) and greenish ones on starboard.  To keep the sailor between navigational beacons—quoting Jimmy Buffet. Not to mention that locating items in side pockets is that much easier. Center console cup holders are equipped with springs (to accommodate different size drinks,) and liners that can be pulled out to clean spills.  Underneath the fixed elbow rest—which provides support but does not interfere with dynamic driving—there is storage box with another USB port and 12-volt charger.

The rear seats can provide reasonable accommodation if the front occupants are willing to squeeze a bit. Should the driver demand comfort behind the wheel, entering the rear requires contortionists’ skills.  The C pillars and rear doors can hold bottles.  Rear seat backrests have space for maps and documents while smaller papers can be stuffed into the side pocket on the passenger backrest. Rear seats are split 40-60, and can be folded to increase the trunk area.  Unfortunately, a large speaker on the right limits the space. The rear hatch has conveniently placed handles to help with closing.

On a longer trip to north tip of the Santa Monica Bay, the firm suspension and low profile tires transmit road imperfections.  The Tall Girl begins to complain. The trip, however, awards me two fully developed Eco Green plants with a message: “Very Good” “Eco Champion.”  Perhaps the secret lies in gently driving my sweetie up and down the coast.

The Internet neophyte interacting with contemporary vehicle connectivity:

Heading back to town, I connect my cell phone to a USB charger. While charging my phone, this Focus is trying to interact with it. Do I wish to pair it with the car? No, and since I do not care about their electronic tete-a-tete, I firmly press the disable button. One minute later the satellite radio goes dead.  Although the Ford press fleet manager tried to assure me that the two events were unconnected, I still suspect that the Focus retaliated. Could Herbie’s mischievous spirit live in other car brands?

Levity aside, Ford Focus SEL, despite its age, is a solid contender in the mid-size segment. With the introduction of the 2019 model next year, a capable and well-priced Focus promises to be around for a long time.

A very sharp-looking Ford Focus instrument panel

For more information about Ford products, go to ford.com.

THE MAIN INGREDIENTS

Name of vehicle:
2017 Ford Focus SEL

Price:
$21,675.00 (base)
$23,240.00 (as tested)

EPA fuel economy rating:
26 City; 38 Highway

EPA vehicle size classification (based on actual interior volume)*:
Mid-Size

* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.

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