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THE FOCUS ON FORD

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 10, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The Ford Focus SES Coupe - inside, looking out

FEELS EUROPEAN, FEELS GREAT By Brian Kennedy I was not prepared to be this impressed. When the publisher of LA Car sent me an email to ask whether I'd like a Ford Focus SES Coupe to review, in truth, I couldn't even conjure up a picture of what the car looked like. But I said yes anyway, figuring it would be a good excuse for an adventure somewhere out of town. From the first moment I got into the car, though, everything changed. I noticed right away how big the two-door is inside. And how perfect the driving position seemed. That was just while I moved the car from in front of my house into the driveway. As the days went on, my pleasure in the car just became greater.

The SES Coupe sports smoked chrome trim Ford has everything right with this one. The interior looks upscale. The gauges are sporty. The dash is covered with a nice silver plastic. The seats are sporty and far nicer than they should be in a car that stickers just over $20 grand. Leather with broad stitching somewhat reminiscent of that on the Audi TT, the seats don't enfold you as much as they invite you to feel planted. Even around a rapid corner, you don't slide. And on a highway trip, they are more than comfortable. Under the hood, there's a 2.0-litre engine, which is plenty powerful enough to feel fun. There's no moment when you wish for more than what it provides, though there's the occasional moment when you wish the engine would come on-cam earlier than it does. You have to rev it to around 3,000 rpm to really feel its pull. That, by the way, is the same characteristic found in the Mustang GT I drive around, so perhaps it's part of Ford's way of doing things. In any case, the engine sounds great while returning over 30 real-world MPG, and all while achieving PZEV emissions standards. Further to that point, opening the hood reveals an engine that isn't crammed in so tight you can't see anything. There's actually space to work on things, should the need arise.

And smoked chrome 17-inch aluminum wheels And that, perhaps, is a question that potential buyers may have to ask. The Focus is a desirable car, feeling more like a European model than one from Japan. In fact, if it were badged as a small Audi, I doubt anyone would be the wiser as to its heritage. It thus represents a good choice for someone who isn't into a me-too Honda. Scratch that. It represents a great choice for anyone who wants a car that's a blast to drive. You buy this car for that and that alone if you love cars, and all other factors take a secondary place. But will it hold up over the long haul? Nothing in my week's driving gave me any reason to think it wouldn't. There are no rattles, no squeaks, no unidentifiable thumps from underneath. Just the whir of the engine and a bit of a rasp to the exhaust. The driving experience is easily as nice as in a car that you'd expect to pay a lot more money for. The exterior of the Focus SES features a boy-racer spoiler mounted above the rear window, which I found a little bit over the top given that I'm heading out of the youth demographic. But the wheels, 17" aluminum multi-spokers that I found quite attractive, make the exterior view more than suggest a car that's properly outfitted. The styling of the car overall is unique, too. It's not that I don't like it, though I'm not sure I love it. But you know what? It doesn't matter. You buy this car because of how it drives.

The shifter on the five-speed model I tested is a dream. The gear lever is right at hand, and the shifts are snick-snick perfect. Second to third almost shifts itself, and downshifts are accomplished with race-car precision. My only gripe, and it's the same one I had with the current-generation Mustang GT I had a year or so ago from Ford, is that the seatback returns to a goofy upright position when you tilt it forward to put something in the back. This forces you to adjust it every time you get in, assuming you're using the car as a commuter and thus stowing a briefcase back there each time you drive it to work. This is a minor complaint, but it really bugs me, and I wish Ford would force its seat engineers to cope with this on a daily basis by having them in a Focus for a year. They'd change things quickly thereafter. In short, this car is so good that, were I in the market for something, I'd buy it. That would mean that I would bypass the MINI that I've been pondering, and even forego replacing my 2000 Mustang GT with a newer one. I'm not sure whether this decision would be a long-term or short-term one, but it wouldn't matter. For a few thousand bucks depreciation a year, I'd feel like I was getting a car that should have stickered at thirty thou, rather than twenty. And if there's anything I like, it's a killer deal like that. By the way, I saw this model of car advertised in the paper this weekend. And with the factory cash back and other discounts, it was selling for just over $15,000. What a deal!

The standard SYNC system is iPod-integrated SUMMARY JUDGMENT The Focus SES Coupe could pass as a mini-Audi, particularly from the driver's vantage point. For more information about Ford products, go to www.ford.com

A palette of seven colors available with the Ambient Lighting option SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Ford Focus SES Coupe Price: $16,400 (base SE Coupe model) $17,865 (SES Coupe model) $20,615 (as tested) Standard on the SES Coupe: Lower front fascia with larger open area, integrated fog lamps, darkened two-bar chrome front grille and darkened chrome accents around the headlamps, high-mounted spoiler incorporated into the roof, premium-painted Dark Chrome 17-inch aluminum wheels, sport-tuned exhaust, 4.2 final drive ratio (automatic) for faster 0-60 mph times, and SYNC (fully integrated in-vehicle, voice-activated communications and entertainment system, with Bluetooth cell phones and digital media player interface). Options on test vehicle: Sirius Satellite Radio, "Moon and Tune" value package with sliding and tilting moonroof, leather heated bucket seats, and 6-CD MP3 Audiophile stereo, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Value package discount. EPA rated gas mileage (using the new 'real world' EPA standards) 24 city/35 highway (28 overall) Engine: Duratec 2.0 liter DOHC, 16-valve, PZEV-rated four-in-line with aluminum block and heads, and sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection Horsepower: 140 at 6000 rpm (136 at 4250 in PZEV states) Torque: 132 pound-feet at 4250 rpm (133 at 4250 in PZEV states) Transmission: Five-speed manual overdrive transaxle (four-speed automatic overdrive transaxle optional) Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Rack-and-pinion, power-assisted Suspension: Performance-tuned, independent MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar and gas-pressurized shocks in front; control blade independent multi-link, stabilizer bar and gas pressurized shocks in back. Brakes: Power front vented disc/rear drum (standard); Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) with Traction Control optional Dimensions Length: 175 inches Width: 67.9 inches Height: 58.6 inches Curb weight: 2588 pounds Safety: Driver and front passenger five-star rating; side impact three-star rating; rollover four-star rating. Performance: 0-60 mph: 8.0 seconds

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