News Column

2008 Ford Focus

December 27, 2007

Ralph Gray

Ford Focus

The 2008 Ford Focus is a modern version of the business coupe of old. There's plenty of baggage space and nice accommodations for two. The Focus isn't just for business, though it's a fine interurban transporter for work or play.

The Focus is a bit more stylish than those business coupes of the 1940s, 1950s and later. They were built with one front seat and sometimes little back ones. Most of the car seemed to be trunk.

The Focus looks like a compact four-door sedan and its trunk isn't disproportionate. But, there are acres of trunk space in there. The rear seats are good for packages and short hauls.

It's up front where the driver lives that dispels any idea of Spartan accommodations at least in the top-of-the-line SES that was tested.

The 140 horsepower I-4 of 2L sports four more horsepower than last year, and it needs them all. The trek to 60 mph took a leisurely 10.5 seconds. Focus took off briskly and accelerated strongly through the four-speed automatic transmission to around 50 mph. It seemed to run out of steam there as it shifted to fourth. That may have caused the double-digit time.

The five-speed manual transmission provides 0-60 times that are a second or two faster. In either case, the Focus accelerated adeptly in stop-and-go traffic. Anti-lock brakes are optional (get them) and unfortunately drum rear brakes are standard with disks up front.

Ford says the ride is now "quiet and refined" with low noise, vibration and harshness, and that's true. In exchange, Focus gives up a lot of the sporty, responsive handling of its forebears. It still takes corners accurately and there's a nice on-center feel to the steering wheel.

Ford Focus interior 2008 Ford Focus

•Engines: 2L I-4

•Dimensions: 102.9" wheelbase; 175" length

•Base price: $14,695; As tested $20,200

•Fuel economy: 24/33 mpg

Seats are good-sized and can come heated and leather-clad with mild bolstering. The three-spoke steering wheel also holds cruise and audio controls. The center instrument panel console can catch the unwary shin of the tall. Side mirrors are nice and large.

The radio uses a knob for volume and one for tuning, continuing a breakthrough trend. Something called Ford Sync is there to replace the (optional) AM radio of the old business coupes. Focus is one of the first Ford vehicles to use Sync, which is a new way to use cell phones and media players inside a vehicle.

Sync lets you use mobile phones hands-free via Bluetooth and can connect up to six different phones to the car. There's also a voice-activated command for portable media players and USB storage devices. It's all high-resolution digital as well.

And it works well, but first you have to find this teenager...

Source: Hispanic (c) Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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