2008 Ford Focus
The Ford Focus
has consistently been a winner for Ford, competing well against compact sedans and coupes like the Honda Civic
, Mazda 3
and Toyota Corolla
. These economical front-wheel drive vehicles include a large amount of standard features for their price, great gas mileage and ‘a la carte’ options that allow buyers to pick and choose trimmings to suit their needs and lifestyles. The Focus, long overdue for a ground-up redo, has had some nips and tucks here and there for 2008, resulting in an update to its running parts and a completely redesigned exterior and interior. With a base price that’s lower than most of its Japanese rivals and technology options that are usually reserved for more high-end cars, the Focus stands out from the pack, hoping to continue its tradition of appealing to those looking for a comfortable, well-built entry-level car.
What's to Like
With only one interior and exterior measurement varying between the Focus Coupe and Sedan - the sedan has 1.6 inches more rear hip room - buyers won’t sacrifice space or comfort buying the body type they prefer. The low base price and three trim styles mean there’s something for everyone’s budget. The Sync system, a voice activated phone and audio integration package, is unmatched by competitors and the best we’ve seen in the industry.
What's Not to Like
The coupe’s heavy doors may be wide enough to allow comfortable access to the rear seats, but their heft makes them difficult to close. Hard plastics throughout the interior diminish the sporty styling of the cabin. The front headroom is a little tight for those over six feet tall.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Ford’s entry-level compact car doesn’t disappoint on the road. The Focus displays a fine balance of practical drivability and zippy excitement. Power is dispersed most effectively around 3,000 rpm and, while the Focus is more than capable around town, it also feels dynamic at freeway speeds. Even pushing the engine hard, the Focus never seems phased, remaining responsive as the needle dances around the tachometer. Ford paid special attention to reducing cabin noise and fine-tuning the suspension on this 2008 model, two major complaints from 2007’s showing. New dampers do a fine job of softening out bumps on the road and extra insulation reduces noise significantly. As with most front-wheel drive cars, handling feels slightly vague when participating in more vigorous driving, but the SE and SES have an additional rear stabilizer bar to accompany the one in the front, making corners much more manageable.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Focus is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four DOHC engine that kicks out 140 horsepower, 4 more hp than the 2007 model, and 136 lb-ft of torque. The horsepower increase keeps the Focus toe-to-toe with the class averages, but still falls short to some more powerful competitors like the Mazda 3
. The Focus comes equipped with a standard 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic, an $815 extra.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
For 2008, the Focus has beefed up its already robust standard features list, offering for the first time a tire pressure monitoring system, auxiliary input jack, air conditioning and front, side and curtain airbags for both the driver and passenger. Keeping in line with rivals, anti-lock brakes and traction control are an additional $295 for all models. Features available only on the SE and SES trims include standard power doors, windows and side mirrors, as well as keyless entry, and an optional moonroof ($625), heated front seats ($115), leather seats ($695), cruise control ($215) and the Audiophile sound system with a 6 disc CD/MP3 player, 4 speakers and 8-inch subwoofer ($645). 15-inch wheels come standard on the S and SE, but the SES sports 16s, which are available as an upgrade for the SE as well.
Key Technology Evaluation
2008 brings the debut of the hotly anticipated, Microsoft-created Sync system. Available for $395 in the SE and SES trims, Sync allows you to connect your music player through a center stack-located USB port and then control it via steering wheel buttons or state-of-the-art voice recognition. Not only will you be able to access music, podcasts and playlists using simple voice commands, but Sync will also connect to your phone’s Bluetooth, transferring your phonebook and indexing your contact list. The system sets a new standard for voice recognition systems at this price level, and puts to shame systems in far more expensive vehicles.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
With gas prices climbing daily, the SULEV rated Focus gets a relieving 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with an automatic and 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with a manual. The numbers are on par with other compact cars in the class.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The interior has been completely overhauled for the 2008 Focus, the dated instrument panel and center stack have been drastically freshened up. Competitors’ interiors like the Honda Civic
’s might be a little more polished and exciting, but the Focus’ edgy bright blue lighting dramatically livens up the interior at night. Steering wheel mounted controls for audio and cruise control and 60/40 folding rear seats bring more functionality into the driving experience.
The newly reworked Focus borrows exterior styling cues from a variety of other Ford products, like the taillights from the Escape
and the dual-bar chrome grille from the Fusion
. Unfortunately, the boxier design falls a little flat compared to sportier-looking competitors like the Chevrolet Cobalt
. The SES trim works a little more enthusiasm out of the design with a rear spoiler and 16-inch wheels, and the optional two-door coupe body, a first for the Focus, makes it more competitive in its class, but we’re still going to miss the hatchback version that was dropped for 2008.
Market Segment and Pricing
The Focus retains a narrow price range within its two body styles and three trims. The coupe starts at $14,395, $15,225 and $16,570 for the S, SE and SES, while the same trims for the sedan are $14,755, $15,585 and $16,925. These are on the low end of a class that sees numbers from $13,625 for the Hyundai Elantra GLS
to over $19,000 for the Honda Civic EX-L
. Other class competition comes from the Nissan Sentra
, Toyota Corolla
, Saturn Astra
, Chevrolet Cobalt
, Kia Spectra
, Mazda 3
and Pontiac G5
What We Think
Redesigned to remain a tenacious rival within this crowded class, Ford pulls together a modern and well-designed entrant in the Focus. Its tech advancements will surely pull in some buyers who love the idea of a hands-free interface, and its consistent drivability will make daily living with the Focus an easy affair.