Ford Focus is First Produced
The Ford Focus is a compact car introduced to North America in 1999 for model year 2000, now in its second generation.
The North American models were initially co-developed with the international Focus which debuted at the 1998 Paris Motor Show and were eventually manufactured and sold worldwide, including South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.
First generation North American Focus models paralleled the international Focus using the C170 platform for sedan, hatchback (3 and 5-door), and wagon configurations - with an intermediate facelift for the 2005 model year.
Where second generation North American Focus models continue with the C170 platform beginning with model year 2008 — in sedan and coupe configurations — the international Focus introduced in 2005 employs the newer C1 platform for sedan, hatchback (3 and 5-door), and wagon configurations.
Focus production in North America had been shared between Wayne Stamping & Assembly in Wayne, Michigan (sedans and wagons) and Hermosillo Stamping & Assembly in Hermosillo, Mexico (hatchback models) before consolidation of all production at Wayne Assembly in 2006.
The Focus replaced the Ford Escort/Mercury Tracer and Ford Coutour/Mercury Mystique in North America and won North American Car of the Year award for 2000 (the Ford Focus (international) won European Car of the Year in 1999).
Together with their global siblings, Focus models rank as the 40th bestselling automotive nameplate worldwide, with over 5 million sold. While U.S. sales of the Focus peaked in 2000 at 286,000 vehicles,h the Wall Street Journal reported in May, 2009 an estimate that the Ford Focus lost as much as $1 billion a year.
1998: Focus makes its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland.
1999: North American Focus production begins at Wayne Assembly Plant in Michigan and Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico. Focus goes on sale in Europe.
2000: First Generation Focus goes on sale in North America.
2005: Second Generation North American, exterior and interior redesign.
2006: All North American Focus production is consolidated at Wayne Assembly.
2007: Final year for Focus hatchback and wagon in North American markets.
2010: Third Generation, Ford unveils new global version of the Focus at the North American International Auto Show.
Ford began marketing the Focus in October 1999 for model year 2000 initially as 3-door hatchback, 4-door sedan and 5-door wagon — with a 5-door hatchback debuting for model year 2002 model at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. The Focus became one of the ten best selling cars in America shortly after its introduction.
Focus models had been designed under the directorship of Richard Parry-Jones and were noted at introduction for their styling, class-leading rear suspension and tall interior packaging — as well as a stiff and light body structure, low-friction steering and suspension, and extensive safety and convenience features including driver and passenger airbags, available head-and-chest side air bags, rear ISOFIX child-safety seat attachments, safety belt system with pre-tensioners and load-limiting retractors, battery saver to automatically switch off lights after 10 minutes, interior theater dimming, and flip-up/flat-folding rear seat cushions.
The Focus' styling, often noted as polarizing, was marketed by Ford as New Edge design. The design language had been overseen by Jack Telnack and Claude Lobo and executed by Australian designer, John Doughty. In 2000, Karl Brauer, writing for Edmunds.com described the styling: "While ergonomically sound, the Focus' interior, like its exterior, displays much of Ford's New Edge philosophy that had editors split on loving or hating it." Sherri Koucky, writing for MachineDesign.com said the styling "mixes round shapes with funky geometric ones and adds sharp angles, somehow making them all work together."James R. Healey, writing for USA Today, called the styling a "collision of curves and lines."After the international Ford Focus, which shared styling with North American models, had won the prestigious European Car of the Year (1999), William Diem of the New York Times wrote, "To some extent, the prize vindicates Ford's risky design for the Focus, especially the New Edge styling -- a combination of straight lines, curves and planes."
Engineers for the Focus, including Richard Parry-Jones, developed a class-leading, space-saving independent multi-link rear suspension, marketed as Control Blade suspension, combining the packaging of a trailing arm, with the geometry of a double wishbone suspension at considerably lower cost.
Where many competitors in the compact class, or small family car (European) class, used the less expensive half-independent torsion beam suspension, Control Blade offered enhanced elasto-kinematic performance, i.e., strong body control, sharp and accurate steering regardless of the car's attitude, and an absorbent and quiet ride over bumps.
Unlike conventional multi-link suspension, Control Blade features a wide, simple, uniform thickness, pressed steel trailing arm with hub carrier — taking the place of two longitudinal locating rods, eliminating an expensive cast knuckle, and offering the same level of body control — with a lower center of gravity, reduced road noise, and at lower production cost. The long rear lateral arm controls toe, a pair of shorter front lateral arms, vertically above each other, control the camber, and the Control Blade reacts to brake and traction loads.
In testing the suspension in 2000, Motor Trend writer Jack Keebler noted "The Focus' average speed of 62.6 mph through our slalom makes it faster around the cones than a $62,000 Jaguar XJ8L and a $300,000 Bentley Continental. The impression is of having plenty of wheel travel for gobbling the larger stuff and big-car, full-frame isolation when encountering expansion joints and smaller road imperfections."Engineers also worked to improve the front suspension, removing sticking and friction (aka stiction) from each component.
Following the 1998 introduction of Control Blade suspension and popularization by the Focus, other manufacturers (e.g., Volkswagen with the Golf V) began offering multi-link design rear suspensions in the compact class, or small family car (European) class.
Focus engineers developed a new interior packaging for the car's class, with a computer-modeled interior, long wheelbase, tall doors, raised roofline, increased passenger and cargo volume, raised rear seating and raised H-point front seating providing higher sight lines and increased rear footroom. James R. Healey, writing for USA Today, said "Focus is bigger inside than cars much larger outside."[Ford later marketed the high H-point seating as Command Seating,[ noting that "the higher the H-Point, the higher you ride in the car, and in some cases, the more comfortable you feel behind the wheel".
The Ford Focus has been Ford's entry-level car since the start of the new millennium. This front-wheel-drive model is far from luxurious but nonetheless displays a surprising amount of character from behind the wheel. Its affordable price, expressive styling and availability in multiple body styles have all contributed to making this one of Ford's most popular cars worldwide.
Introduced for the 2000 model year, the Ford Focus was designed to be a "world car," meaning it has been sold around the world in the same basic form as the car sold in the United States. In order to appeal to European buyers, the Focus was tuned to provide responsive handling and communicative steering.
Since that time, Ford has gone on to introduce a second-generation Focus for European markets. America's Focus, however, has continued on without a full redesign. As such, it hasn't been a top-tier choice for an economy car in recent years. Ford did perform a significant refresh for the 2008 model, however, and it's been effective enough to keep the Focus a still viable choice for a new economy car, particularly for shoppers focused mainly on value.
As a used vehicle, the Ford Focus represents a solid pick, especially since its lower resale value compared to import-brand competitors typically translates to lower purchase prices.
Current Ford Focus
The Focus is currently available as a coupe and as a sedan. The four-door is available in S, SE, SES and SEL trim levels, while the coupe comes as the SE and SES. All Focus models are powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder that offers 140 horsepower. Cars sold in California-level emission states have a cleaner version of this engine that is PZEV-certified; it's good for 130 hp. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic offered as an option.
Within its cabin, the Focus offers a reasonably attractive environment. Still, the Focus' interior doesn't quite measure up to those offered by some of its competitors, both in terms of materials quality and design aesthetic. One unique feature sets the car apart: Ford's Sync system. Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, this system allows one to operate devices such as a cell phone, PDA and MP3 player via voice commands.
Though its handling isn't as finely honed as that of the segment's performance leaders, such as the Mazda 3, the Ford Focus offers a reasonably engaging driving experience. Additionally, fuel economy is excellent. Factor in its amenable price, and it becomes clear that the current Focus has much to offer in the area of value, if not refinement.
Used Ford Focus Models
Though it wasn't a full redesign in the traditional sense, the 2008 Ford Focus became more up-to-date thanks to a significant refresh. It was at this point that the coupe body style debuted and the Focus gained revised interior and exterior styling, the current engine and body-style lineups and additional safety equipment. Originally, the trim levels included base S, midgrade SE and sporty SES for both body styles. A year later, this was shelved in favor of the current format. Also, the coupe was given a slight exterior revision and stability control was added to the options list.
When the Ford Focus debuted for 2000, it was available as a two-door hatchback (ZX3) or as a sedan (ZX4) or wagon (ZXW). The base engine was an anemic SOHC 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated for 110 hp, or a preferable DOHC 2.0-liter engine called the Zetec that was good for 130 hp. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
These earlier Focus models went through a variety of changes, many of which are important to pay attention to if you're looking for a used Focus. In particular, Ford continually tinkered with the car's trim levels and availability of standard and optional features. From 2000-'04, the trim levels were typically base LX, midgrade SE and high-line ZTS. Antilock brakes and front-seat side airbags were optional equipment, and stability control was offered for a few years starting in 2001.
For 2002, Ford added a four-door hatchback (the "ZX5"). Starting in '04, the Focus gained an available 2.3-liter inline-4 that offered 145 hp and cleaner emissions. A 170-hp four-cylinder engine and a six-speed transmission were featured in the short-lived and rare Focus SVT hatchback. Coveted by young enthusiasts, the SVT Focus was offered as a hatchback from 2002-'04.
For 2005, the Focus got a more modest refresh that provided cosmetic changes on the outside, a revised control layout inside and an updated engine lineup that included either a 136-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 151 hp (sedan only). The trim levels were renamed S, SE and SES. The wagon and hatchback were dropped after the '07 model year.
Our editors were quite fond of the Ford Focus in its earlier years, and the car earned Editors' Most Wanted award designations from 2000-'03. Although we consider it a good buy on the used market, the Focus' reliability record hasn't been ideal, particularly regarding the 2000 models, which were plagued by recalls.
The 2010 Ford Focus ranks 20 out of 29 Affordable Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 53 published reviews and test drives of the Ford Focus, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.
The 2010 Ford Focus is worth a look for its comfortable front seats, entertainment features and innovative MyKey system. That said, if you’re looking for performance or cargo capacity, there are better options available.
Despite competing in a diverse class, the 2010 Ford Focus is still able to stand out for its popular Sync infotainment system and innovative safety features. It gets excellent fuel economy for the class and has an interior design that is generally well-received by reviewers. It’s a good choice for those looking for something to get them from point A to point B but who still want the option for a few extra bells and whistles to make things entertaining.