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Focused On The Future

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On: Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 3:18PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Focused On The Future

Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's the rising cost of gas. Maybe it's people wanting to just be a little greener than they were ten years ago, or maybe it's all of the above and then some. Whatever the reasons are, the 'economy' class of cars is starting to take over their namesake.
Ford has redone the Focus for 2012 to set itself up to be the leader in not only entry level compacts, but it may just give some higher-end compact models something to think about. Starting with a new body that is 55 percent high-strength steel and boron, which is a record high for any vehicle Ford currently has on the market, the 2012 Focus will finally be the same magnificent car that has been available in Europe for the last few years. The Focus will get a single engine:  A direct-injection 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque (up 20 hp and 10 lb-ft over the outgoing 2011 Duratec). This little Ford packs a lot into a small package. 

Although you can get a traditional five- or six-speed manual, the big news with the new Focus is the trick new six-speed automatic transmission offered. Ford engineers have deemed it PowerShift. Co-developed with Getrag, PowerShift is still an automatic, the first dry-clutch setup in the United States. This helps improve fuel economy by minimizing power loss due to drivetrain losses commonly associated with normal hydraulic automatics.

The suspension that surrounds that transmission is a very advanced set-up, especially for an "economy" car. The struts up front combined with a rear multilink independent suspension, combined with a torque-vectoring system that applies torque to the wheel that needs it the most, using the individual brakes on each drive wheel to optimize the best use of physics through a turn.

As with any entry-level car, the option list is somewhat extensive, depending on how entry-level you'd like yours to be. The Focus will offer 11 different wheel choices on four different trim levels. Some of the high-end options in this car include MyFord Touch LED interface, a built in navigation system on an eight-inch display screen, blind-spot warning, self-parking electronics, and a backup camera. If you really want to go all out, you can opt for the "Super Fuel Economy" package which incorporates the car's engine undertray, active grille shutters, and hideaway windshield wipers, but goes a step further and adds flat wheel covers on low-resistance tires. With this very focused mindset, this car may just be the perfect decision for the buyer who isn't ready to give up the gas (engine) just yet.

Inside the cabin, those expecting the 'same old' Ford motif will be pleasantly surprised. The cockpit is a techo-wonderland of fun for the driver with digital readouts for virtually everything, big tach and speedo gauges out in front, as well as plenty of steering wheel controls for the Sync/MyTouch system (that controls most everything). The European flair of this car really starts to shine through. Behind the driver, you will find 44.8 cubic feet of cargo space if the rear seats are folded down, which is nearly as much as the cavernous Toyota Matrix. The new Focus also offers more shoulder, hip, and headroom than in the previous model, thanks to the car itself having a 1.3 inch longer wheelbase, being 3.0 inches longer, and 0.5 inches lower.

The Focus is not going to blow too many cars off the line, at least not until the peppy ST (formally SVT) model shows up in a few months with a turbocharged 1.6-liter direct-injection four cylinder that will make around 200 horsepower. But for now, owners will have to settle for 0-60 mph of about 7.9 seconds and a quarter mile time of about 16.0 seconds at 87 mph, which isn't terrible out of a 3000-pound car that averages mid-thirties in the mpg department, and comes in with a base price about a gallon of gas short of $17,000.

It seems Ford has done its homework when it redesigned the new Focus. It seems as though the Michigan folk have finally realized that they need to start thinking a little further up the road than whatever will turn a quick buck today, and that today's consumers are smarter, and more savvy than ever before. They want a car like the Focus that, although it may be cheap in price, it doesn't neglect the idea that every driver of any class of car always wants to the ... well, you know...

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