(All photos: Bill Griffith/Boston.com)
Ford's Focus is one car I'm always happy to drive. It's also a model that seems to evolve nicely instead of being reinvented every few years. That said, it remains a competitive player in the small-car category with good things still to come.
Today's test car is the 2009 Ford Focus SES coupe. This is the second year for the coupe version and this one had a nice combination of power, drivability and fuel economy.
An all-electric Focus is scheduled to join the lineup next year. To a generation attuned to plugging in iPhones and iPods to recharge each night, plugging in a zero emissions vehicle with a 100-mile range could be attractive.
Meanwhile, our current SES configuration is spiffed up with nicely styled 17-inch alloy wheels, upgraded tires, a firmer suspension, sports exhaust system, fog lights and cruise control to go with Ford's SYNC communications system.
All told, it's a nice package that fits a niche between econobox and all-out sports sedan. The car is nimble, handles well and there's enough oomph to justify the satisfying exhaust tone, and best of all still can deliver 30 miles per gallon in overall driving and 35-plus on the highway.
The SES coupe package also comes with what Ford calls a "sporty roof-line spoiler;" however, it really looks like a new employee on the assembly line mistakenly affixed it to the roof instead of the trunk.
The base price for a Focus S sedan is $15,520; our SES coupe came in at $20,615. The base price is $17,570. Add $745 for ABS and stability control, $795 for a moon 'n tune package (after a $475 discount) that adds a moon roof and upgraded audio system, and $810 for heated leather seats.
That's a bit steep, but it follows the industry trend of adding features to small cars.
And the Focus, especially the coupe, is a small car. It's listed as a five-passenger, but the rear seat isn't for full-size people. This is a one- or two-person car with lots of space for "stuff." Besides the rear seat/shelf, there's a commodious trunk.
The 2.0-liter four-banger puts out 140 horsepower and 136 lb.-ft. of torque. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but it moves the 2,588-pound Focus along quite nicely.
We were following a slightly older Focus sedan along a hilly back road in the Connecticut countryside over the July 4th weekend. The temptation was there to downshift and pass, just to show how the Focus breed had evolved. For the record, we didn't cross that double yellow, the other driver soon turned off, and we enjoyed taking the SES through the "S" curves.
The first Focus we tested was an early ZX3 hatchback back at the turn of the century. That was a fun ride, and so is the present SES.
Among the gauges is an "up" arrow, reminding you to up-shift for economy — a feature I first saw on a '60-something VW Beetle. That's part of an instrument panel with nicely contrasting red and blue/green illumination.
We missed not having a compass and/or outside temperature readout. Also, the side mirrors didn't fold in for self-preservation in tight parking areas.
The interior treatment was far from luxurious and that plastic world was saved by the heated leather seats, a touch which saves the cabin from strictly plebeian status. Color in the form of Ford's adjustable interior lighting also helps in that regard, and it gets interesting when you see a bottle of clear water change color as you cycle the lights in the base of the cup-holders through the available hues.
A leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls was welcome. As was the onboard computer and mileage meter.
Ford is hoping both the SE and SES coupes attract more "Millennials," those people born between 1980 and 1995, to its showrooms. "Eleven thousand Millennials reach driving age every day," said Sam De La Garza, Focus marketing manager.
It's a movement that already is underway with its own fan club — www.focusfanatics.com — a group that is, shall we say, focused, on the European Focus, which is scheduled to come to the United States in 2010.
Until then, the present Focus will continue doing what it's done right along; namely, sell well and please customers and look to the future.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee