Monday, February 19, 2007

2007 Ford Focus

Ford makes lots of money selling trucks, but it's concentrating more on cars for 2005. So it's logical that the automaker's first 2005 model is a revamped version of its subcompact Focus.

The 2005 Focus line features a new top-line model, more power and revised styling, inside and out.

It's unfortunate that Americans don't get the all-new European 2005 Focus. The American version of the Focus gets the rather subdued styling of the new, large, flagship Ford Five Hundred sedan instead of its old, quirky "new edge" styling.

The new Focus look is hardly a radical change, but Ford bills it as being more "upscale" and "aspirational."

More Substantial Look
The Focus does have a cleaner, more substantial look, although it still doesn't begin to stand out in parking lots. There's a restyled nose, new hood and slightly larger grille—and recontoured front fenders merge into more conventional-looking headlights.

The rear end features new taillights and has been reshaped—partly to better accommodate U.S. license plates. The old trunk lid had a European design to handle longer, narrower European plates, leaving U.S. plates dangling awkwardly. Thanks, Ford, for small favors.

Revamped Interior
The most dramatic design departure is the revamped interior, partly because Ford is concentrating on making interiors look better. The all-new instrument panel is symmetrical; the driver and front passenger areas are divided by two rectangular climate control registers, hazard switch and a shallow center stack for the climate and audio control systems.

The interior still needs more flair, although improved materials are used for it.

Variety of Trim Levels
The Focus comes as a 2-door hatchback (ZX3), 4-door hatchback (ZX5) and 4-door sedan (ZX4)—and as a station wagon (ZXW). The entry trim series is S—followed by SE, SES and ST, which have more equipment and options. Options and option packages have been simplified to make ordering easier.

The 170-horsepower hot rod Focus SVT version has been dropped and replaced with the new top-line ZX4 ST sedan. That $17,705 version has performance that is almost comparable to that of the higher-strung SVT, which was too radical a trim level for most Focus buyers.

However, it's sort of strange that the only high-performance 2005 Focus is a sedan. (The SVT also was sold as a more sporty 2-door hatchback.) However, the ZX4 ST is more refined and costs about $1,400 less than the SVT. The lowest-cost Focus is the $13,005 ZX3 2-door hatchback.

Standard Equipment
The base S Focus has a fair number of standard items, including a manually height-adjustable driver's seat, console, split-folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD sound system, intermittent wipers, rear defroster and rear wiper-washer for the hatchback.

The SE adds considerably more items, including air conditioning, MP3 player and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote entry. The SES adds a tachometer, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, in-dash CD/MP3 player and wider (50-series vs. 60-series) tires on wider (16-inch vs. 15-inch) aluminum wheels.

In addition to the larger engine, the ST adds a sport suspension, traction control, anti-lock all-disc brakes and heated power mirrors.

Safety Options
Safety options include $400 anti-lock brakes for versions other than the ST and $350 head-and-torso front side airbags for all versions.

A power sunroof is a $625 option for the SE, SES and ST.

New Engine
Ford mainly dropped the SVT because it has replaced the Zetec 4-cylinder engine used in the Focus since its arrival here in 2000 with an economical 4-cylinder "Duratec" engine developed by Mazda, in which Ford has a controlling interest.

The new 2-liter 4-cylinder Duratec engine with 136 horsepower replaces the old base 2-liter 4-cylinder, which generated 110 and 130 horsepower.

The ZX4 ST gets a 2.3-liter Duratec 4-cylinder with 151 horsepower. It lets the ZX4 ST hit 60 mph in 7.9 seconds with its 5-speed manual gearbox, which is the only one offered for this version. The engine drones a bit during highway cruising, and a downshift to fourth gear is needed for the best 65-75 mph passing time.

Other Focus trim levels can be had with the manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The manual gearbox shifts easily and works with a nice clutch that's not a pain in stop-and-go traffic, although the extra torque of the ZX4 ST engine makes lots of shifting unnecessary.

The new 2-liter Focus engine calls for additional shifting. The $815 automatic transmission shifts crisply, but saps some power.

Good Ride and Handling
The front-drive Focus has a well-developed chassis with an all-independent suspension for good ride and handling. The ZX4 ST has the stiffer shock absorbers of the SVT, but softer spring rates for a more comfortable ride. However, the springs increase body sway a little.

All Focus versions are generally fun to drive, with the ZX4 ST being the most enjoyable with its more powerful engine, sport suspension and wider tires. It has quick, communicative steering, nimble handling, compliant ride and good braking, with nice pedal feel.

The Focus interior has noticeable wind noise at highway speeds, but easily reached controls and gauges that can be read at a glance. There's a good number of storage areas, with front door pockets that contain areas for beverage holders.

Pretty Roomy
The Focus is pretty roomy; four 6-footers fit, although legroom is tight behind a driver who moves his seat back halfway. Front seats are supportive, and there's excellent head room in front and rear compartments. Back doors should open wider, and entry to the rear is more difficult with the 2-door hatchback.

Cargo areas are large and have low openings. The sedan's trunk lid has strut-type hinges that don't eat into cargo room. The entire split-folding rear seat easily folds forward to significantly increase cargo space.

The hood also smoothly raises on struts to reveal easily reached fluid-filler areas. But the short manual hood prop is awkward to use when checking the engine oil level and such.

A Honda Civic is more refined and a Mazda3 is sportier, but the latest, well-developed Focus feels more grown up.
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