2009 Ford Focus Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2009 Ford Focus

New Car Test Drive
© 2009 NewCarTestDrive.com

The 2009 Ford Focus lineup features a sporty new coupe version. This comes on the heels of a reworking of the Ford Focus lineup for 2008. And all models benefit from the availability of electronic stability control for 2009.

Ford reworked the Focus for 2008, giving it new styling inside and out, while maintaining the same platform and basic size. The design shares a family look with Ford's other cars, distinguished by a two-bar version of the company's characteristic razor-blade grille.

The 2009 Focus comes in four-door sedan and two-door coupe body styles (hatchback and wagon models are not available).

Ford's Sync entertainment and communications system is available on the Focus. Developed with Microsoft, Sync provides a hands-free link to cell phones and MP3 players through a series of voice commands. This system recognizes your cell phone's address book. It can even read text messages to occupants through the stereo system.

The 2009 Ford Focus Coupe gains a more distinct identity from the sedan with its own front and rear bumper fascias, a dark chrome grille, and fog lights. A roof spoiler and 17-inch dark chrome aluminum wheels come on the Focus Coupe SES. Focus sedans and coupes with manual transmissions gain a few horsepower (to 143 hp) for 2009; and Focus Coupe SES automatics get quicker gearing. Yet no loss in fuel economy.

Inside, the Focus is aesthetically pleasing. It looks better than the pre-2008 model, with nicer graining on the plastics that continue to dominate the cockpit.

We found the Focus handles well. We experienced lots of road feel with little body lean in corners while driving an Focus SES with its a sportier suspension. That road feel can make the ride a bit harder than some might prefer, but it isn't harsh and we appreciated the handling response.

The Focus has decent power for most needs, but passing on a busy two-lane road requires some space. Fuel economy is quite good, with and EPA-rated 24 mpg in the city and up to 35 mpg on the highway.

Model Lineup

Ford Focus S sedan ($14,995); SE coupe and sedan ($16,180); SES coupe and sedan ($17,570); SEL sedan ($17,970)

Walk Around

The Ford Focus was restyled for 2008, giving it a Ford family look while not greatly changing dimensions. For 2009, the coupe benefits from further freshening.

The Focus front end is dominated by a two-bar version of the three-bar, razor-like grille that first appeared on the Fusion. The grille is flanked by headlights that wrap around to the sides and follow the curve of the hood toward the windshield.

The Focus sedan features a bright chrome grille, and the air intake below the bumper is divided into three rectangular sections, with space for black-bezeled fog lights at the extreme ends.

For 2009, the coupe gets its own face, with a darker chrome grille and a single, large opening beneath the bumper that narrows slightly toward the top. Fog lights are tunneled directly into the fascia on either side; above them, the fascia is cut away, almost like a step. It's all a bit more interesting to look at but doesn't reduce the bumper's visual mass.

The sedan's sides feature a chromed triangular applique at the back of each front fender that looks like tacked on ornamentation. This piece, which looks like an F on the driver's side, is the starting point for a pair of character lines that flow back. The bottom line leads to the rear wheel well, while the top line rises from front to rear and teams with a high tail to give the Focus the appearance of motion.

Here, the 2009 coupe drops the bright ornament and allows the character lines to flow more subtly and naturally from behind the curve of the front wheel arch. The 17-inch alloy wheels of the SES feature a dark, turbine-blade look that nicely complements the dark grille.

The rear of the coupe roofline stays almost as high as the sedan's, which makes it look a bit clunky on the SE, although this is relieved somewhat by the new roof spoiler on the SES. Both styles look best from the rear, where the simple angular shapes seem to work. The 2009 coupe adds a bit of blackout trim at the bottom center of the bumper fascia, but if anything this only seems to emphasize the bumper's mass.

Interior

Inside the Ford Focus is an aesthetically pleasing cockpit. The dashboard is dominated by a shiny plastic silver inset that covers the middle of the dash and leads into the center console. This is surrounded by black plastic top and bottom. There are no soft-touch materials here, but the graining looks nicer than it did in the previous-generation model. The center console is deep, though not especially wide.

On top of the dash is a hooded cutout that displays trip computer, radio, and, when ordered, Sync information. The instrument panel has two large gauges, the speedometer and tachometer, and two small gauges, the fuel gauge and water temperature gauge. With markings every 20 mph that light up with a turquoise hue, it can be hard to judge your speed at a glance.

Thanks to Sync, the center stack has more controls that you'd expect to find in an economy car. Along the top are buttons for 10 radio station presets. When Sync and Sirius satellite radio are ordered, drivers can store up to 60 stations: 20 FM, 10 AM and 30 Sirius.

Below the stereo presets are a group of controls that include the volume and tuning knobs, as well as six buttons around a four-way central pad, all of which control the Sync system. Or simply hit the steering wheel's voice control button and use voice commands. An easy-to-use set of climate controls is located below the stereo and Sync controls. We found these buttons easy to identify and reach.

At the base of the center stack is a nice rubberized tray. This area is important because it is where drivers keep phones and iPods when they use the Sync system. We found Sync to be genuinely useful and fairly easy to use. When an MP3 player is plugged in, Sync charges it and has access to the complete playlist. The driver can tell Sync to play a specific song, artist, or genre of music from his MP3 player. Sync will also stream MP3s wirelessly from a source like a phone/MP3 player enabled with Bluetooth technology. When a Bluetooth-enabled phone is in the car and paired to the system, Sync can access its phonebook. It can even play back incoming text messages through the speakers and allow the driver to respond with one of 15 predetermined messages, all while the driver keeps his or her hands on the wheel. Voice commands can be challenging at times, however. And in general, the system is a bit tricky to learn.

The front seats are comfortable, with plenty of head and leg room. Thanks to large mirrors and small rear pillars, the driver's seat affords a good view to all corners. The rear seat has decent room with shorter people up front, but leg room disappears as the seats are moved back for taller front seat occupants. Head room is decent in the sedan, but a bit lacking in the coupe.

The trunk is fairly large at 13.8 cubic feet. That's as big as or bigger than some midsize cars. The second row seats fold mostly flat to allow loading long, flat packages. The trunk lid uses struts, not large sickle-shaped hinges that can crush packages.

Driving Impressions

The Ford Focus has been known as a car that offers good handling since the 2000 model. This Focus, though different in appearance, is basically that same car, and it still handles well.

The Focus SES sedan we drove communicated a lot of road feel through the steering wheel. There is little lean in turns; after an initial shift, it takes a nice set. All models except the base S now benefit from a rear stabilizer bar for sharper handling. We have not driven the S model but would expect it to understeer more in corners.

Good road feel means the ride quality is a bit harder than some might prefer. But the Focus isn't a penalty box. It's not harsh over bumps.

Antilock brakes do not come standard, and we strongly recommend opting for them, especially with electronic stability control added to the package.

The 2.0-liter Duratec four-cylinder delivers good fuel economy. With the manual transmission the Focus produces 143 horsepower and gets an EPA-rated 24/35 mpg City/Highway. With the automatic, it rates 140 horsepower and 24/33 mpg.

The 2.0-liter is competitive with most engines in this class. It has decent power for most needs, but passing maneuvers will require plenty of space. The automatic transmission downshifts quickly to give you what power the engine has. For 2009, Coupe SES automatics come with a 4.2:1 final drive ratio (instead of the standard 3.3:1) for quicker off-the-line acceleration.

Cars in this class tend to be buzzy and allow a lot of ambient sound to enter the cockpit. While the engine does whine under heavy throttle, it is no louder than most competitors. Likewise, road noise and wind noise are noticeable, but not out of line for an economy car.

The redesigned Ford Focus offers decent handling and miserly fuel economy. The Ford Sync system offers the latest in entertainment and hands-free communications and technology.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Chicago. John F. Katz in Pennsylvania reported on changes to the 2009 coupe.

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