When the current-generation Ford Focus first hit the streets for the 2012 model year, it was heralded as stylish, refined and fun to drive. It's still all of those things, but as was magnified in our 6-car Compact-Sedan Comparison Test for 2014, an influx of stiffer competition makes the Ford Focus a tougher sell today.
The Focus has always been a bit pricier and smaller inside than segment stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, but for many buyers those are justifiable trade-offs for better performance and style. The real challenge for the Focus today is the new-for-2014 Mazda3, which, like the Focus, is also available as a visually appealing hatchback. Our testers found the Mazda3 at least as fun and stylish as the Focus, but also roomier, more comfortable and more pleasant around town. Six of the six KBB.com editors who conducted the comparison preferred the Mazda3 to the Ford Focus.
There are two bits of good news for fun-seeking compact car shoppers who'd rather buy a Ford Focus than a Mazda3: 1) Ford is updating the Focus for 2015, which should buoy its competitiveness. 2) Because of the strong competition and impending refresh, Ford has been offering very attractive lease deals and cash rebates on the 2014 Focus.
But this isn't a 2-car category. Informed in large part by two days of head-to-head driving, here's how today's Focus stacks up against five of its competitors:
Ford Focus vs. Honda Civic
The Focus is a boldly styled sport compact car compared to the Honda Civic, but that's about where the Ford's advantages end. The Honda Civic is a perennial small-car all-star, for reasons reaffirmed during our back-to-back drives.
Ford Focus vs. Kia Forte
The Kia Forte isn't as fun as the Focus, but it looks the part and offers more features for the money. The Kia also boasts a very attractive 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Ford Focus vs. Mazda Mazda3
They were clearly the two most fun-to-drive cars in our test, but just about everything the Focus did well, the Mazda3 did better. That's one reason the Mazda3 nabbed the top spot on this year's list of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000.
Ford Focus vs. Nissan Sentra
If the Ford Focus has an opposite in this group, it's the Nissan Sentra. The Sentra may be the least exciting of all these cars to drive, but it's roomier, more comfortable and more affordable than the Focus.
Ford Focus vs. Toyota Corolla
The Ford Focus and new-for-2014 Toyota Corolla are technically competitors in the compact-car category, but they're really different cars for different buyers. The Corolla is the easy and comfortable alternative to the sportier Focus.
How much should you pay for a new Ford Focus? How does its 5-Year Cost to Own stack up? If you're interested in exploring Ford's compact sedan further, our Ford Focus Editors' Page is your gateway to answers.
And if you're still looking around, check out the other five cars included in our 2014 Compact-Sedan Comparison Test.