By KBB.com Editors
While trucks and SUVs remain the heart of its volume and profits, Ford is currently moving to reassert its presence in the car-based side of the market. To that end, its smallest and most fuel-efficient U.S. entry, the Focus, receives a major revamp for 2008 that enhances its appearance, dynamics, safety and features while helping it shed roughly 30 pounds in the process. Although basic platform engineering carries over, new sheetmetal and cabin appointments make a far bolder visual statement that's suitably complemented by an improved roster of standard equipment in all three trim levels: S, SE and SES. The chassis and powertrain also receive some functional massaging aimed at raising the appeal of this affordable and efficient car as it faces off against prime competitors, such as the Chevrolet Cobalt, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.You'll Like This Car If...
A new look, more refined handling and additional features make the Focus an even more appealing choice for drivers seeking a value-oriented American compact. However, it's the new SYNC system that really sets it apart from all of its competitors, particularly for those who use their cars as mobile offices or entertainment centers.You May Not Like This Car If...
Its serious helping of 2008 upgrades aside, the Focus remains based on a fairly veteran platform that offers potential buyers neither a performance nor a hybrid variant. You'll also have to pay extra for anti-lock brakes, and stability control is still not available on any model.What's New for 2008
Comprehensive restyling and retuning give the Focus a more contemporary flair and even better handling. The hatchbacks and wagon are discontinued, but the sedan is joined by a new coupe. All now feature air conditioning, tilt steering column and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, plus SYNC (standard on SES) that adds in-car connectivity for cell phones and personal media players.Driving It Driving Impressions
Handling has always been a Focus strong suit, and the comprehensive revamp of its fully independent suspension, coupled with a stiffer body structure, adds even more poise and control in that department. A rear anti-roll bar, Euro-style chassis tuning and larger 16-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in premium Pirelli tires make the SES the standout player as the roads get twistier, but all of those items are also included in the SE Deluxe Package. Larger, lighter front disc and rear drum brakes improve stopping power, and all models also offer an available anti-lock system with traction control. Improved sound proofing and better overall isolation help cut cabin noise levels by eight percent, helped by a new acoustic windshield and thicker side glass. While not the quickest car in its class, the 2008 Focus does deliver decent gas mileage, which should please those who favor efficiency over exhilaration.Favorite Features
SYNC In-car Communications System
Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, this state-of-the-art in-car hands-free cell phone and personal media player interface is remarkably functional and amazingly affordable at $395.
Optional Leather Upholstery
Available on SES models, with or without heated front bucket seats, it adds a touch of class to the interior of either the coupe or sedan.
Inside, the Focus gains functionality and boasts upgraded materials. The old "organic" dash contouring gives way to a more traditional---and more attractive---design, netting improved storage spaces, better-positioned controls and attractive ice-blue backlighting. Gauge faces are black on the S and white on SE and SES models, and a dash-top display graces the interior of all models. The large central accent panel, tan or black on S and SE, has an upscale brushed-nickel finish on the SES. Redesigned bucket seats provide more comfort and support up front, while the 60/40-split rear bench can handle two average-sized adults or three kids and adds utility to the 13.8 cubic-foot trunk.Exterior
The restyled Focus borrows design cues from the more angular Edge and Fusion, gaining crisply-chiseled character lines and a chrome bar grille that help align it more closely with other Ford vehicles. Base S models come with 15-inch steel wheels; the SE gets alloy rims of the same size while SES variants move up to 16-inchers. Chrome faux side vents add a bit of bling to the front quarter panels of SE/SES models and the top-line Focus also swaps black door handles and side mirrors for body-color alternatives and gets a subtle rear decklid spoiler.Notable Standard Equipment
Even the Focus S boasts a respectable basic roster of features, including new high-efficiency air conditioning, a tilt steering column, dual 12-volt powerpoints and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. It also includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary audio input. Both SE and SES add power windows/locks/mirrors, keyless remote, driver information center and unique alloy wheels (15-inch on SE and 16-inch on SES). Moving up to the SES adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control switchgear, upgraded interior trim, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, fog lamps and the slick SYNC in-car communications system.Notable Optional Equipment
All models can be fitted with anti-lock brakes and traction control, an electrochromic rearview mirror---with or without Homelink and compass---remote starting for cars with automatic transmission and SIRIUS Satellite Radio. The SE offers the Driver's Group Package (cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, electrochromic rear-view mirror) and Deluxe Package (SES-level suspension/wheel/tire and interior trim upgrades, chrome door handles/mirror caps/exhaust tip). Premium (80-watt) and Audiophile (290-watt) sound system upgrades---each with a six-disc CD changer---a power moonroof and factory-installed ambient interior lighting are SE and SES options. SE buyers also can add SYNC while the SES alone offers leather upholstery.Under the Hood
The Focus offers two variations on the existing 2.0-liter twin-cam Duratec 20 four-cylinder engine. In Federal form, an improved intake manifold and cooling system help bump output from 132 to 140 horsepower---whether it's paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The "California-spec" engine, mandated in five states, makes only 132 horsepower but qualifies for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) status. While both engines get similar fuel economy numbers in the city, the manual gearbox raises the official highway number from 33 to 35 mpg. Choosing to shift for yourself also results in a bit more spirited acceleration; but even with the automatic, any Focus can cope with in-town traffic and freeway on-ramps.
2.0-liter in-line 4
140 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
136 lb-ft of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/35 (manual), 24/33 (automatic)
2.0-liter in-line 4
132 horsepower @ 6000 rpm (PZEV)
133 lb-ft of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 (manual), 24/33 (automatic)
Ford's aggressive pricing schedule has both the Focus S coupe and sedan with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of less than $15,000, including destination fees. Even a fully-loaded SES four-door will just touch the $22,000 mark. Ford's efforts at improving both the features and driving experience have helped bolster residual values across the entire Focus line. However, while it's now virtually equal to a Chevrolet Cobalt in that department, the Focus is still not on par with Japanese foes, such as the Honda Civic, Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla. In the long run, expect SE and SES models to do slightly better than the S when it comes time to sell or trade.