Smart looks make for a smart buy

Conventional auto wisdom holds that Americans won't buy hatchbacks, but after spending some time in the 2014 Ford Focus Titanium, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps they will if they are good looking and offer spirited performance at a reasonable price. The 5-door Focus hatchback is all of those and more. 

Also: 2014 Compact Cars at a glance

This compact hatch offers seating for five adults in a pinch (four are far more comfortable for long hauls),and plenty of performance from its 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, which is fitted to a 6-speed dual clutch transmission, which offers the fuel economy of a conventional manual without having to use a clutch pedal. The shifts are smooth and seamless and with the optional $595 Titanium handling package, which includes 18-inch wheels and tires, there's a small toggle on the shifter to manually sequence through the gears in sport mode. Fuel economy is an impressive 27 city/37 highway for a combined average of 31 mpg.

While the hatchback offers 23.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat up, I found I had to drop on side of the 60/40 split rear seats in order to accommodate a set of golf clubs. The only other nit worth picking is the European-style outside rear view mirrors with secondary convex mirrors in the corners. It takes a while to figure just what's going on in the two different views presented.

2014 Compact SUVs at a glance 

The Titanium package tops the Focus range and features leather seats and a high quality interior with plenty of soft touch surfaces and metal-looking accents to give off an upscale aura. The latest generation of MyFord Driver Connect features some improvements to this touch-reliant control system, but still, a few more redundant knobs and switches would be appreciated in making the system easier to use.

Painted a deep red ruby metallic, a $395 option, the 2014 Ford Focus Titanium looks the part of a higher priced European sport compact. With a base price of $24,115, our test vehicle was equipped with such features as heated seats, dual zone climate control, backup camera, 4-wheel disc brakes and keyless start. Add in the optional paint, handling package and navigation and the total MSRP is $26,695, which compares favorably to sport hatchbacks like the Audi A3.

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