2012 Ford Focus Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 3.6 Comfort 3.5 Styling 3.9 Value 3.2

Editor's Overview

With a design strongly influenced by Ford of Europe, the new-for-2012 Ford Focus offers the kind of engaging driving dynamics American drivers have long envied. That Euro influence also means Focus buyers can choose from premium options like an automatic parking system and keyless entry with push-button start...for a price, of course.

You'll Like The 2012 Ford Focus If...

Buyers seeking a compact vehicle with class-leading character and technology – from MyFord Touch infotainment and Active Park Assist to corner-taming torque-vectoring control and a PowerShift dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission – will find plenty to admire in the 2012 Ford Focus line.

You May Not Like The 2012 Ford Focus If...

Some more conservative buyers may deem its new looks a bit too radical, but the biggest hurdle the 2012 Focus could face is one of cost. Those willing to forgo a few of the latest tech touches for a lower price point are apt to see better perceived value in alternatives like the new Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte.

What's New

A comprehensive makeover raises an already popular player in its segment to a position of prominence and possible dominance thanks to the addition of a new hatchback body style, greatly-expanded/upgraded feature set and a range-topping Titanium trim level. And while the 2012 Ford Focus Electric marks the Blue Oval’s first crack at a mainstream electric car, they succeeded in producing a relatively affordable gas-free vehicle that drives, feels and looks like a conventional car.

Interior Features

Slightly roomier but with a far more upscale look and feel than its predecessor, the 2012 Focus cabin sets off a decidedly premium flavor with loads of soft-touch surfaces and an abundance of effectively integrated sound-attenuation materials. Legible instrumentation and well positioned controls in all versions are complemented by an 8.0-inch full-color touch screen that replaces the normal multifunction display on SEL/Titanium models fitted with the primo MyFord Touch infotainment/navigation system. The rear seat is scaled for 2 mid-sized adults but decently padded for three kids. Folding the standard/optional 60/40 rear seatbacks to a semi-flat position adds utility to the Sedan's 13.2 cubic feet conventional trunk and raises capacity of the Hatchback's rear bay from 23.8 to 44.8 cubic feet.

Exterior Features

Both the Focus Sedan and Hatchback display the latest evolution of Ford's "kinetic design" language that is both more aggressive and more aerodynamic. While their overall footprints remains similar to the 2011 Sedan, a slightly lower roofline, longer wheelbase and substantially wider front/rear track dimensions give the 2012 Focus lineup a more planted appearance. Effectively accenting the new look are stylized headlight/taillight treatments, with the Focus EV sharing most styling cues with its gasoline-dependent counterpart, apart from the charge port prominently mounted on the driver’s side front fender. Wheel selections range from 15-inch steel wheels on the Focus S Sedan to 17-inch aluminum rims on Titanium and Electric variants – and the availability of an 18-inch upgrade that also brings 235/40 performance tires and a sport-tuned suspension.

Driving Impressions

Built around a stiffer, stronger unit body structure underpinned by a comprehensively retuned and Euro-flavored suspension that brings better damping and roll control plus quick, well-weighted electrically assisted power steering the 2012 Ford Focus feels comfortable, confident and impressively responsive to driver inputs under virtually all conditions. Although stepping up in trim level and the accompanying wheel/tire enhancements does impact ride compliance – particularly with the 18-inch rims and 40-series tires available on Titanium models – Ford has done an excellent job of bringing out the best in this component set regardless of configuration. When the going gets twisty, the new Focus bolsters its standard AdvanceTrak stability control with a new torque vectoring control system that acts like a limited-slip differential and helps the car accelerate out of corners more adroitly. Despite a soft-ish pedal, the well-modulated anti-lock brakes (disc/drum in S/SE, disc/disc in SLE/Titanium) deliver solid, drama-free stops.

Pricing Notes

Even more than it did with the launch of its subcompact Fiesta, Ford intends to aggressively position the 2012 Focus as a premium offering within today's compact ranks based on its impressive roster of advanced design elements and available upgrades. Although the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the new Focus S and high-volume SE Sedan models remains at virtual 2011 levels – under $17,000 and $18,000 respectively – the SEL Sedan starts near $21,000 while the Titanium 4-door and hatch variants open in a loftier $23,000-$23,500 window and can be optioned to near $27,000 – a figure that will definitely put Ford's pricing/packaging philosophy to the ultimate real-world test. The 2012 Focus Electric carries a rather lofty sticker price of just under $40,000, but qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. While kbb.com has yet to rate projected resale percentages on the 2012 Focus, this new and comprehensively improved package is almost certain to close the residual value gap with the Honda Civic and Mazda Mazda3, which currently lead this extremely price-sensitive segment in that critical arena.

Notable Equipment

Even the base Focus S Sedan gets an impressive complement of power assists, air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering column, keyless remote entry, 4-speaker radio, AdvanceTrac stability control, front disc/rear drum brakes and six airbags. Key SE-level gains include power rear windows, a trip computer, programmable MyKey, foglamps and 16-inch wheel/tires while the SEL adds the 6-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, dual-zone climate control, SYNC, upgraded audio, cruise control, LED ambient lighting, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, 4-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch alloy wheels. The range-topping Titanium also nets push-button starting, MyFord Touch with 10-speaker Sony HD sound system, Sirius Satellite Radio (with six months free), sport seats, sport suspension, 17-inch wheel/tire package and more.

Notable Options

The new Focus offers a wide selection of upgrades linked to the model hierarchy. At S level, the 6-speed dual-clutch autoshifter and remote starting dominate an intentionally modest list, but the SE Sedan offers that plus a power moonroof, voice-activated navigation, Super Fuel Economy/Interior/Winter/Sport Packages – all but the SFE also available on SE hatches – a MyFord Driver Connect technology/SYNC Package, leather upholstery and more. Extras for the SEL and Titanium versions include leather as well as voice-activated navigation and the Technology Package (Active Park Assist, front/rear sensors, rearview camera), plus the premium MyFord Touch telematics/infotainment system – a Titanium standard. Going Titanium also permits a dedicated sport suspension with 18-inch wheels with performance tires. To help simplify the ordering process, leather seating is the sole option on the Focus Electric’s menu.

Favorite Features


Optional on Focus SEL models and standard on Titanium trim levels, Ford's top-line infotainment/telematics package is based on an even more advanced and expansive application of the automaker's acclaimed SYNC voice-command system and includes a premium 10-speaker Sony sound system, with HD Radio, media hub, in-car Wi-Fi access and more.


Available on autoshifted SE models, the SFE Package includes auto-articulated, aero-optimizing grille shutters – an unseen mileage-enhancing element also found on most other Focus models fitted with the PowerShift transmission – as well as low-rolling resistance tires, wind-cheating wheel covers and a tasteful rear spoiler that collectively bring the car's projected EPA highway figure up to 40 mpg.

Under the Hood

All 2012 Focus models are fitted with a new, naturally aspirated 2.0-liter in-line four that features gasoline direct fuel-injection and Ford's twin-independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). This smooth free-revver makes 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque – 20 more horsepower and 10 additional torque than its 2011 predecessor – and can be paired with a 5-speed manual or a new 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. On SE with Sport Package/SEL/Titanium models, the automated-manual cog changer adds SelectShift capability via a rocker switch on the shift lever. Formal EPA figures are pending, but Ford anticipates about 10 percent better overall fuel economy and autoshifted SE Sedans fitted with the mileage-maxing SFE Package are projected to net 40 mpg on the highway. Motivating the Focus Electric is a 143-horsepower permanent magnet motor powered by a 23 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which returns a remarkable 105 mpg equivalency combined rating from the EPA.

2.0-liter inline-4

160 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm

146 lb-ft of torque @ 4,450 rpm

EPA City/highway fuel economy: 26/36 mpg (manual), 28/38 mpg (automatic), 27/37 mpg (SelectShift automatic), 28/40 (SFE trim, automatic)

Synchronous electric motor/generator

24kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack

107kW/143 horsepower

184 lb-ft of torque

Projected per-charge range: 76 miles

EPA city/highway fuel economy equivalent: 110/99 MPGe

Editors' Notes

The 2012 Ford Focus gets a clean-sheet recasting that brings a new look, enhanced quality, more features, and upgraded options in a slightly larger but far more dynamic package. Based on Ford's global C-platform, this compact front-driver features an international design pedigree and introduces numerous class-exclusive technologies, including a host of premium-level creature comforts. Available as a 4-door sedan and a new 5-door hatchback, the 2012 Focus is also offered as a pure battery-electric vehicle with a 76-mile range and an impressive 110 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) city rating. While the new Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic are its key rivals, formidable challenges will also come from the Mazda3, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla as well as newly redesigned and very impressive Hyundai Elantra and its Kia Forte cousin.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Ford Focus Owner Reviews

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Happy with my sporty hatchback!

2012 Ford Focus SE

I really love my hatchback! It feels fun and sporty without an expensive price tag. I've had a few issues with a stuttering transmission, but that tends to show up in only very specific conditions, and usually when I'm close to needing an oil change. The car accelerates really well, which was a welcome change from my last car. The Aux cable was hard to find, but can be located in the glove box (I have a thin cord that allows the box to stay securely closed, while plugged in). A weird thing that I like is the lack of a gas cap. It's not a feature I would have looked for in a car, but has been such a nice thing to not have to worry about losing or closing tightly enough as to not cause any issues. I get great gas mileage, which was really important to me when making the decision to purchase. Even with my stop and go commute, I've been really pleased (around 30 miles/gallon). This is my first hatchback, and I was pleased with the amount of trunk space. With the backseat up, it's a little small, but the back seats are incredibly easy to put down (just the push of a button). If it helps, I was able to fit a 6ft noble fir Christmas tree in the car with the seats down! My car came with a specifically sporty looking wheel package which is one of my favorite features. (I've seen my exact car with different wheels and don't think it looks as nice.) The exterior aesthetic was the first thing that drew me to the car dealership, but after the test ride I was convinced. I've owned it for almost a year and am still very pleased with my purchase!

- Mckenzie M

The 2012 Ford Focus is a great first car with excellent gas mileage.

2012 Ford Focus SE

I have a 2012 Ford Focus. I bought this car from the dealer in 2016 as a certified pre-used vehicle. My car is first and foremost great on gas. I get about 29 MPG average and the most I have ever paid to fill up my tank is $28. Very economical in that aspect. My transmission is not the best. The focuses comes with a power shift transmission that I believe allows the car to act like a stick even tho it's automatic. It causes the transmission to jerk or shake when changing gears. I have put about 100,000 miles on the car by now and I still haven't had any problems with maintenance or repairs on the transmission. The detailing on the car is a little sloppy. My seals come off from time to time but I just put them back on. I have not had to change the battery or brakes in my car yet so as far as those regular maintenance goes, it's been very fair. The heat or air in the car doesn't blow super hard. I am not sure why but I would need to check it out to find out why. One of the most annoying things about my car is the SYNC media system because when I try to play music, the media system will not play music if everyone in the car does not have on their seatbelts. I am not sure how to turn off that feature. As far as just needing something reliable, good on gas, regular maintenance is fair then this would be a great car for you.

- Tiffany T

I like everything about my 2012 ford focus it doesn't really have much problems

2012 Ford Focus SE

The 2012 Focus outperforms its predecessor in just about every way. While 160 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque out of a 2.0-liter I-4 might not sound like much to the enthusiast, the reality is that the new four-banger provides plenty of get-up-and-go, allowing a 2012 Focus Titanium sedan we tested to take 8.3 seconds for the 0-60 mph run. The Focus is an adept handler too, especially when the sport suspension is selected on the options list. Braking is above-average for the segment, slowing the Focus to a stop from 60 mph in just 110 feet. Like many Fords, the Focus is loaded with safety equipment. All 2012 Focus sedans and hatchbacks come standard with traction and stability control (AdvanceTrac with ESC), ABS (anti-lock braking system), TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), and LATCH systems. The Focus also comes with dual-stage first-row airbags, side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags. Ford also points out that 55 percent of the Focus' body shell is built from high-strength steels, including boron steel, which Ford says makes the car safer and lighter.

- chad W

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