From efficiency-minded models to the high-performance ST, the 2016 Ford Focus remains one of the best-driving small cars on the market.
The Ford Focus family of compact cars is the best-selling nameplate in the world, and it fits right into the U.S. market, too. With a wide choice of engines, a sporty design, and extremely well-tuned ride-and-handling attributes no matter which model in the lineup you head to, it's a compact that will entirely erase any undesirable small-car impressions.
For some, it may be unexpected in a vehicle lineup that includes a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine. The small engine is part of Ford's EcoBoost turbocharged lineup of engines, quite perky, and now offered with a 6-speed automatic transmission as well as a manual. The introduction of much-improved Sync 3 infotainment systems is the other major move to an otherwise carry-over lineup as the Focus heads into 2016—not counting the eagerly anticipated, all-wheel-drive Focus RS performance model expected to arrive in spring 2016.
Last year the Focus got a version of the ornate, wide-mouth grille that both the Fusion and Fiesta have received in their current versions. Otherwise there are relatively minor changes (like a restyled trunklid and new rear lamps), although we think that the front end fits nicely with the existing profile; the cleaner front end should lend a calming hand over a design that's been seen by some as a bit too swoopy. Inside, the Focus remains on the overstyled side, but the vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface sculpting give it a look and feel that's original and complex—a definite plus in a crowded class of look-alikes.
Most of the Focus lineup is powered by a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine. It provides plenty of pep for the Focus, whether fitted with the 5-speed manual or 6-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. And those who appreciate lean performance will appreciate the SE Sport Package, bringing a touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddle-shifters for PowerShift automatic versions.
Step up to the high-performance Focus ST, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, making 252 hp, and you can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. That model is paired exclusively to a 6-speed manual.
The Ford Focus meets or exceeds the level of refinement and cabin detailing in some luxury-brand small cars, and that's saying something. It's a top-notch interior, although its space-efficiency is a step behind in front due to a confining dash design. Ford has upgraded switchgear and trims and reconfigured the center console, though. In front or in back, there's just enough leg room and head room to fit even those over six feet. With the leather upholstery, there's no skimping on look and feel in back; although you won't get mid-size comfort.
The 2016 Ford Focus family provides impressive safety credentials—and that holds true whether you're weighing these compact sedans and hatchbacks up against others in the class, or versus smaller luxury models. There are available blind-spot monitors as well as lane-keeping as options, although you do need to ante up to one of the higher trim models to get them. And the Focus lineup lacks any top-tech forward-collision systems or automatic-braking technologies, which keeps it out of the running for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honor list.
Outward visibility in the Focus is quite good compared to that in other compact cars, although rearward vision can be tough in some instances. However a rearview camera is newly standard, and it's now included on all versions. You can also opt for an active park assist feature helps by actually steering the car into a parking space—allowing you to focus on things that might be in the way.
The Focus lineup includes models that meet needs from rather basic commuting, with base Focus S models, all the way up to top Titanium trims, which have navigation, Active Park Assist, and other extras and effectively play the role of premium sedan without a premium price tag. The Focus lineup now offers a heated steering wheel, too. Noteworthy across much of the lineup this year is the availability of new Sync 3 infotainment. Completely replacing the MyFord Touch touchscreen systems, Sync 3 brings a fully capacitive screen with pinching and swiping capability, a streamlined menu structure, smart-charging USB ports, and AppLink capability for on-screen operation of various smartphone apps. It's a very good new system, but still not without its faults.
The most efficient Focus can manage up to 30 mpg city, 42 highway, 35 combined with the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual. The least efficient? Predictably that's the super hot Focus RS that runs down to 19/25/22 mpg.