The 2017 Ford Focus has great road manners and scorching high-performance editions, but it's compromised by a small back seat.
Fuel-saving skinflints, daily commuters, tire-shredders with the budget for an insurance payment as high as their car note—the Ford Focus has something for all those drivers.
A family of sedans and hatchbacks, the Focus lineup offers up a huge range of personalities that change with every powertrain choice, with its body styles, and with its trim packages. It's extremely versatile at the order sheet—less so when you lock down on one of its more esoteric versions.
From price-focused S and SE models, to plusher SEL and Titanium versions, on to sportier ST and RS models, the Focus makes choice more than a talking point.
No matter which you pick, the Focus antes in smart handling and good fuel economy. There's even a Focus Electric, which we cover separately, if you're looking ahead to a new generation of cars.
We give the entire lineup a 6.3 out of 10, with many kudos (and some brickbats) for its more extreme versions. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Ford Focus styling and performance
The Focus is fresh off a light restyle in the 2015 model year, meant to keep it looking sleek until a 2018 redo. The new front end fits nicely with the existing profile; it's a calming hand applied to 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. That said, there's a lot of plastic inside, and the design cuts into usable space.
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 dual-clutch automatic. A turbocharged inline-3 displacing just 1.0 liters is the slowest, leanest model available, unless you opt for the plug-in Focus Electric. It comes with either a 6-speed automatic or manual.
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 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 Focus RS gets a 2.3-liter turbo-4 and 350 hp, along with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, and a loopy sense of fun generated by driver-selectable Track and Drift modes.
Like the Mazda 3 and VW Golf, the Focus has better handling than many cars in its class. Its electric steering is well-weighted, and its firm suspension doesn't crash over large bumps. On the performance front, we'd opt for the sweet ST over the slightly nuts RS. The former's a real-world performance option; the latter, a drift-happy track toy with confining seats, lots of torque steer, and handling that rewards late decisions and lots of exaggerated throttle.
Focus comfort, safety, and features
The Focus' interior no longer looks as sleek as it once did, now that the Honda Civic has redrawn the map for small-car interiors. The Focus has lots of plastic, most of it okay, but the design eats up interior space and makes it feel more cramped than it is. In front, there's just enough leg room and head room to fit even those over 6 feet, but head and leg room are skimpy in back.
The 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. 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. A rearview camera is standard.
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. Ford's latest Sync 3 infotainment system almost makes us forget the regrettable MyFord Touch setup. Sync 3 has 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.