Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
2012 Ford Focus SE. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SEL hatchback

Manufacturer’s web site
Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Ford Focus

If you go to Ford’s website and you want to build a sporty version of the Focus hatch, you can go full bore and get the top-of-the-line Focus Titanium hatchback for between $25 and $30K (plus freight); but if you prefer a manual transmission and don’t mind giving up the dual-zone climate control, premium Sony audio system, and eight-inch touchscreen, you can have a similarly equipped Focus SE hatchback for about $25K.

Our sharp-looking Focus SE tester has a base price of $19,899 and adds “red candy metallic” paint ($300) that goes well with the optional 17-inch black-painted machined alloys ($650) and the blacked-out grille that is part of the Sport Package. That Sport Package also includes rear disc brakes, two-tone cloth front sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and metallic-look interior trim ($800). Our test car was also equipped with the SE Convenience Group 203A with voice-activated Sync telephone and audio, MyFord info touchscreen, 110-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, cruise control, and perimeter alarm ($1,150); and a Winter Package with heated front seats and power heated mirrors ($350) for a total options tab of $4,650. Total price of the car was just under $25,000 plus freight and taxes.

Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SE car test drives reviews ford
2012 Ford Focus SE. Click image to enlarge

(Note that vehicle pricing varies depending on current incentives. At the time of publishing, Ford of Canada was offering customer discounts of over $3,000 on the 2012 Focus.)

The SE, like all Focuses, comes equipped with a 160-hp 2.0L twin-cam four-cylinder engine, a perky but not overly powerful powerplant—0 to 100 km/h takes about 9.3 seconds with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, according to AJAC tests, and you can expect a slightly quicker time with the five-speed manual. The AJAC tests, which were done only with automatic transmissions, show that the Focus Hatchback’s acceleration time was not far behind competitors with bigger, less fuel efficient engines, like the 167-hp 2.5L Mazda3 Sport GT automatic (8.7 sec), 173-hp 2.4L Kia Forte5 auto (9.1 sec), 170-hp 2.5L VW Golf auto (9.2 sec) and 168-hp 2.4L Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback CVT (9.0 sec).

But the Focus SE hatchback’s primary competitor is probably the new Mazda3 Sport GS Sky with its new fuel-efficient 155-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. Like the Focus SE, it combines nimble handling with adequate but not exciting horsepower and excellent fuel economy. With the five-speed manual transmission, the Focus Hatchback is city-rated at 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg) and highway at 5.5 L/100 km (51 mpg). The thrifty Mazda3 Sport GS Sky six-speed manual is rated at 7.6/5.1 city/hwy. Another possible competitor is the Toyota Matrix with a 132-hp 1.8L four-cylinder and five-speed manual rated at 7.7/6.1 city/hwy.

In our opinion, the Focus’ manual transmission is a better fit for drivers who want to get the most out of the Focus hatchback. The optional six-speed “Powershift” twin-clutch gearbox, as we reported in previous test drives (in both the Focus and Fiesta), isn’t the quickest or smoothest manually shiftable dual-clutch transmission on the market, and testers have generally found it lacking. The SE’s standard manual five-speed has medium-length, notchy shifts, a well-positioned shift lever, and clean clutch engagement. First gear is geared a bit low, forcing the driver to change into second fairly quickly, but the rest of the gear ratios seems well spaced. However, many competitors now offer six-speed manual transmissions with a top gear designed for highway cruising and maximum fuel economy. The Focus’ engine spins at about 2,500 rpm in fifth gear at a steady 100 km/h, a bit higher than it could be. Even so, the 2.0L four is a smooth, quiet engine and it doesn’t feel or sound overworked at highway speeds and its highway fuel economy of 5.5 L/100 km is decent.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).