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

The 8-inch “MyFord Touch” centre touch-screen used for managing climate, audio, settings and navigation functions seems to respond better than the version we tried last year, but it’s still a bit slow and overall we felt that it would be easier to push manual buttons than try and search through different screens to find the appropriate screen button. In fact, there are redundant manual controls for the climate control and most audio functions. A personal complaint: I found it difficult to see the radio station display in the home screen because it is tucked away in the lower left corner. Note that Focus S, SE and SEL models come with a smaller information screen and standard pushbutton controls for the radio and dials for the heater.

Pairing an iPhone proved easy enough, and the Sync hands-free calling system works well with a simple press of a button on the steering wheel. The Sync system also stores your phone contact list for faster dialling. Sync also allows you to choose audio tracks and play music or search for music on your media player with voice commands. Another interesting feature is that the climate control can store your preferred cabin temperature which can be accessed by touching the “MyTemp” button. The optional navigation system on our test car included 3-D graphics, landmarks, amenities, and various ways of finding your destination with voice guidance. Maps are stored on a replaceable SD card.

For plugging in personal music devices, the storage bin between the front seats includes a 12 volt powerpoint , two USB ports, one SD card insert, and AV jacks.

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

One thing this Focus does well is park. Once you get the hang of it, the (optional) automated parallel parking system will remove your fear of parallel parking forever. Press the button on the lower dash as you pass by the parking space you want and a message pops up in the small screen telling you when to stop and put the transmission into Reverse gear. Let the steering wheel go and gently move back into the space. The car steers for you, but you must be careful to modulate the brake pedal. The car will tell you when you’ve parked successfully.

Our test car also had the optional rearview camera and parking sensors in the front and rear bumpers. These are invaluable for judging accurately the distance to the vehicles around you when parking. These parking aids enhance the Focus’ value as an urban car and personally, I think front and rear parking sensors are the best feature to come along since remote door unlocking.

Out on the road, the new Focus is surprisingly quiet, powerful and nimble. When tested by AJAC, a 2012 Focus hatchback with the six-speed dual clutch transmission accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.3 seconds, quicker than the Chevrolet Cruze turbo automatic in 10.4 seconds, Honda Civic sedan auto in 9.9 seconds, and Hyundai Elantra auto in 10.6 seconds. The Focus sedan, which weighs about 13 kg more than the hatchback, may be a tad slower than the hatchback but it should still be at or near the head of the pack in its class.

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

The 2012 Focus continues to offer an independent multi-link rear suspension which helps keep the car stable when cornering on uneven surfaces and improves the ride as well. And on the freeway, we found the Focus to be a very comfortable and surprisingly refined cruiser. However, it is still a firm suspension that lets you know when you’ve hit a pavement crack or a pothole.

As our other reviewers have pointed out, the new dual-clutch automatic transmission seems to have a mind of its own at times. It often hesitates as you pull away and pauses inexplicably as it shifts into lower gears. Once the car gets going, the shifts are quick and sporty, and a manual shift mode allows the driver to choose shift points for better performance and engine braking. However, the little shift button on the side of the shift knob seems to take the excitement out of shifting, and unlike paddle shifters, requires the driver to take one hand off the wheel.

The new electric power rack and pinion steering is easy on the arms when parking and responds quickly when cornering. The turning diameter with the optional 17-inch tires is a bit wide, though.

When compared to other compact sedans in its class, the Focus gets high marks for its powerful and fuel efficient engine, quiet cabin, nimble driving manners, and many optional features including the excellent automated parking feature. Could-be-better features include the automatic transmission, the optional touch-screen, and the amount of rear legroom. Oh, and the price can really add up when all the options are included.

Pricing: 2012 Ford Focus SEL sedan
  • Base price: $21,499
  • Options: $6,550 (6-speed automatic transmission $1,450; 17-inch polished alloy wheels $600; Audio/MyFord Touch/parking sensors/rain-sensitive wipers $1,500; Parking Technology Package $600; power moonroof $1,200; navigation system $700; engine block heater $100; red candy metallic paint $300)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,450
  • Price as tested: $29,599

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Ford Focus

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: Buick Verano
  • Buyer’s Guide: Chevrolet Cruze
  • Buyer’s Guide: Honda Civic
  • Buyer’s Guide: Hyundai Elantra
  • Buyer’s Guide: Kia Rio
  • Buyer’s Guide: Mazda3
  • Buyer’s Guide: Nissan Sentra
  • Buyer’s Guide: Suzuki SX4
  • Buyer’s Guide: Toyota Corolla
  • Buyer’s Guide: VW Jetta

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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