2012 Ford Focus Electric
2012 Ford Focus Electric. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Ford Focus SEL hatchback
Ford unveils Focus Electric
Test Drive: 2012 Nissan Leaf
Test Drive: 2012 Mitsubishi i-Miev

Manufacturer’s web site
Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Ford Focus Electric

West Vancouver, British Columbia — Ford’s new 2012 Focus Electric hatchback goes on sale this May at selected Ford dealerships. Its stealthy introduction to the marketplace is somewhat surprising given the high-profile promotions for its main competitors, the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiEV, which were promoted a year in advance with pre-ordering web sites, contests, and cross-Canada promotional tours.

That doesn’t mean the new Focus Electric is any less significant. In fact, in a brief test drive in Vancouver last week, we came away with the impression that the electric Focus is leading the pack, not following it.

Priced at $41,199 (plus $1,500 Freight and PDI), the 2012 Focus Electric comes in one well-equipped trim level. The Nissan Leaf is available in two trim levels: the $38,395 (SV) and $39,995 (SL). The smaller Mitsu iMiEV goes for $32,998 and $35,998 (Premium). (We haven’t included the Chevrolet Volt in the comparison because it’s not a pure electric vehicle: it includes an onboard gas engine capable of recharging the battery).

2012 Ford Focus Electric
2012 Ford Focus Electric
2012 Ford Focus Electric. Click image to enlarge

If you live in Ontario, Quebec or B.C., you can reduce the sticker shock with a provincial government rebate: Ontario’s is $8,500; Quebec’s is $8,000, and $5,000 in B.C. And some provinces provide additional incentives for installing 240-volt chargers in your home. As well, Ford has made arrangements with Best Buy to supply and install charging stations for retail and small commercial customers for an average installation cost of $1,599.

The Focus Electric’s powertrain includes a 107-kW electric motor and a 23-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is liquid-cooled and -heated to help maintain the right temperature for efficiency and durability. (The Leaf and iMiEV’s lithium-ion batteries are electrically heated for cold weather only). Charging the Focus’ battery pack from empty to full takes three to four hours with a 240-volt charger — that’s a significant advantage over the Nissan Leaf which takes seven hours to charge, and the Mitsubishi iMiEV which also takes seven hours to charge on a Stage 2 charging station.

However, using 110-volt household current, the Focus Electric isn’t much quicker than the other two cars, taking 20 hours to fully charge, compared to 21 hours for the Leaf and 22 hours for the iMiEV. How long and how often you’ll need to charge will depend on your driving distances: if your daily commutes are short and the battery is only half depleted, you will have shorter charging times and you may be able to get away with using standard household current. A 120-volt charging cord is included with the car.

Maximum driving ranges for the three cars are comparable: up to 160 km in the Focus, 160 in the Leaf, and 150 in the iMiEV.

Like the Leaf and iMiEV, the Focus Electric has a one-speed transmission and regenerative braking system to help recharge the battery when braking and coasting.

2012 Ford Focus Electric
2012 Ford Focus Electric. Click image to enlarge

Behind the wheel of the Focus Electric, our first impression was how quiet it was. Yes, we know electric cars are quiet, but in the Focus Electric, we couldn’t even hear the familiar whine of the electric motor, which is usually audible when coasting to a stop. As well, the “shiftless” one-speed transmission was quiet and smooth. We didn’t get a chance to drive the car on the freeway, so we can’t testify to wind and tire noise. But around town, the Focus Electric may be the quietest car on the road.

Ford didn’t supply any acceleration numbers, but the Focus Electric had no problem accelerating up a steep West Vancouver hill with four adults on board. Like all electric cars, maximum torque is available right away (184 lb-ft) and throttle response is immediate off the line. The Focus Electric is 148 kg (326 lb) heavier than the Leaf but it has a more powerful electric motor, so it’s difficult to say how their acceleration compares. The Focus’ maximum speed is 135 km/h, the Leaf’s is 140 km/h.

Connect with Autos.ca