2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site

Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Ford Focus

To load, or not to load?

It’s not IKEA shelves or small appliances that we’re debating: it’s options. There appears to be a two-pronged approach to impressive levels of equipment in vehicle segments that used to have radio delete on the base model. There’s the eco side of the brain, tired of choking the planet, and their wallet at the pumps. Then we have today’s ‘I Want Everything Right Now’ mentality, usually on a Kraft Dinner budget.

The 2008 Ford Focus SES (Simply Excess Stuff?) is one such animal, in a zoo of compacts that appear to have gone to finishing school. That means a very healthy MSRP of $24,514 on this week’s tester. It’s also one of the first test vehicles equipped with the Microsoft-powered SYNC system, which will comprise Part Two of the Focus review.

2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES
There are plenty of Fusion cues in the Focus’ cabin (top); the driver’s door controls include power positioning for both exterior mirrors (middle); the audio and climate control layout is very similar to that in the Escape (third photo); the rear doors don’t get bottle holders as the fronts do; and bottom, Ford says the upholstery is leather but more questionable is the lack of rear headrests. Click image to enlarge

The cockpit

There are plenty of Fusion cues within the Focus cabin, which continue to feel horribly out of place. Instrumentation comprises a tachometer and engine coolant temperature, plus a driver information centre for system checks. The issue here is that the controls for navigating the system are found deep within the recesses of the centre stack. The three-spoke wheel gets a manual tilt, with oversized controls for cruise control, audio, and voice command features for Bluetooth cell phone integration, as well as additional SYNC-think. The driver’s door controls include power positioning for both heated exterior mirrors.

Of particular note is the lack of breakaway technology for the mirror assemblies. Window lifts are power, with an Auto descent feature for the driver. Spend the money for an automatic. The five-speed stick visual appears to be paying homage to the Mustang. However, the linkage is closer in feel to an ’82 Escort. The worst example of just how rubber-bandey this stickshift is came during the 3-4 upshift. The gate practically forces the shift into second, unless you fashion a wrist movement that mimics those used on a right-hand drive standard transmission. One would think that this issue wouldn’t present itself until at least 17,000 kms, and not the 714 kms on this fresh tester. Headlamps are controlled by a manual switch, with adjacent dimmer, while delay wipers stay Ford-corporate, on the turn signal stalk.

The centre stack

The dash curvature of the Focus stack holds an audio and climate system array that is very similar to the Escape layout. A dedicated SIRIUS satellite radio key is part of the switchery, with all audio and SYNC-related functions displayed on the dash-mount display, which has all the love of my $25 clock radio display. The manual HVAC is simple to engage. Below the HVAC is the dash-mount display, with standard audio jack and USB portals, as well as twin 12-volt powerpoints.

Notice the light shining on the foot switch to the far right. This particular SES is equipped with ambient LED lighting, which can also change colour, depending on your mood or ensemble. It even plugs the LED lamps into the front cupholder recesses. (Rubber insert removed for detail.) No word on whether orange or pink light makes you feel better about your $3 bottle of water.

Cubbies!

While front door pockets receive integrated bottle holders, there’s no such luck for the rear passenger doors. There is one central cupholder at the rear of the centre console. While we’re in the neighbourhood, the passenger side rear seatback gets the only storage pocket. The glovebox can barely hold what the factory gives it. The centre console lid has specific holders for certain bits, though I question the lip balm recess. Think of what’s going to happen to a Chap Stick left inside a Focus on a hot summer’s day. The interior of the console has a flock-lined floor, and a recess that sneaks forward, beneath the cupholder.

The overhead

An auto-dimming mirror is a genuine surprise in this segment, as is the auto open/close sliding moonroof, with a robust wind deflector. Visors get dual unlit vanity mirrors. There’s no sunglasses holder in sight.

Seat treat

Well, it says it’s leather, but it’s definitely not spastic drooling leather. The driver’s seat employs an adjustable height lever. Front seats get one-step heat control.

Cargo embargo

The Focus trunk is ample for the segment, with rear seatbacks folding flat enough. Finishing occurs on the underbelly of the trunklid, though the rest of the trunk has genuine issues. The trunk floor blotter is held in by the smallest of Velcro, which didn’t even hold onto the Focus when removed. The subwoofer enclosure seems cheap, and half-finished. There are two hooks below the decklid, most likely for an optional cargo net.

2008 Ford Focus SES
2008 Ford Focus SES
The 2.0-litre engine is a good fit under the hood; overall, the Focus’ interior offers little that stands out. Click image to enlarge
Spare care

Say hello to your typical space-saver spare, with styrofoam tool biscuit for rattle elimination. Ford’s sticker states 24 hour roadside assistance service for 5 years/100,000 kms.

The mill

The 2.0 litre DURATEC four is neither shoehorned, nor lost in the engine bay, which shouldn’t cause rapid heartbeats during major component repair. All fluid levels are well marked, with good accessibility.

The Verdict

While SYNC, chrome appliques, and funky LED’s may get the odd Oooo and Ahhh, they seem like a Band-Aid solution for a car that seems to have suffered the same fate of the previous-gen Taurus; nobody cared enough to make it good. There is plenty of customization, but little innovation within this Blue Oval, which earns a two star score.

Next week: 2008 Ford Focus Part 2: The Think of SYNC

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