click on above image to view high-resolution gallery with 35 pics!

If you've been following our pre-Detroit show coverage, you'll have noticed that Ford likes to use its home turf to introduce new production cars and unveil concepts. Unfortunately, the facelifted 2008 Focus is the least impressive of the new offerings from Dearborn, particularly in contrast to exciting concepts like the Interceptor.

When the Focus was introduced in 1999, it was at the cutting edge, at least stylistically, debuting as one of the most striking small cars on the market. It got a minor facelift a few years later, more evolutionary than revolutionary. While the 2008 update looks substantially different, it's still not a complete overhaul, just another facelift.

For 2008 the Focus ditches the wagon and gains a two-door coupe in addition to the standard four-door sedan. The exterior is completely restyled, shedding over 60 pounds in weight, reducing the drag coefficient and noise inside the cabin. While it gets a new brake package, the rear brakes are still drums. Leather trim in the interior with contrasting stitching is a unique feature particularly in this segment, as is the new "ambient lighting" option that gives you the choice of seven colors to highlight the interior.

Unfortunately, Ford's missed the mark in the styling department. Part of the new design includes the corporate bar-grille (that's a styling element, not a restaurant), a higher beltline, flared wheel arches and a "character line" cutting from an air vent behind the front wheel to the rear and across the trunk lid. While there are certainly some striking design elements to the new Focus, we believe strongly in the notion that a car design is more than the sum of its parts, and that's where the 2008 Focus falls short.

Click through for the full press release after the jump, and here for our gallery of 35 high-resolution images.


Check out all the debuts and galleries from the Detroit Auto Show here.


PRESS RELEASE:

2008 FORD FOCUS DEMONSTRATES FORD'S COMMITMENT TO SMALL CARS
  • The 2008 Ford Focus brings a bold design, modern interior, improved driving dynamics and competitive fuel economy to the growing small car market.
  • All-new exterior design strikes an exciting pose in two-door coupe and four-door sedan body styles.
  • Redesigned cabin offers contemporary styling and features such as silver metallic finishing on the dashboard and center console, available ambient interior lighting and available leather seating with contrast stitching – all creating a modern atmosphere.
  • New suspension tuning and chassis refinements improve an already rewarding and dynamic driving experience.
  • Improvements to sealing and sound deadening materials reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels providing a quiet, comfortable ride.

DETROIT, Mich., Jan 7, 2007 – Redesigned from the inside out, the 2008 Ford Focus brings a bold new look, a modern interior and a high level of driving enjoyment to the small car segment. Joining the new Focus four-door sedan is, for the first time, ever a sporty two-door coupe, which is designed to attract new and younger buyers to a growing small car market.

Ford is renewing its commitment to the small car market as an influx of younger buyers and the instability of gas prices have led to growing sales in the segment. Small cars make up the largest vehicle segment in the U.S. today and growth is expected to continue. The 2008 Focus will be poised to capture some of this growth when it hits the streets in fall 2007.

"We know the formula for success in the small car segment: Affordability, quality and a fun to drive, sporty personality," says Cisco Codina, Ford group vice president, North America Marketing, Sales and Service. "These are the priorities that drove the redesign of the Focus for 2008."

Muscular stance, sharp character lines and a high beltline define Focus
The 2008 Focus strikes an impressive pose. Designers drew inspiration from the Ford Fusion's prominent chrome-bar grille design, flared wheel arches and sweeping, crisp lines to create a small car that's stylish and sporty.

"We raised the beltline to give Focus more modern proportions," says Lon Zaback, Focus chief designer. "By raising the beltline we created a sleeker profile. The overall look is solid and more substantial."

Flared wheel arches give Focus its firm, secure stance and work with the raised beltline to give Focus its muscular look.

The design is further refined by a taut character line that runs from the taillights, sweeping across the doors just below the door handles and snapping suddenly down at the front wheel well. Another crisp line runs from the A-pillar to the headlight and down to the bottom of the front bumper, defining the corners of the car.

"Having surface areas break sharply in places gives the car a sense of forward motion," says Zaback. "A lot of cars today use forms and lines that are parallel and predictable. If you look at Focus, you will see one sweep going through the hood and headlamps, and a different sweep going through the fascia. This creates movement, tension and drama."

Zaback says the goal was to use detail and forms to create unpredictable visual interest. For example, the hood uses four separate creases to break up a typically large flat area. "When you're working with a small car, you want to add surface detail that will create interest from any angle," says Zaback. "We definitely wanted to appeal to the more progressive customer."

The headlights are a design story by themselves. Horizontal bars with a matte surface run through the reflection area, visually connecting the headlights with a sweeping line running through the chrome-bar grille. It is such an innovative idea that Ford has a patent request for the design.

The tail lamps share cues with the 2008 Ford Escape, with a white arc cutting across the red lens. The leading edge of the deck lid features a new clear lens center high-mounted stop lamp (CHMSL) that illuminates with red LEDs for a progressive, modern appearance.

Focus SEL models feature a front fender appliqué integrated just behind the front wheel arch, adding a bright accent to the profile. And the "Focus" name is spelled out in bold italic letters on the deck lid, scuff plates and instrument panel.

The 2008 Focus is available in two body styles: a two-door coupe, a first-ever for Focus, and a four-door sedan. These are the two highest volume body styles in the segment. In fact, the sedan and coupe will allow Ford to cover a full 80 percent of the small car market.

Redesigned Focus cabin is quiet, inviting and modern
Progressive is the word that best describes the interior. The new interior design not only adds more flexible storage space, but new surfaces and materials create a modern, contemporary cabin with a sense of openness.

"We've taken cues from fashion and home design and translated them into a more upscale Focus interior," says Zaback. "We've given it some sophistication and flair by adding touches of silver metallic finishing like you see in today's home appliances, and used materials that provide a higher-quality feel to surfaces and touch points throughout the car. The overall package is simply more inviting."

On SEL models, the dashboard and center console sport brilliant matte silver-metallic finishing. On SE models, the dashboard center finish panels are a contrasting dark stone non-metallic color.

A "top-of-dash" display, positioned at eye-level at the top of the center stack, features a message center that shows radio function readouts. This simple, efficient design makes it easier and quicker to read when driving.

A new "poke-through" center console design replaces the traditional "brick" design for the radio and climate control. The center panel houses the controls for the audio and climate control as well as a standard auxiliary audio input jack and two power points.

Eliminating the traditional brick design gave designers freedom to draw a sharp accent line across the top of the dashboard, a design element that would not have been possible with the previous model's square radio and climate modules. A new seamless passenger front airbag door further cleans up the interior.

The 2008 Focus offers a larger center console as well as added space in front of the console shifter for extra storage. Newly designed door trim features larger bins and cup holders in the doors plus three more in the console. New seats have improved contours and offer more lateral and lumbar support. A new cloth pattern is available for 2008 while the leather trimmed seats feature contrast stitching for an added touch of craftsmanship.

SE models come with a Stone interior; SEL models come in Stone or Charcoal Black. The coordinating interior instrument panel colors are Satin Pewter Metallic for the Charcoal Black interior and Dusk Metallic for the Stone interior. Focus models equipped with Sport and Deluxe packages feature a white face instrument cluster and chrome accents on the door handles, climate control vents and shifter.

Focus lets you set the mood
The Focus interior is even more distinctive at night thanks to a new approach to lighting that builds on recent Ford advances like the white LED instruments on the 2003 Lincoln Navigator and the configurable "My Color" instrument display on the Mustang.

In the Focus, the instruments and switches are lit in a new color called "Ice Blue." Customers can also order an ambient lighting package that places tiny LEDs inside the front and rear cupholders and footwells. The LEDs can highlight the cabin in any of seven different colors (red, orange, blue, indigo, violet, green and yellow) and are controlled by a simple dash-mounted switch.

Both of these features will eventually make their way into other Ford and Mercury products.

"The idea was to let owners give the car its own mood," says Philip Smoker, 2008 Focus product marketing manager. "Customizable ambient light gives the interior a whole different look and keeps it fresh. Focus is the first in this segment to offer ambient lighting as a factory installed option."

Smoker says customizable and unique interior lighting inside cars and trucks is an emerging trend. According to a recent survey, over 90 percent of vehicle consumers said they would be interested in unique lighting to enhance the appearance of their vehicle's interior.

"With manufacturers often producing upwards of 150,000 copies of any particular model, vehicle differentiation is still the key," says Smoker. "The interior ambient light inside the 2008 Focus gives owners the chance to make the car their own."

Revised suspension settings further refine the Focus driving experience
Since its North American introduction in 1999, Focus has been hailed for being an affordable car that handles and drives like a car more than twice its price. For 2008, the Focus's curb weight is down by 60 pounds, even though the body structure is stiffer. This allowed the suspension engineers to sharpen the car's steering and handling while improving ride quality at the same time.

Engineers reworked and improved the strength of the roof structure, the package tray, the connections between the rear floor and the underbody and the door systems. A stiffened cross-car beam under the instrument panel connects the car side-to-side and provides better lateral stiffness.

The basic suspension features an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and an independent multilink design in back. The spring rates, shock absorbers, stabilizer bars, and jounce bumpers have all been re-tuned for 2008. Engineers derived unique tuning packages for vehicles equipped with 15- or 16-inch wheels and tires. Models with 15-inch wheels and tires are equipped with low-rolling resistance Hankook tires. Those with 16-inch wheels and tires are paired with sporty, responsive Pirelli tires.

"Fuel economy was at the top of the improvement list for 2008, so we put the new Focus on a diet, dropping the curb weight of the vehicle by over 60 pounds," says vehicle dynamics manager Mark Rushbrook. "To maintain good ride character, we reduced the spring rates. Improvements to steering and handling were accomplished by increasing the size of the front stabilizer bar for both the 15- and 16-inch tire packages, as well as detailed tuning of the shock absorbers to optimize the ride and handling balance."

Rushbrook says the revised chassis settings help improve steering feel over the previous Focus without sacrificing ride quality. The front stabilizer bar diameters have been increased over 2007, from 18 millimeters to 20 millimeters on the 15-inch wheel tuning package, and from 21 millimeters to 22 millimeters on the 16-inch wheel tuning package.

"From a dynamics perspective, the new Focus feels much more solid and substantial," says Rushbrook. "The chassis has been tuned with the new body structure to continue that feeling of confidence. Whether you're driving down a twisty back road or an interstate highway, it always feels like you're in a very solid yet responsive and fun vehicle."

Focus gets an all-new brake system for 2008. New aluminum calipers save weight and improve brake pedal feel. The brakes are 10.9-inch vented discs in front and 11.0-inch drums in back with an available anti-lock braking system (ABS).

The 2008 Focus features a 2.0-liter, Duratec 20 dual-overhead-cam (DOHC), inline four-cylinder engine. An all-new air intake system, cooling and exhaust system are designed to improve the powertrain's smoothness, efficiency and response.

There's also a super-clean Duratec 20E engine offered in states adopting California emission standards that qualifies Focus as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV). PZEVs are as clean as some hybrid vehicles, according to the EPA.

The Duratec 20 and 20E are available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. For 2008, the transmissions have revised final drive ratios, which let the engine turn at a lower rpm rate during highway driving and get better fuel economy. For instance, the automatic transmission final drive ratio decreased from 3.73 to 3.34, reducing engine speed at 65 mph from 2490 rpm to 2230 rpm.

NVH improvements provide a quiet ride
The new exterior design doesn't just look good, it provides improved functionality as well. Improved airflow over the vehicle reduces the coefficient of drag (CD) from 0.33 to 0.32.

"Getting just a tenth of a difference in CD is a lot," says Focus chief engineer Marcio Alfonso. "This is quite significant. We spent many hours in the wind tunnel developing the shapes of exterior parts like mirrors and front openings, spoilers, and the shape of the air deflectors under the car. There was a lot of work done to improve aerodynamics and reduce noise inside the car."

At a simulated 80 mph in the wind tunnel, the previous Focus had 28.8 sones of wind noise while the new model recorded 25.6, an eleven percent reduction in wind noise. In a test of road noise (boom, rumble, roar), decibel levels inside Focus dropped from 70 dBA to 67.3.

"We know that customers equate quiet with quality," says Alfonso. "The difference between the previous car and the 2008 model is far more dramatic than the numbers show. Sones reflect overall noise levels and not the directionality of the noise. A noise coming from a particular area can be perceived as being louder, even though the overall noise level is similar. With Focus, we addressed not only the overall noise level, but also where the noise is coming from."

Engineers reduced wind noise by installing a new acoustic windshield and thicker side glass in the front doors (increased in thickness from 3.2 to 3.8 millimeters). Closed-cell foam for the dash panel seal, as opposed to open-cell foam material, also helps reduce wind noise. Fluffy cotton-like sound-deadening material has been added to the door trim panels, C-pillars and the flat shelf behind the rear seats to reduce cabin noise, and the sealing around the side mirrors is redesigned to reduce noise entering the passenger cabin. The front air dam is stiffened and produces less noise.

New Climate Control System is lighter, quieter and more efficient
The 2008 Focus has an all-new climate control system that is more efficient with improved cooling and heating performance. Switching to electronic actuators for the floor, panel, defrost and temperature controls improve Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) performance. This completely redesigned HVAC system results in a climate control system that is quieter, lighter in weight and more effective in cooling and heating the cabin.

Standard safety features offer peace of mind
The 2008 Focus comes standard with Ford's Personal Safety System®, thorax side air bags and side air curtains for increased coverage in the event of a side impact crash.

Ford's Personal Safety System is a comprehensive collection of passive safety features for the front passengers. The system includes dual-deployment front air bags, energy absorbing safety belts, load limiting retractors and pretensioners, all which will help to create one of the safest cabins in its segment.

Focus uses Ford's Safety Canopy™ side air curtain system that deploys in certain side-impact collisions to help protect front- and second-row outboard occupants using "roll-fold" technology. If occupants are resting their heads against a window, the Safety Canopy™ is designed to slide between the glass and occupants as it inflates. The curtains remain inflated for several seconds after deployment to enhance protection during an extended crash event.

Available anti-lock brakes are designed to help drivers maintain great steering command during hard stops.