We do not consider ourselves experts on the buying habits of small car shoppers anymore, not after watching the redesigned 2008 Ford Focus streak to extremely strong sales despite sporting what we considered to be deal breaker bad looks. You can credit the car's success to good marketing, exclusive availability of SYNC, a big car ride with small car fuel economy, whatever... regardless, the Focus is selling better than it has since the car first debuted in 2000.
Ford has heard all the criticism thrown at the 2008 Focus for its electric shaver looks, and in a very unusual move has solicited feedback from Focus fans and tweaked only the Coupe for 2009 and not the Sedan. The newish 2009 Focus Coupe features a front end with a larger lower air intake that's supposedly inspired by the new Fiesta, and those garish faux fender vents are now completely gone (hopefully the sedan gets stripped of these, too). The flanking foglamps are also now better integrated into the body and the two-bar grille and other accents feature a dark, almost bronzed look rather than bright chrome. There are also new Dark Chrome 17-inch aluminum wheels and a roof-mounted spoiler, both standard on the top-shelf SES Coupe in addition to electronic stability control and SYNC, that make the Focus look more sporty than before. The overall effect of these changes reminds us of the last-generation SVT Focus Euro package. You can make up your own minds and let us know in the comments.
Though the Focus SVT is surely not returning, Ford did give the new coupe a new freer-breathing exhaust on models equipped with the five-speed manual to free up some horsepower, and also added a new 4.2 final drive ratio to make off-the-line acceleration a bit quicker. The 2009 Ford Focus Coupe will have a base MSRP of $15,920 when it goes on sale in late Summer, and you can check it out later tonight when Ford officially debuts it in a video on American Idol. We want to hear what supercar collector has to say about the new look Focus Coupe. Is it a Clay Aiken or a William Hung?
SPORTY NEW LOOK FOR 2009 FORD FOCUS COUPE TO DEBUT ON WEDNESDAY 'AMERICAN IDOL' EPISODE
The 2009 Focus coupe is set to debut on "American Idol" on Fox on Wednesday.
- Sporty updates inspired by customer feedback, including new front and rear fascias, a new roof-line spoiler and standard 17-inch aluminum wheels on the SES series, enhance the car's profile and further differentiate the Focus coupe from the sedan.
- Performance improvements include increased horsepower on 5-speed manual versions and quicker acceleration, thanks to a new final drive ratio on models with four-speed automatic transmissions – without any compromise to Focus' 35-miles-per-gallon fuel economy rating.
- Focus posted an 88 percent increase in retail sales in April versus a year ago.
"Focus is the little car that delivers in a big way for customers, with 35 mpg fuel economy, cool features including SYNC, a fun drive, strong quality and the right price," said John Felice, Ford Division group marketing manager. "We've built on those strengths to deliver an even sportier coupe version for 2009 and thought the 'American Idol' debut would be a new way for customers to see the upgrades for themselves."
The new Focus coupe can be seen for the first time during the Wednesday broadcast of "American Idol" on FOX, which airs at 9 p.m. EST.
The Focus coupe will be part of the "American Idol" Ford Video featuring this season's remaining contestants. Episodes of American Idol typically draws an audience of more than 20 million viewers. The 45-second music video also will be featured on the "American Idol" Web site at www.americanidol.com under the Ford Music Video page.
Focus retail sales were up 88 percent in April versus the prior year, and a growing number of younger customers have been buying the new Focus model that was launched in late 2007.
"We've spent a lot of time talking with small-car customers and Focus enthusiasts," said Sam De La Garza, Focus marketing manager. "Their overwhelming feedback was that a sportier exterior design could attract even more Millennials, or those people born between 1980 and 1995 – 11,000 of whom reach driving age every day in the U.S."
With that in mind, the Focus team sculpted the coupe's new front and rear fascias to provide a sportier appearance. The lower front fascia incorporates a larger open area that bares a strong resemblance to the acclaimed design of the new global Ford Fiesta subcompact. The fog lamps – now standard – are better integrated into the overall design of the front fascia, and its signature two-bar chrome front grille and chrome accents around the headlamps have been darkened for added differentiation.
"The new coupe looks really sporty," said Thomas Tang, co-founder of www.focusfanatics.com and Ford Focus owner. "It is great to see that Ford values our feedback and is willing to make quick changes."
"The new front fascia, 17-inch sport wheels and fog lamps remind me of the old Focus SVT models," Tang added.
For differentiation, the high-end Focus SES will feature a standard high-mounted spoiler that is incorporated into the design of the roof. The high-mounted design contributes to Focus' overall muscular stance. A decklid spoiler will remain part of the Focus SE exterior design.
New premium-painted Dark Chrome 17-inch aluminum wheels, also standard on SES, complete the coupe's redesigned exterior.
Sounds 'Bad' and Goes Faster -- With More Control
The 2009 Focus SES coupe features more horsepower and a throatier sound, thanks to a new sport-tuned exhaust. The SES coupe with a four-speed automatic transmission will have a new 4.2 final drive ratio to deliver quicker off-the-line acceleration for a faster 0-60 mph time.
A new option for 2009 is electronic stability control (ESC), which uses sophisticated sensors and the anti-lock braking system to help correct skids that can lead to accidents.
The 2009 Focus Coupe is equipped with a 2.0-liter, Duratec 20 dual-overhead-cam (DOHC), inline 4-cylinder engine that delivers 143 horsepower when mated to a five-speed manual transmission and 140 horsepower when paired with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Also available is a super-clean, 130-horsepower Duratec 20E engine that qualifies Focus as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV). The 20E's tailpipe emissions are cleaner than some hybrid gas-electric vehicles'. The Duratec 20 and 20E in Focus Coupe are mated to a five-speed manual transmission and achieve EPA-estimated fuel economy of 35 mpg.
SYNC Standard on Focus SES
Also setting the Focus coupe apart from other small cars is Ford's industry-exclusive SYNC technology, which will be standard equipment on the SES series and optional on the SE. SYNC is a fully integrated in-vehicle, voice-activated communications and entertainment system for customers to use their Bluetooth cell phones and digital media players.
SYNC was first introduced on the 2008 Focus and was an immediate hit with customers, helping to increase Focus' share in an extremely competitive small-car market. Nearly 50 percent of the 2008 model year Focus units sold during April included SYNC. SYNC-equipped vehicles sell nearly twice as fast as those without.
SYNC also was a feature that helped motivate editors of Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com to name the 2008 Ford Focus one of the "Top Ten Coolest New Cars Under $18,000" in April.
The 2009 Focus Coupe, available later this summer, will have an MSRP that starts at $15,920. All Focus models are built at the Wayne (Mich.) Assembly Plant.