2018 Focus RS New Car Test Drive
The Ford Focus is an extroverted compact car that handles well and can go uptown. It comes as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, in a number of powertrains and trims that broaden the appeal, ranging from economy car to luxury car to muscle car. There's even a Focus Electric model that gets 105 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).
The 2018 Focus is in its eighth year of this generation.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct injection and variable valve timing, making 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Those stats don't sound big but there's plenty of pep. The transmission is either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed dual-clutch automatic that has issues. It gets 31 miles per gallon combined.
There's also a turbocharged three-cylinder with the tiny displacement of 1.0 liters, making 123 horsepower, a lot less than the 2.0 liter, but with the same torque. It's less quick but gets 34 mpg with its 6-speed manual transmission (one more gear than the 2.0 liter because it needs it, to keep the revs up). With the available 6-speed automatic it gets 2 less mpg, which is only 1 mpg more than the 2.0-liter engine with the manual. Any advantage to the three-cylinder engine fades in the Focus, although that's not so in the smaller and lighter Ford Fiesta.
As for high performance, the Focus ST hatchback is at the top of the heap of high-performance compacts, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 252 horsepower and 6-speed manual gearbox. It accelerates to 60 miles per hour in just 6.3 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. It has been roundly and deservedly praised as a winner and great performance value.
Then there is the breathtaking Focus RS hatchback with its 2.3-liter turbo making 350 horsepower. To handle that power in the curves, it uses torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with driving modes including Track and Drift.
The NHTSA gives the Focus five stars in its crash tests. The IIHS gives it the top Good scores for most of its tests, but only Acceptable in the difficult small-overlap test.
The 2017 Ford Focus S ($17,860) is reasonably well equipped, with power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, Bluetooth, AM/FM/CD, adjustable steering wheel with controls, and rearview camera. The torque-vectoring system also comes standard on the front-wheel drive. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
It's a big jump up to the Focus SE hatchback ($20,445), which adds larger 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, fog lamps, and Ford's MyKey system. Options include leather, a power driver seat, rear disc brakes, rear parking sensors, moonroof, navigation, heated seats, satellite radio, and Sony audio. There's also an available Sport package with a touring suspension, 17-inch black gloss aluminum wheels, H-rated tires, and paddleshifters for twin-clutch transmission.
Focus SEL hatchback ($21,975) gets 17-inch wheels, rear disc brakes, a moonroof, ambient lighting, rear parking sensors, and the Sync 3 infotainment system.
The Focus Titanium ($24,175 sedan, 24,375 hatch) gets dual-zone climate control, leather, Sony audio, HD and satellite radio, sport suspension, sport seats, and summer performance tires on sport wheels. Options include automatic parking assistance (parks itself, using cameras).
The high-performance Focus ST ($25,075), in addition to its impressive speed upgrades, gets styling kits and 18- or 19-inch wheels. Options include navigation, Recaro seats, and a carbon-fiber accent package.
With the leap in power of the Focus RS, there is a leap in price ($41,120).
Available safety equipment on higher models includes blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping assists. There are no available forward-collision or automatic-braking systems.