At first, the Ford service department rep didn't think he had a loaner car available. Finally, he came up with a set of keys, hesitated a moment, then asked, "Can you drive stick?" Yes, no problem. "OK, well, you could take this if you don't mind driving it," he said sheepishly. "I'm sorry — it's the only thing we have left." Whatever it is, I said, it'll be just fine. This object of apology, the car he seemed almost ashamed to offer, turned out to be a nearly new Ford Focus SE compact sedan in Lightning Blue. Now, sure, a Ford Focus is not a glamorous car. It's not one that Autoblog or other automotive news outlets tend to write about much — not unless it's a Focus ST or RS. This SE was far from those performance models, though it was equipped with the optional engine, Ford's spunky little 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost. Not much about the car was high-tech — it lacked driver assist features or fancy infotainment. It had the basic Sync unit with a tiny screen and a decent-sounding stereo. A simple trip computer was nestled between the gauges, and it had a couple of small niceties: power mirrors, stop-start, and it rode on a set of Continentals. No one would accuse it of being luxurious, with its respectable cloth seats, to paraphrase Nixon. It was an economy car. But you know what: Over the next few days I had more fun behind the wheel of that Focus than any of the past 10 crossovers I've driven. A new Focus SE equipped like this one carries an MSRP of $20,120 including destination charge — but heavy incentives and a climate of buyer disinterest would probably get you out the door for under $15,000, while the sales team high-five one another behind your back for moving another scorned sedan. Fun fact: For the average transaction price of just one luxury compact crossover, you could buy three brand-new Ford Focuses. Of course, soon you won't be able to buy even one. Though a next-generation Focus and Fiesta have debuted in other parts of the world, 2018 is the end of the line for them in the United States (with the Fusion eventually joining them) as Ford shifts its offerings almost entirely toward crossovers/SUVs and trucks. It's the automotive equivalent of skipping a salad to leave yourself room for more steak. The whole time driving the blue Focus, I puzzled over that turn of events. This is a solid little car. The engine revs happily to offer up its 123 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The clutch is light and tactile, and the six-speed shifter is precise. The car is nimble befitting its size. It's enjoyable and involving — remember, when this Focus was introduced, it was widely considered a segment leader with multiple publications crowning it the winner of comparison tests. For someone in college or early in their career, it would be a great car for the …
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|MPG||25 City / 34 Hwy|
|Transmission||5-spd man w/OD|
|Power||160 @ 6500 rpm|
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