2008 Ford Focus test drive.

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The redesigned 2008 Focus is the new car people love to hate.
And that kind of includes me. On pictures, I thought it was a big let down. And when I sat inside one, I really didn’t care for the interior. That flat fake plastic aluminum dash just doesn’t work for me.

Once in my driveway for a few days, I thought it actually looked OK. I guess I did get used to the design and kind of liked it.
At least it does have some sort of style (Even if it is one some people hate) unlike the new Corolla.
And the few chrome bits do add to it.

And that trunk is huge and pretty well finished for a car of that price. Better finished than a Chrysler 300.

I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of that cheap looking “all aluminum” plastic dash on my SE model. I guess only the SES model has that.
And that interior was actually a more pleasant place to be than I thought it would be.
Everything feels solid and well put together (Unlike the Cobalt). Even though almost every surface is covered in hard plastic.
But I have to admit, more and more car interiors are…
The stereo/AC controls look kind of lost in that big space on the console. But they do feel nice when you use them. And the stereo itself is really good. And includes an iPod plug.
The steering wheel feels and looks cheap. This might be better with leather and radio controls.

The back seat isn’t super roomy, but it’s OK. the biggest mistake back there is the total lack of any sort of hear restrains.
A shocking and dangerous fact in 2007.
Once you start it up, the engine has a little bit of that 4 cylinder buzz. But becomes very quiet once warmed up.
As a matter of fact, the car is really quiet and feels very refined. It has a very solid feel to it. More like a German car.
The engine is always smooth and has plenty of power.
The transmission is also smooth and quick to downshift. So it has only 4 gears. Like the 4 gear GM automatics, it’s hard to notice.

The new Focus handles very nicely. the only small problem I had was with the steering which had a bit of that artificial “Nintendo” like feel to it.
And was just a bit hard in small parking maneuvers. (But I’m a wimp)
The suspension was pretty much perfect. A solid feel and a comfortable ride.

My average mileage was around 26.5 MPG with mostly city driving.
I got up to an impressive 39 MPG cruising at 70 on the freeway.

So it turns out I like the new Focus much more than I thought I would. It is a fun car to drive. Just like the “old” one.
And again, it feels like a larger more expensive car than it is. In a good way.

The exterior design is really a matter of opinion. I just wish they designed a proper coupe instead of a 2 door sedan, saving cash by keeping the same roof for both cars wasn’t such a great idea.

The lack of rear headrests is really a problem . There is just no excuse for this.
It is just too bad they couldn’t spend a couple of hundred dollars in the interior.

The Focus is a really nice driving car with a not so great interior design.
I think I would still rather have fun driving. But that’s just me. I am no race car driver, but I would do anything to avoid the Corolla.
The Focus has a great combination of comfort, quiet and fun at the same time.

As far as prices it isn’t really cheaper than the competition. And that’s a problem.
-The one I drove retails for $16 810 (carsdirect price is $$15 923)
-Civic DX Auto is $16 445 (carsdirect price is $15 948)
I would advise to wait for the “rebate time”. Or wait a few months for an even better deal.

But if you get options like leather, sunroof and the really amazing “Sync” system, you can’t really go wrong.

Except when you have to explain your “cool” friends you drive a Focus.

Conversation 17 comments

  1. Nice to read an unbiased review on an American car, I was pleasantly surprised by this review Vince. I drove an 06 Focus S rental and was impressed with its ride, handling, and the ease I could chirp the tires from a light (low end torque). I now want to check out this new model, I wish they had a sport version though with more power, maybe in year or so.

  2. Well, well…
    Who would have thought that the hated focus is actually a GOOD car!? after actually doing a REAL review!
    Now lets hear the excuses of the tossers who judged the focus based on web pictures…
    More Ford bashing perhaps?

  3. This is the guy with the Sonata, form yesterday’s posts(on other Focus thread).
    We signed up for one today. Too bad they are getting one from across the state, and won’t have it until after the 4 day holiday(wanted to show up at the in-laws with it on Thanksgiving Day).

    Anyhow, we got the SES( the European Suspension/rear stabilizer combo…it helps alittle bit, and larger tires std, the 16 inch tires).

    We paid less than carsdirect said to… carsdirect.com said something like 16,985(about 600 over invoice, iirc, or around there)…. I got it down to 16,600(or about 315 over invoice, down from 900+ from Invoice to MSRP).
    Add the 500 cash back bonus(going to go towards the car)…. we got the car for around (alittle under) 16,100(automatic, too).
    Not too bad.
    Still, you got to pay for the spare (mini) tire, 60-75 dollars, through the service dept.
    Will do that next week, when we pick up the car, and take in the 04 Sonata for trade.
    We lost some on the Sonata, but we expected that.
    The Sonata was ok, but 25MPG avg(V6/auto-manual)..at 3.20 per gallon? No.
    Plus, I am getting older, and want a fun car for once(or spouse does this year, and next…maybe end of August-Sept, before 09’s come out… take the Scion tC in… should be thisclose to getting them to pay it off, or losing no more than say, 1K on trade in, tops)….
    If this thing holds up well(spouse drives around 3K miles per month)…in the next 10 months(30K miles)…. we will try for Focus #2.

    It was this, or the new Suzuki Sport(y) sedan(sx4)..but for Same Pricing… this has waaaay more content.

    I agree with Vince; headrest should be there. Hw much more would they add to the cost?
    And, yes, the coupe… wanted one, but it is not a “true” coupe(or 3 door hatch).
    take it easy.
    PS: We like(d)
    the Focus better than the 4 cylinder Fusion. I drove an 07 Focus, but it did not appeal to us back then, my spouse and I.
    And like Vince said” I like fun to drive cars”, and we can forgive a few “blemishes”, or whatever, vs driving boring, or bland cars, with better “looks”.

  4. Congratulations on your new car!

    What does the SES com with? Did you get sunroof, Sync, leather.
    It seems a good price but what does it include?

  5. “Sonata”(ex owner next week) here, Vince.

    I’ll try to organize it here:
    automatic,tan(forgot the techinical color name)cloth seats,
    European suspension, fog lights,rear stabilizer bar,”aluminum” plate covers radio/dash,upgraded tires(in size) and rims,(it’s the SES Sedan), SYNC,automatic(std, iirc, in SES),
    cruise control/steering wheel control buttons(iirc…),
    aluminum grille(vs balck/plastic grille…think the aluminum grille is std on SES).
    No Sirius radio(195 dollar option…think from carsdirect.com),no sunroof.
    No ABS.
    And of course, no leather( it seemed kind of like our 99 Sonata’s leather..sort of like “Pleather” feeling).
    Think ABS is 300-400 dollars(around 350), sunroof around 550 or so(maybe it was 750…don’t have the paper in front of me)….
    If we did not have over 3K added on from our”Negative Equity”trade in loss……..we might have got a few more items added on.

    As it was….with trade in added(upside down on this trade in, correct?)….it was nearly 20K…and around 6% for 5 years= lot of money every month.
    If not for the Sonata, or if it were paid off(break even point), the car(with abs, Maybe sunroof) the sedan would have been about 17,100, give or take….
    it was this car, like I said, or a Sebring( for 15,401), loaded somewhat like the Focus(minus the SYNC system, and fake metal face plate on the dash).
    Could have got an 08 Corolla for arond 15,750….but would have only saved about 500-600 dollars( maybe 650 with taxes added onto this amount saved)….but it was not worth it, to me, a fan of Fun Driving, vs” Uggh, why me” driving.
    The Corolla looks like a car for people who think like they are 80, or drive like they are 80. Sorry Toyota fans.
    2-3 MPG more will not entice me to drive an appliance, vs a fun car.

    take care/not offense.
    PS: did I say it was Blue, Vince? Nice color, Though about Kiwi Green… but we saw the color on a truck, and it was too light, for us.
    have a good weekend.

  6. PS: Vince… we also got the leather wrapped steering wheel with our SES… it does help.
    I did not mind the SE plastic steering wheel so much, but the leather is alittle better.

  7. This IS seriously a car that people love to hate….and even I would have to admit that this isn’t such a bad car after all…even with the upright plugged in brake light bulbs…. (I also have a thing against red blinkers that use the brake lights to signal)…but If I had to choose between this, a Cobalt, and a Corolla….this one actually wins!….somehow. Can’t say the same for the Civic though….although the Focus seems to come with a lot more features…I wish a full size spare were available though….like in my Intrepid ES…

  8. Vince, dunno if my last post or 2 went through(computer issues here).

    SES we got has the retuned suspension(European) and rear stabilizer bar.
    Cloth seats. Automatic.
    SYNC. No Sirius or Sunroof, or ABS. You add that stuff(along with 3K plus , Loss, for Sonata trade-in…added onto the price…why we did not get the sunroof/abs…)…up, and it adds too much $$$.
    We might have been able to get it with sunroof/abs for extra 800-1K(sunroof is 544, or was it 744 dollars? Think 544, or so. And abs 350-400)…1K+ 3,100K Loss on trade in would have made the car well over 20K.
    We really had to watch it.
    But, if our car was paid off… even with Sirius…maybe 17, 400-or 500.
    Not bad. We just could not afford anything extra(thanks to Hyundai’s poor resale value, Still, despite “better” ratings. I was about 12,000 miles UNDER average, too, for this year car… normal is 60K miles+, I have barely 48K miles,and still got taken, imho.. But it was about the best deal I could wrangle out of any dealership. We could have got the Sebring for 900 less, and about 208 dollars more on trade -in…maybe saved about 39 dollars a month…but it was not worth it, to us).

    Did I mention Cruise?

    Yeah, we only left off maybe 1,100-1,300 of stuff off, but still , even at “as-is” pricing, for the other stuff… still under 18K, easily.
    Just gotta argue, show them carsdirect.com, NADA(Blackbook, Not Bluebook) prices,and do the best you can.
    The guy tried to act like the cash back from Ford was knock off price of car(as if the dealership was losing 500 dollars, lol)….
    I told him what we knew(Ford’s cash, not theirs, coming to me, so let’s deal from Invoice).
    Not quite employee discounting, but, what ya gonna do?

    have a good one.
    PS: Vince… you’re in CA… does this change prices out there, have to get a Lower Emissions engine(132HP, iirc?), or something, for emissions control, or doee the standard Focus meet those requirements?
    Ex-Sonata Owner.

  9. The SES comes with SYNC standard, but the moonroof is still optional and so is leather. A fully loaded 08 Focus goes for about $20,500.

    Style-wise, I like the exterior except for the fender vents, but they are just stick ons and you could probably shave them off. The interior style is fine, but the quality of the plastics is a let down. Vince, you’re right, for $200 they could have upgraded the interior greatly.

    Great review, Vince

  10. i am kind of freaked out by that cheaped out interior. still, it doesnt sound like a bad car its just that ford could have done a lot better by, say, importing the european model.

    vince, you should check out some other small cars out there as it would help me (and a whole lot of other gas-price-bankrupt americans) decide which compact car to buy. now that youve driven a focus and a cobalt, you should drive a civic, a corolla, a sentra, an sx4 sedan (my personal favorite), a lancer, and a caliber as these models seem to be the most popular

  11. Over $20 0000 for the loaded Focus would be quite a lot of money.
    Other, larger cars start looking really good for that price. Like the new Malibu.

    I am aware of the Hyundai resale value. A god friend of mine had a 1 and a half year old XG350 he paid $19 900 for (Instead of $25 000) new.
    he could only sell it for $11 000.
    But the worse way to sell your car is always trading it in at the dealer.

  12. there is no reason for kids to get a foreign cars after driving this

    ford is on top of the game as usual

  13. Despite the fact that Ford is calling this “all-new”, it still is based on the original gen-1 platform that dates back to, what, 2000? While I’m sure this is a sufficient little econo car, I still think Ford royally dropped the ball on this. We should have a new Focus just like the folks across the pond have. And I really don’t like the exterior and interior design on this thing. It just screams “cheap”.

  14. Yes,the new Focus is based on the same platform.
    But that “old”paltform” still drives better than most cars in that pricerange…

  15. Exactly vince…
    Again we have people who judge hardwhare age and not true, real life ability. The platform dates back to 2000 big deal, the previous camry platform was 8 years old also.

  16. I rented a Dodge Avenger today. 4 cyl/auto. Accelerated ok and shifted smoothly for a 4 cyl. The car looks pretty good and I like the guages and the cloth seats. The entire rest of the interior is TOTAL CRAP! Cheap, hard and poorly finished plastics. The suspension was bad too. It handled well and rode alright when there was a smooth road, but it felt real sloppy with ANY kind of bumps. The car had about 2000 miles on it and except for a couple of scratches on the paint, was in new condition.

    Compared with the Avenger, the Focus sounds like a decent car. It’s too bad we don’t get the Euro spec Focus here but it sounds like the one we do get does the job acceptably and saves Ford a couple of bucks with production costs. The appearance of it is growing on me. I do like the sides and back of it. I still am not crazy about the bars on the front, but as Vince said, style is a matter of taste. If you like it, great, if not, then find something else. If I was in the market for this type of car, after reading Vince’s review, I would give it an honest shot. Thanks for the review Vince.

    John M.

  17. Ex-Sonata Owner:
    Got the SES Saturday afternoon.

    A few things (warning):
    1)The 5/60K warranty? They told me that if the part is covered in oil, it’s covered, but only engine and tranny(so to speak).
    On Hyundai we traded-in, they also covered the wheel bearings, Ford Does Not.

    2) How much does an extended warranty cost( extended to 5/100K, covers 90% of all parts?) around 1500+ taxes!!! It does include a rental from their lot, free tow, jump, up to 2 gallons of gas(you PAY for, but the tow truck bringing it to you, that is “free”).
    I was very angry…. we had not signed the last few pages… and I wanted to walk, and take a chance on the Sonata, again(fix up the rotors, all issues, and lose the 100 dollars “retainer” fee for the car, we gave them a few days ago).
    Spouse said no, the Sonata’s engine was making horrible noises, too(she was correct)…and we were “Stuck”, and if we wanted to be covered, similar to Hyundai, pay the deal in the financing.

    2) Maintainence: We got a 700 dollar deal, for up to 97,600 miles(13 oil changes/filter changes… cabin air filter change and other air filter, tire rotations,brake pads/wiper blades every 25-30K, until 97,600, and iridium plugs at 90,000 miles, does save about 500 dollars… and with us putting 30,000 miles a year on a car…. new brake pads/wiper blade repalcements every year, for a reduced cost…made some sense).

    3) One problem: with the coverage of 5/100K, we Must pay 50 dollars deductible every time they look at an issue! That was what set me off, and I wanted to(seriously) walk…right then and there…
    this is stupid.
    It’s crooked, imho.
    On my Sonata, that would have been 100 dollars for 3 windows…..(2 one visit)… for power window regulators went out before 49K miles….total of 250 each window, beofre taxes..still 800 dollars, only.
    It’s like paying in monthly installments, versus, I guess, one large bill of say 300-400, or more, dollars, if something breaks.
    Dunno if 1,600 dollars of stuff will happen to break, or need jump starts, towing… enough to make the cash back.
    They did say, the local dealship would give you the whole deal back, if by 100,000 miles/5 years, you do NOT use this deal, they will give you money back, all of it( that is not good…because you always have 1 issues with any car, new, to be tweaked..so it’s a bogus deal, pretty much, to make the dealership sound more honest, lol).

    The car ended up costing us a lot more, maybe 52 dollars per month more(and 87 a month more than our 04 Sonata) than we thought we would be paying.

    It’s annoying. It made the deal, to be honest, not pleasant.

    It went very well, until we hit the final paperwork/financing office.
    So, Buyer Beware.

    If you want 100,000 coverage, etc….and can’t afford the extra payment(SES top model+ extras= a lot…believe me…plus we had 3K tagged onto it, on trade in loss), you might want the mid-level model, like the SE Vince tested,and to avoid all the bells and whistles.
    Then, the extra cost may not be too bad.

    Was it worth it?
    We’ll find out in about 1 year, at 30,000 miles.
    See if anything is falling apart.

    Big 3 are kind of crooked about things like this.
    50 dollars to look at your car, after paying for insurance to cover it? Sounds like auto insurance… and still pay a deductible, too!

    Nice car…but…. I dunno.
    That $13,995 2008 Corolla sounds good now,lol 😉

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