'Little' cars are a common sight on European streets, more often than not because they are cheaper to buy, run and insure. My own first car was a Fiat Panda, which was basically a tin box on wheels, with about as much comfort as the description implies. Thankfully, design, comfort, performance and, perhaps most importantly, safety levels have vastly improved since that time (think 1988).
Ford introduced the Focus in 1999 and it has proven a popular addition to the small sedan market. The 4-door is surprisingly roomy, but handles like a much smaller car; all very nippy. Equipped with a 2.0 liter SOHC I-4 engine, producing 110 horses @ 5000 revs, and 125 lbs-ft @ 3750 revs of torque, the Focus ably keeps up with the traffic. Acceleration is good, although this driver was a little hampered by the over-zealous amount of spring in both the clutch and the 5-speed manual, which made changing gear less enjoyable than I might have hoped.
I was further hampered by a most annoying little arrow that illuminates at every opportunity to tell you to 'change up'. This is, presumably, to maximize fuel efficiency, which coming from the manufacturer of the Expedition and the Excursion, smacks somewhat of hypocrisy! And, whilst on annoying subjects, let's lose some of the bells and whistles, shall we? The Focus has a virtual orchestra tuning up every time you get into the car!
One can take enjoyment, however, in the handling of the Focus, which is, well, focused and responsive and reinforces the 'small' feeling of the car, but in a good way. Far more simple than lumbering around corners in some over-sized SUV! Basically, it makes for a fun ride, which makes the 'economy' aspect of the vehicle all the more appreciated. Good things do come in small packages!
The Focus' features include one-touch driver's window, power doors, A/C, AM/FM stereo with CD, power rack and pinion steering, 60/40 split rear seat (and lots of room for rear passengers), good storage and tinted glass. Safety features include 5-MPH impact-absorbing bumpers, child safety locks and driver and front passenger 2nd generation airbags.
Given that the Focus starts at $13,220, and gives 28/36 mpg, city/highway, this small package offers a lot to 'economy'-minded drivers, and with its sleek exterior design and interior comfort, this is definitely no tin box.
Facts & Figures Engine 2.0 liter SOHC I-4 Transmission 5-speed manual HP 110 @ 5000 revs Torque 125 @ 3750 revs Suspension Independent MacPherson struts w/ angled coil spring/damper units and lower A-arms in optimized double horizontal bushings mounted on separate front subframe (front) Independent SLA w/ one upper and two lower arms plus additional twist-plate longitudinal link, separate vertical damper units (rear) Brakes Front Disc, Rear Drum Steering Power Rack & Pinion MPG 28/36 city/highway
For additional information about the Ford Focus: www.ford.com