2012 Ford Focus Review and Prices

Last Updated: Feb 6, 2012

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2012 Ford Focus Buying Advice

The 2012 Ford Focus is the best car for you if you want an American small car with lots of European flavor.

The 2012 Ford Focus rolled into American showrooms in early 2011 as an all-new model built in the U.S. but designed to international standards. Ford cast aside the creaky Focus it’d been pawning off on U.S. drivers for years. In its place is a “global” car with forward-thinking styling, fuel economy, and performance. The 2012 Focus helped reboot what we think about affordable small cars with American nameplates, a mantle shared with the Ford Fiesta global subcompact and picked up by the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic. The Focus is offered as a four-door sedan starting at $16,995 and four-door hatchback priced from $18,790. The fully battery-powered 2012 Focus Electric joined the line late in the model year; the limited-distribution hatchback starts at $39,995.

Should you buy a 2012 Ford Focus or wait for the 2013 Ford Focus? Buy a 2012 Focus if you you’re satisfied with its broad range of models and features, including the impressive 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Wait for the 2013 Ford Focus if you’re interested the coming 247-horsepower turbocharged 2013 Focus ST model. And if you’re intrigued by the notion of never stopping for gas again, the Focus Electric, introduced first in New York and California, will be available in additional areas of the country during model-year 2013.

2012 Ford Focus Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Ford Focus is designed by Ford’s European arm and follows the company’s new “kinetic” styling themes. Ford calls the look “energy in motion.” It’s characterized by a big grille, swept-back headlamps, blacked-out window frames, and strongly defined wheel arches.

In appearance, engineering, quality, and road manners, the 2012 Focus is a major leap beyond the 2011 Focus, a blocky compact that traced its basic underpinnings to model-year 2000, with less-than-exemplary revisions for 2005 and 2008.

The 2012 Focus is a global car in the sense that its basic design is sold in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere with only minor changes to suit individual markets. Ford says roughly 80 percent of its components are shared in all markets and it expects annual worldwide sales of two million vehicles based on this platform.

The 2012 Focus fits the compact-car category in the U.S., but in many countries it serves as a middle-class family’s only automobile. The 2012 Focus is a longer car than the previous U.S. Focus, though the roofline is about an inch lower. In overall size, it’s about in the center of the U.S. compact class.

The critical dimension is wheelbase, which is the distance between the front and rear axles and a key factor in cabin room, particularly rear-seat legroom. At 104.3 inches, the 2012 Focus’s wheelbase is 1-2 inches briefer than that of some main rivals, such as the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Hyundai Elantra. Still, the ’12 Focus has about as much usable rear-seat legroom as those cars, which is to say, tight unless the front seats are more than halfway forward on their tracks. That’ll be the only instance, however, in which tall front-seat occupants might feel squeezed.     

At 13.2 cubic feet, the 2012 Focus sedan’s trunk volume is just shy of the class median, but the shape is usefully square and the aperture larger than most, so bulky objects load and fit rather easily. A folding rear seatback facilitates snowboards and the like. On the downside, the only seatback release levers are in the passenger compartment and the inside of the trunklikd is a lattice of ugly bare metal.

Ford wisely augments the sedan with a hatchback body style and projects slightly more than half of U.S. Focus buyers will choose it. Hatchbacks trounce sedans for cargo versatility, and this one’s no exception. Its hatchlid opens wide to reveal a class-competitive 23.8 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 44.8 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

The Focus Electric hatchback, however, has only about 10 cubic feet of storage behind its rear seat because of space occupied by its battery pack. It does come with a cargo management system of built-in bins and cubbies. And while its rear seatbacks fold flat, intrusion from the battery housing prevents the creation of an uninterrupted load floor, as on the gas-powered Focus hatchbacks. The Focus Electric also has a slightly different grille and front fascia than other model. In any guise, though, the Focus hatchback looks cooler than the Focus sedan.

The 2012 Focus interior features enveloping forms and a dashboard designed for a generation that’s grown up with all manner of mobile infotainment devices. Indeed, some shapes and control arrays have the potential to intimidate older buyers. There are steering-wheel switches, for example, that have no identification; their function isn’t apparent until you begin to use them. And no one is apt to like the way an admittedly informative central driver-information screen forces the analog tachometer and speedometer to the edges of the central instrument binnacle, where some of their markings are obscured by the steering-wheel rim.

Everyone will appreciate the quality of the materials used in the 2012 Focus’s cabin. They’re arguably the best in this price range, heavy on padded surfaces with a judicious mix of hefty plastic panels. All are grained or show a classy matte finish, and the various buttons and switches have an inviting no-slip shape or coating.

The 2012 Ford Focus sedan comes in four levels of trim, the hatchback in three – plus the single-trim-level Focus Electric. Common to both body styles are SE, upscale SEL, and top-line Titanium models. The SE versions are available in extra-cost Sport-trim configuration, and the SE sedan can be ordered with a Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package that uses special aero trim and tires to improve gas mileage. Exclusive to the sedan is an entry-level S model.   

Wheels range from 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers on the S sedan to optional 18-inch alloys on the Titanium sedan and hatchback. Focus SE models come with 16-inch steel wheels; 16-inch alloys are part of the optional SE Sport package. On SEL models, 16-inch alloys are standard and 17-inch alloys are optional. The 17s are standard on the Titanium models and the 2012 Focus Electric has its own 17-inch alloy-wheel design.

Mechanical: The 2012 Focus’s structure and engineering are evolved from those in today’s European Focus, a car that dates to 2005. Its basic architecture also can be found in the current Mazda 3 and Volvo C30 compacts from Ford’s former Japanese and Swedish collaborators, respectively, though it signals a migration away from those designs. It’s the basis as well for the 2013 Ford Escape compact crossover utility vehicle.

Like virtually every car in the category, the 2012 Focus has front-wheel drive, though the platform can also accommodate all-wheel drive for high-performance models and for crossovers. The suspension is independent front and rear. The entry-level Focus S sedan and the SE models come with rear drum brakes. SEL and Titanium models and the SE Sport package versions have four-wheel discs. So do Focus Electric models. All versions have antilock technology for maximum control in emergency stops. An antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides also is standard, and the transaxle uses electronic torque vectoring to distribute power left and right, combating wander during rapid acceleration and noseplow in fast turns.  

A description of the 2012 Focus Electric is at the end of this section. The gasoline 2012 Focus models debuted with one engine, a thoroughly modern 2.0-liter four-cylinder that uses all the latest power-enhancing and fuel-efficiency tricks. It’s all-aluminum, for reduced weight, and employs direct fuel injection, which delivers a fine spray of gasoline directly to the combustion chamber for optimal power and gas mileage. It also has variable cam timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, a technology that reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions and improves torque at low rpm.  

Output is 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as acceleration’s secret ingredient). With a five-speed as its manual transmission, the 2012 Focus falls behind some rivals that use six-speed manuals. But only the S and SE models are available with the manual. Most buyers choose an automatic, and the 2012 Focus’s automatic transmission also is slightly out of step with those of its contemporaries.

Instead of a conventional automatic, Focus employs Ford’s new PowerShift transmission, which is actually a six-speed dual-clutch manual gearbox that performs like an automatic. PowerShift does not require the driver to shift gears manually, has no clutch pedal, and is less complex and therefore lighter in weight than a conventional automatic. Ford says PowerShift reduces fuel consumption up to 9 percent compared with a conventional automatic transmission. PowerShift uses a floor lever than can be toggled to furnish manual-type shifting and features a Sport mode that holds gears longer for sportier throttle response.   

Hit the gas and Focus accelerates as if it has more than 160 horsepower, though the steady flow of thrust is sometimes undermined by the dual-clutch “automatic’s” indecisive gear selection and hesitancy to downshift promptly.

Economies of scale enable Ford to employ more sophisticated design elements and higher-quality components than might otherwise be possible at the 2012 Focus’s price point. But that also obligates Ford to create common engines, suspensions, steering systems, brakes, and safety features good enough to satisfy the diverse demands of Germany’s autobahn and Brazil’s back roads.

That’s a happy circumstance for U.S. drivers who’ve long settled for penny-pinching design and lackluster driving dynamics in domestic-brand compacts. On the road, the 2012 Focus feels like a larger car, with a composed ride and a confident manner in changes of direction. Straightline tracking at highway speed isn’t as locked-in as with some rivals, but there’s good grip and balance in turns.   

The 2012 Focus Electric is Ford’s first all-electric passenger car. It employs an electric motor rated at 143 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It’s “fueled” exclusively by an onboard lithium-ion battery charged from home or commercial outlets and also recaptures some energy through regenerative braking. Ford says the Focus Electric has a range of 70-100 miles per charge, depending on factors such as driving style and use of the climate system. Top speed is 84 mph.

Unlike the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, the Focus Electric does not augment its electric motor with an onboard gas engine that acts as a generator once the battery charge falls below a certain level. That design addresses “range anxiety” by giving the Volt a combined electric-gas range of some 375 miles. Like the Nissan Leaf, the Focus Electric relies solely on battery power and depends on periodic recharging. When the batter is depleted, the car won’t drive.

The Focus Electric’s battery can be recharged in a little more than three hours using a 240-volt charging station, Ford says. It adds that the battery can be “topped off” from any standard 120-volt household outlet using the cord supplied with the car. Available through Ford Focus Electric dealers is a 240-volt home charging station. The Focus Electric’s dashboard includes a display monitor that shows the level of battery charge, and using GPS, the distance to the next charging station. The Focus Electric has a one-speed automatic transmission.

Features: Part of Ford’s aim with the 2012 Focus is to raise America’s’ compact-car expectations. Prices for this next-generation model have been liberated to creep above its predecessor’s $15,000-$18,600 range thanks to the U.S. introduction of the 2011 Ford Fiesta subcompact, another global design that now occupies the previous Focus’s price tier.

In many overseas markets, cars this size carry premium prices; one European Focus model sells for the U.S. equivalent of $35,000. In the U.S., only the 2012 Focus Electric goes that high. But the American-spec 2012 Focus does cater to cut-above expectations by making available such upscale features as a two-tone leather-trimmed cabin, advanced infotainment connectivity, even a system that’ll parallel park the car with minimal input from the driver.

Every 2012 Focus comes standard with a height-adjustable driver’s seat, power windows with one-touch-down for the driver’s, power locks and mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and remote keyless entry. The outside mirrors include cleaver convex inserts that eliminate some over-the-shoulder blind spots. Xenon headlamps, keyless entry and pushbutton start, rearview camera, and a Sony-branded premium audio system also are available.

Like most new Fords, the 2012 Focus can be equipped with a system that supplements conventional audio and climate controls with touch-sensitive liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and cell phone-style five-way buttons and keypads. Called MyFord Touch, the system is customizable and some elements respond to voice commands. The basic setup uses a pair of 4.2-inch LCD screens, one in front of the driver, the other atop the center console to display and adjust climate and infotainment functions. Upper-trim Focus models are available with an 8-inch central screen.

MyFord Touch has garnered justified criticism for its sometimes confusing control interface and unpredictable response to voice commands. Ford has reacted with revisions designed to simplify its functions and make it less distracting to operate while driving. The bottom line is that MyFord Touch demands more patience and practice than many owners will want to – or should need to -- devote.    

Luckily, the 2012 Focus is available with a less complicated infotainment interface, Ford’s Microsoft-developed Sync system of hands-free connectivity for communications, navigation, and entertainment services. Sync integrates a USB iPod interface and can provide turn-by-turn directions, though a conventional GPS navigation system isn’t available on the 2012 Focus.

2012 Ford Focus Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Ford Focus is $16,995-$24,215, with the 2012 Focus Electric starting at $39,995. The base-price range of the gas models tracks precisely with the spread of Focus’s competitive set, though as with many of the newest cars in the compact segment, options can push the sticker price near $30,000. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Ford’s fee for the 2012 Focus is $725.)   

The 2012 Ford Focus S sedan starts at $16,995 with manual transmission and at $18,460 with the PowerShift automatic. It has 15-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers, a one-piece folding rear seatback, and a center storage console sans armrest. The S sedan isn’t available with many features that are standard or optional on higher-priced Focuses, including cruise control, a USB iPod interface, or Ford’s MyKey system. That last is aimed at motivating young-driver behavior by limiting audio volume and vehicle speed, among other measures.

Base price for the 2012 Ford Focus SE sedan is $17,995 with manual transmission and $19,090 with PowerShift automatic. Base price for the 2012 Focus SE hatchback is $18,790 with manual, $19,885 with PowerShift. The SE versions come standard with such features as a console armrest, MyKey, and front fog lamps. The SE sedan retains the one-piece folding rear seatback but the SE hatchback gets the 60/40 split folding seatback that’s standard from here on in the lineup.   

The 2012 Ford Focus SEL models come only with the PowerShift automatic and are priced from $20,995 for the sedan and $21,790 for the hatchback. The SEL models add to the SEs dual-zone automatic climate control, Sync, and other features.  

Base price is $24,090 for the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium sedan and $24,215 for the 2012 Focus Titanium hatchback. These models also come only with the PowerShift automatic and add to their SEL counterparts such features as a premium Sony audio system with 10 speakers, including a subwoofer and Sirius satellite radio. They also have sport-bolstered front bucket seats, a power driver’s seat, one-touch power up and down for all four side windows, and extra cabin and body trim.

Among notable 2012 Focus options, remote engine-start is a $445 item exclusive to models equipped with PowerShift. A power moonroof is available for $795 on SE versions and above. A Winter Package costs $570 on the SE models and $470 on SEL and Titanium models and includes heated front seats, heated outside mirrors with puddle lamps, and all-weather floormats.

SE versions of both body styles are available with a $430 value package that includes cruise control, map lights, and an antitheft alarm. SE versions also can be equipped with an $875 package that includes MyFord, Sync, and upgraded audio.

The SE Sport Package adds $895 to the SE sedan and $695 to the SE hatchback and includes the 16-inch alloys, plus sport-bolstered front bucket seats, metallic cabin trim, and gives PowerShift models the manual-gear-control feature. It also adds to the SE sedan a rear spoiler; the SE hatchback already comes with a rear spoiler. A Titanium Handling Package adds to the top-level models sport-suspension components and low-profile summer-tread tires; it costs $595.   

The 2012 Focus SE Super Fuel Economy package is a $495 option available on SE sedan with the PowerShift transmission. The package uses 16-inch steel wheels with unique aerodynamic wheel covers and low-rolling-resistance tires and a rear spoiler.

Interiors of SE, SEL, and Titanium models can be decked out in two-tone leather upholstery in combinations of Tuscany Red and black or Arctic White and black. Complementing trim is applied on the door panels, console, and steering wheel. The Interior Style Package runs $795 on SE models and $450 on SELs and Titaniums.

The SEL and Titanium models also are available with the Parking Technology Package. This comes with a rearview camera and employs ultrasonic sensors that judge whether the Focus will fit into a street parking space and then backs the car in while the driver merely limits the speed of the process. This extra requires that you also order other options, including leather upholstery, and so its total cost is $1,100 on top of those other options.

Base price for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric is $39,995. That happens to be the same base price as the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, though it’s some $3,950 above the starting price of the 2012 Nissan Leaf. Offsetting those base prices is a one-time federal income-tax credit of up to $7,500 available to buyers of any of these cars.

Beyond its unique powertrain and battery-information readouts, the 2012 Focus Electric is equipped similarly to the top-of-the-line Focus Titanium hatchback. The only Focus Electric option, however is leather upholstery and a choice of two paint colors.

2012 Ford Focus Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for gas versions of the 2012 Ford Focus put them at the upper tier of compact cars, though not at the very top. Still, Ford uses fuel economy as a 2012 Focus selling point, as well it should.

The 2012 Focus S and SE models with manual transmission rate 26/36 mpg city/highway and 30 mpg combined city/highway.

With the PowerShift automatic that’s optional on those models and standard on the SEL and Titanium, the 2012 Focus rates 28/38 mpg city/highway and 31 mpg combined.

With the Super Fuel Economy package, the 2012 Focus SE is rated at 28/40/33 mpg. By way of comparison, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco model, which is similar in concept to the Focus SFE, has a top rating of 28/42/33 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission and 26/39/31 a six-speed automatic transmission. Mainstream Cruzes rated 26/36/30 with manual and 22/35/27 with automatic.

The model-year 2012 compact-class leader for fuel economy among non-gas-electric-hybrid cars is the diesel-powered 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI at 30/42/34 mpg with automatic transmission. Among conventional gasoline compacts, the class leader is the 2012 Honda Civic HF model, at 29/41/33 mpg with a five-speed automatic transmission.

2012 Ford Focus Release Date back to top

The 2012 Ford Focus gasoline models went on sale in early 2011. Limited quantities of the 2012 Focus Electric went on sale in November 2011 through Ford Certified EV dealers in California and in the New York and New Jersey markets. North American-market versions of the Focus are assembled at Ford’s plant in Wayne, Mich.

What's next for the 2012 Ford Focus back to top

The basic chassis and body engineering of the 2012 Ford Focus belongs to Ford’s global C-platform catalog. “C” refers to an international size class for this sort of car, which in the U.S. falls into the compact class. The Ford Fiesta is in the smaller B class, while midsize cars, like the Ford Fusion, would be broadly equivalent to the D class.

Ford plans to build 10 models worldwide on this C architecture. In the U.S., these include the new four-door hatchback 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid gas-electric hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. The 2013 Ford Escape SUV and its overseas-market cousin, the Ford Kuga, also share this platform. All follow “kinetic” design themes.

Enthusiast drivers are likely to get more of a charge out of the 2013 Focus ST. This performance version of the Focus hatchback will use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder from Ford’s EcoBoost family of turbocharged engines. Horsepower is listed at 247, torque at 266 pound-feet. The only transmission will be a specially calibrated six-speed manual and the ST will have a lowered, sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, and exclusive exterior and interior trim. Look for the base price to approach $30,000.

2012 Ford Focus Competition back to top

Honda Civic: Long the pacesetting in the compact-car class for value, quality, design, and dynamics, Civic was fully redesigned for model-year 2012 – and stumbled. Critics derided styling that is merely evolutionary, a main powertrain that’s largely carried over, and interior materials that take a step backward. But this ninth-generation Civic is still a terrifically appealing car for the reasons most people by compacts, and an early 2012 sales surge to the top of the category is evidence that shoppers are catching on. Sedan and coupe body styles are offered. Both drive with a blend of comfort and control no rival beats. Cabin materials do disappoint, but the Civic sedan tops the class in rear-seat room and Honda’s strong reputation for reliability and resale value are intact. Mainstream Civics have 180 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque and rate an impressive 28/39 mpg city/highway, 32 mpg combined with automatic transmission (29/41/33 mpg for the HF model). Sport Civic Si variants have 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet, but come only with manual transmission. The Civic Hybrid sedan has 110 horsepower and rates an impressive 44/44/44 mpg. Base price range for mainstream models is $16,444-$24,205. Si versions are good sporty values starting at $22,995. And the Civic Hybrid is priced from $24,800.    

Chevrolet Cruze: If you want a domestic-brand compact but the flashy look of the 2012 Focus doesn’t appeal to you, check out the Cruze. It comes only as a sedan that’s handsome but more reserved in nature than the Focus. It offers two four-cylinder engines, both with 138 horsepower, but the turbocharged version has more torque 148 pound-feet versus 125 -- and is the one to get if you desire acceleration similar to that of the Focus. Handling isn’t as sharp as the Ford’s but the Chevy is a bit quieter on the road and rides a little softer. Interior space is a wash, and while the versatility of a hatchback isn’t on tap, the Cruze sedan has a useful 15-cubic-foot trunk. Gas mileage is outlined above in the Fuel Economy section, but we’ll re-emphasize that the 28/42/33-mpg Cruze is the $19,995 Eco model with manual transmission. The entry-level LS model starts at $17,470, with the more desirable turbo versions priced from $19,225-$23,860.

Hyundai Elantra: Eye-catching style, value pricing, and great fuel economy put this redesigned-for-2011 sedan on a rapidly increasing number of compact-car shopping lists. Elantra doesn’t always feel as mechanically refined as the Focus, Civic, and Cruze. But it’s roomy, solidly built, and looks like it should cost more than its $15,950 starting price. The only engine is a thoroughly modern four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque that rates an impressive 29/40/33 mpg whether linked to the six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic. Good-quality cabin materials and a cleverly calculated array of standard and optional equipment – including available heated rear seats – pump Elantra’s showroom appeal. With automatic transmission, sedans start at $18,205. A coupe version is set to join the lineup, likely as an early model-year 2013 entry. And a replacement for the aged but still-intriguing Elantra Touring station wagon could also be in the works.