Last post on Jul 28, 2013 at 5:39 PM
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Ford Focus, Sedan
#1982 of 2014 "Tipping Points" Towards My '09 Focus Purchase
Dec 04, 2008 (11:34 am)
I've owned 5 or 6 - or maybe more (you lose track when you trade in two cars twice a year) - Focuses since 2000. But I haven't owned one (up until two weeks ago) since I purchased an '05 ZX3. Why?
Well, first and foremost I made a shift towards purchasing cars with side curtain airbags (the most important kind for survivability per the IIHS.org), and Ford was slow on adopting them. They DID offer a combination torso/head airbag, coming out of the seat, for the front occupants only, but I have kids now and wanted front and rear head coverage, plus the combo bags were hard to find. I was fortunate that my '05 ZX3 came with them, although otherwise lightly optioned (as I like my cars).
Second, I didn't like the fact that for some reason Ford didn't offer rear seat headrests on any Focus until '09. I didn't feel right about offering to drive co-workers to lunch, in the rear seat of a car that didn't think whip-lash protection via head rests is important.
Third, I had gotten used to lot quieter cars. Other economy cars got a lot quieter, but the Focus didn't, until 2008 when they added better sound proofing and a special, thicker windshield (an upgrade made to the Escape that year, too). I thought this was a minor difference, until I went driving earlier in the year in a left-over '07 ZX3 (yes, I loved the Hatchback Focus) and realized that while the engine and road noise were moderate, the wind rush was horrific. Thankfully, starting in 2008 Ford redesigned the Focus to be much quieter (but watch out for the Coupe which has a noisier muffler, which is actually deliberate on Ford's part), and my '09 Focus is comparable in sound levels to the two quietest vehicles I've owned, an '06 Impala and my wife's '07 Honda Odyssey. That's saying a lot.
Fourth, the hatchback disappeared! I love hatchbacks, they are smaller than a sedan for easy city parking, but when you flop the rear seats down, they turn into really effective "haulers." I sure hope they bring the hatchback back!
So those were the negatives, most of which got solved (Focii come with curtain air bags standard, they are quiet, they have rear headrests).
So which was the tipping point for me?
Well, if the Focus this year had still been stuck with those goofy fake air vents on the fenders, I wouldn't have even test drove this year's much improved, very satisfying model. I could probably have lived without rear headrests (my kids are short and co-workers can ride in their own cars!) but I definitely couldn't have lived with those cheesy fake vents.
It doesn't hurt that the front air dam area got cleaned up.
Although initially I thought the Focus interior was cheap looking compared to my recent Fit and Versa experiences, I have actually come around to liking it a lot. It is less "busy" than the Fit, which was way over designed, and I like Ford's use of pebbling, micropebbling, and "sticky" or "grippy" overlays (on the arm rest). Now that I have 1,000 miles on the car, I see the interior as cleverly minamalist, in that way I used to like VW's (until they started getting all Lexus'd out). A lot of thought when into surfaces, seat fabrics, lighting under switchgear, the center arm rest, the controls, the rubber lining in the console cupholders, etc. The only thing I miss are hand grabs, not because I use them to get in and out, but because I like to grab them while on interstate drives to stretch out a little.
If you like your Focus, as I do, please share your thoughts with your friends, relatives, and coworkers. This is a very difficult time for the American manufacturers. I have watched them for the past 8 years, and they have been diligent about reducing so-called "legacy" costs while upgrading their products to reduce warranty costs and quality control issues. Ford, imho, has done the best job - the Focus is still in the hunt compared with Corollas and Sentras and maybe even Civics, if you give it points for its Euro-centric driving experience - the Fusion is a hit - the Taurus models may be boring, but they are rock solid derivatives of Volvos - the Edge is sweet, the Escape is sensibly (finally) upgraded with a great new engine, and the Flex is way too far out to come from an American company. They both need and deserve our support in these very difficult economic times.
#1983 of 2014 Re: "Tipping Points" Towards My '09 Focus Purchase [micweb]
Dec 06, 2008 (9:40 am)
Interesting messages Mike. " Tipping points " I wonder what the "tipping points" are as Congress makes its decisions as to what is to become of U. S. sourced and owned automobile manufacturing.
I have described in previous postings how I came to purchase my 04 ZTS Focus exactly 5 years ago which I still enjoy driving everyday and for 65,000 miles.
the 04's were the last model year with the funcky dashboard. In my opinion the 05-07's were too generic for my taste in that area. This was imortant because I don't think most people realize that you live with the design of the car on the inside more than you do with the outside. The elimination of the telescoping feature on the steering wheel in the latest models, also eliminated some value. On the other hand, all reports say that there is a quieter more upscale quality to the interior. "Tipping Points " again, Ford evidently feels that it was necessary to do this, and they were correct, as sales of the model have been a high light in the dismal market otherwise.
I have "talked up" the Focus over the years, I think that Ford has improved its image here in North America, Their image in Europe has always been better. Recently through their periodical to Ford owners here in America, european models coming here have been announced.
During the last two years of elevated fuel prices, the 2.3 PZEV was capable of getting 30-35 mpg, and since it has a very wide torque range, one does not need to wind it or thrash it as with most 4 cylinder engines.
Enjoy your new FOCUS.
#1984 of 2014 Ford Focus great experience
Dec 08, 2008 (8:01 pm)
I have a 2005 Ford Focus ST with the 2.3 liter I4 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. This was the sportiest model for 2005 and is fully optioned with traction control, sunroof, heated leather seats and more. I have 70,000 trouble free miles on the Focus now and still grin when I drive it. It is the most satisfying small car I've ever had. I've driven lots of highway miles between Minneapolis and Phoenix and the chair height seats and compliant ride let me comfortably do 12-hour days without being saddle sore. Ford got so much right on the Focus. The independent rear suspension gives a far smoother and more compliant ride than most competitors that ride on twist beam solid rear axles. The 2008 and 09 have updated interiors and exteriors but the basic goodness of the chassis and layout remain. Plus Ford's quality is now solidly above average and on par with the best of the Japanese according to statistical reviews. My problem free experience is consistent with that. It's frustrating to read the news of auto industry problems where Ford gets lumped in with Chrysler or GM. Ford is in much better shape from consistently high quality to stronger financial condition. In my experience, the Focus is a much better choice than the Corolla. The Civic has strengths, but long distance comfort isn't one of them. The Focus is both technically on par or superior to the competition in key areas and is a better value. Focus sales are up dramatically in 2008 with the remodeled Focus, strong fuel economy numbers, and the Sync music system. It's easy to see why. I've driven a lot of small cars and the Focus still excels and satisfies.
#1985 of 2014 Re: Ford Focus great experience [basiliskst]
Dec 09, 2008 (3:49 pm)
I agree that the independent rear suspension is a BIG plus on the Focus. I have had several "twist axle" rear suspensions (Honda Fit, Scion xA, Nissan Versa, and my old and current Cobalts) and all of them give a solid "thump" and "loose" "jumpy" feeling when I hit swells on the freeway. My current Focus (and all the prior ones) handled those sorts of freeway irregularities just fine.
My '09 has a much better suspension "tune" than my '05 had. My '05 suffered from the bean counter decision to forego the rear sway bar except on the upscale SES trim lines. The '09 is missing the rear sway bar, too, but it has the same taut handling as the early Focii which all had rear sway bars - apparently Ford adjusted coil spring rates, shock and strut rates to make the car truly handle well without a rear sway bar. Which means on the S and SE trims, the Focus is TRULY fully independent at the rear.
What has degraded, imho, is the tire grip. It felt fine on the fuel saving Hankook Optimo 725's (which, in non-OEM format got good marks from Consumer Reports in their all-season tire tests) BUT this morning I noticed the car does NOT feel well connected through the tires and when I take freeway sweeping curves, I have to turn the steering wheel more - I think these tires don't grip as much and require more "slip angle" at the front end to do their job. Please note that suspension damping and body lean are all good, it is just the tires, the final connecting piece, not doing their job.
I'm not that excited about changing tires (I would move to Kumho KH16's which I've used before, or to the more expensive, highly rated, but unproven by me Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S). Money is too tight now, and I hate to waste the stock tires.
If you buy the Coupe instead of the sedan, you get peformance tires instead of gas saving tires. If you buy the SES in the Sedan instead of the S or SE, you likewise get performance tires.
On your other issue - Ford quality and driving dynamics - I agree they are among the best, equal to or better than Honda (in driving dynamics, at least), better in both than Toyota, and better than GM and DC. HOWEVER they made some marketing boo-boos the past few years - the current Taurus/former Five Hundred was poorly marketed (and is still poorly marketed); they were slow to issue 6 speed transmissions, and the initial releases didn't downshift briskly when needed (but "hunted" in other circumstances); the 3.0 was outdated, and the great 3.5 came out just in the nick of time; the Escape was badly in need of a suspension update, which it got this year, and badly in need of an engine update, which it also got (2.5 instead of 2.3), and badly in need of more cogs in the automatic transmission, which it got this year; the Fusion needed a better base engine (the 2.5 vs. the 2.3); the Flex should have come out earlier, and came out in way-expensive "luxo" versions instead of including some bread and butter, affordable trims and models; the TaurusX, a GREAT clone of the Volvo XC90, was horribly marketed; their minivan update accomplished nothing, and then they dropped it altogether.
On the other hand the Expedition update was great, the new F150 is great, and they still have that ace in the hole, variable valve timing, to roll out on their 4 cylinder engines (the Focus 2.0, the 2.5 in the others). When they come out with VVT, their 4's are going to rock.
They probably also need to take the pretty much all new 3.5 and downsize it to 3.0 for the Fusion, and upsize it to 3.8 for the Mustang and Flex. Unless they can show us the 3.5 has enough power for their larger applications, but doesn't waste gas in the smaller vehicles (Fusion, Escape).
just my 2.5 cents.
#1986 of 2014 Re: Ford Focus great experience [micweb]
Dec 13, 2008 (12:58 pm)
Having no sway bar just to ensure the suspension's full independence isn't necessary the best tuning for ride/handling compromise. I just did a comparison/experimentation on my MkI Jetta's tuning.
The factory tuning goes like this:
1)Soft (diesel model): soft springs w/ a small rear sway bar (no front bar)
2)Medium (gas model): medium springs w/ a small rear sway bar (no front bar)
3)Hard (GLI/GTI): hard springs w/ a medium rear sway & a front bar
I ended up choosing the soft springs w/ the full set of GLI/GTI front/rear bars!
It may ride firmer than the Soft setting (but no firmer when crossing speed bumps evenly), but corners even flatter than the Medium setting. The only thing I have to watch out for is avoiding deceleration while cornering hard, as the soft springs do make the car dive pretty badly. I think it's a fair trade off for the comfort I've been gaining. I just have to try to accelerate while cornering in order to keep the front springs lengthy.
The July '08 Consumer Reports found the new Americanized Focus's "steering isn't quite as crisp as it was on the original." That's right, even the SES model w/ Pirelli P6 205/50-16! So that leaves the most desirable Focus to be...
#1987 of 2014 Re: Ford Focus great experience [basiliskst]
Dec 13, 2008 (3:33 pm)
I prefer my '07 ST over my '05 ST. I traded in the '05 for the '07 hoping to get rid of the nauseating low-quality plastic smell, but no luck. Too bad this piece of German-engineering w/ American quality is still flawed. I better open the windows often
At least, dynamically, the '07 is better tuned than the '05 for my taste!
The '05 had an identical suspension as the SVT (ST170 in Europe), except the lowered springs. The '07 has a less firm springs & less-abrupt-riding shocks. But I'm still looking forward to replace w/ Gabriel shocks for relaxing ride motion.
The '07's traction control (no longer std) is less intrusive, & I love it. It seems to be able to be defeated completely this time. Even with the aftermarket Quaife differential installed, it is still useful to leave it on during slippery conditions.
I do missed my '05's smother shift linkage as well as the European-ish reverse lock-out ring, though.
Now here's the best thing -- pwr steering tuning.
The '05's is always slightly too light & therefore lacks confident-inspiring resistance during high speed ramps. I tried to temper w/ the steering-pump wiring, but only able to firm up during the mid & low speeds.
The '07's may be even lighter at lower speeds. But above 40mph, it firms up nicely at high speed curves to feel confident inspiring! Tempering w/ the wiring only adds excessive self-centering action at all speeds to disrupt your natural resistance during cornering! So it's the best to just leave it alone!
This kind of reminds me (Euro) Performance Car magazine's complain about Mini Cooper S's adjustable pwr steering -- heavier setting actually dulls the road feel!
& what's so good about the Civic other than the fancy interior? The Civic Si's electric pwr steering lacks road feel so badly even the best video game can do better (see recent Car & Driver's comparison w/ Mazdaspeed3, etc.).
Dec '08 Bimmer magazine: In the comparison test they complained about the Mercedes C300 Sport's lack of steering feel, the BMW 328i's little steering feel, &, despite the mighty powertrain, the BMW 335i being less fun to drive than the 3-series from the previoius generations due to lack of feel/involvement.
I still can't imagine which sedan out there today steers better than the '07 Focus ST 2.3 Even with such quick ratio, it still tracks straight for relaxing cruising. This can not be said about the fun E36 3-series w/ or w/o the quick-ratio steering rack (from the std Z3) installed!
#1988 of 2014 2000 Focus LX 5speed 117,000 miles and going strong
Feb 06, 2009 (3:43 am)
I purchased the first 2000 Focus LX sedan with 5 speed our local dealership received. The car has performed beautifully for almost 9 years. It has been a daily driver the entire time and is starting to show age. Unfortunately, due to growing kids, 11 and 7, I will need to go bigger in the next couple of years. This car was my first new car purchase and it has been the best car I have ever owned. I tell everyone who is looking for a small car to drive one first and then test the rest. I would buy another one tomorrow if I could part with this one. It is getting rusty but it is still trusty!!
#1989 of 2014 Yep, the manny tranny in my '09 isn't as good as before....
Feb 25, 2009 (11:43 am)
I don't know what Ford changed, but the manual transmission in '09 isn't as smooth, or as easy to drop into 1st, as the ones in my prior Focii. It's fine, but the earlier ones were exceptionally good, close to Honda standards. Anyone know if they change vendors?
Also I have a buzz which I have isolated at the plastic sleeve that covers the seatbelt in the "b" pillar of the door. When the car is cold (cold morning) on certain rough roads there is a little buzz as the sleeve vibrates around the seatbelt channel. Easy to stop it by touching it, may insert a matchbook or something in the sleeve to dampen it, but want to check with the dealer first since, after all, it's the seat belt mechanism and I want to make sure it can do it's job.
The engine is incredibly smooth and feels stronger than the 2.2 Ecotec in my '09 Cobalt, but that one has an automatic transmission, which may sap too much power from that larger, higher rated engine.
The suspension and NVH in the Focus blow away the Cobalt though. This is the best small car I've ever owned, and I've owned a lot, included VW's and Japanese.
#1991 of 2014 Re: Yep, the manny tranny in my '09 isn't as good as before.... [micweb]
Feb 28, 2009 (3:22 pm)
What year was your previous manny tranny?
Compare to the '05 Focus ST I used to own, my '07 Focus ST does not slip b/t gears as easily/quickly. & I hate it!
& the '07's shifter simply looks stupid (& nerdy) w/ its dummy reverse lock out. Where's its European heritage?
I still prefer the '07 over the '05 due to the pwr steering's stronger centering & more heft at higher speeds -- more confident inspiring.
Maybe the '06 has the best of both...