Overview

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Written by James Hamel

Overview (Letter Grade after 8 Categories: B Minus)

Last year, we road tested the high performance 2015 Ford Focus ST five door hatchback with its aggressive spoilers, powerful brakes and thunderously potent 2.0 liter 252 horsepower/270 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost motor all coming together to create a very special automobile. One that could seriously imperil your license given its power output and ability to bring out anyone's inner hooligan on a wet, curvy road. Frankly we think the upcoming, more powerful Focus RS with 300 horsepower plus may be a bit of overkill but if you want a road legal rally car it may be the closest you may come to owning one in your lifetime.

But the Focus ST and RS are the performance halo models built out of a line of five door hatchbacks and sedans engineered and designed to sell globally as fuel efficient and affordable transport for the masses. And this being Ford, they managed to bake in a bit of driving fun as well with this latest 2016 Focus thanks to its highly refined and quiet interior that also manages to be where you can easily access the most communicative steering and chassis in its class. That's not easy to do, not by a long shot.

So does this mean the econo-Focus is fun to drive even with the smallest, least powerful engine that the automaker currently makes? That can't be possible in a car this size when we all know Ford's smallest engine, the fuel efficient wunderkind, is just a 1.0 liter turbocharged 3-cylinder which before now had not seen duty in anything larger than the Fiesta and the only way you could order the engine was mated to a rather low-tech and notchy 5-speed manual gearbox.

While our test 2016 Ford Focus 1.0-liter turbo Ecoboost SE sedan came with the standard manual transmission, this unit came with a slick and better suited six-speed manual self-shifter which made the act of driving slower than usual a true pleasure. Seriously, you cannot have more fun in any car that is pretty much only meant to keep up with the pace of traffic but rarely perform any drastic overtaking measures.

We figure this is more likely the case with the available six-speed automatic but the power available from this 1.0 liter 123 horsepower/125 lb. feet of torque 3-cylinder up to 80 miles per hour is impressive. If you want to go faster, however, we suggest you find somewhere you can travel downhill. With a tailwind.

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What we Loved about the 2016 Ford Focus

 


  • The affordable, fun to drive Focus would make a perfect first car


 

  • The manual transmission is enjoyable and truly idiot proof


 

  • The refinement and lack of vibration from the 3-cylinder was truly mind blowing.


 

What we Didn't Love about the 2016 Ford Focus

 


  • Not much happens when if you try to get the car past 75 mph


 

  • While the Focus Ecoboost comes well equipped, we wish Ford would offer more options


 

  • Just because we want efficiency doesn't mean we won't pay for leather, Sony audio or nav


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Exterior Appearance (8 out of 10)

While we do prefer the more European and nicely proportioned lines of the five door hatchback Focus, for 2016 the Focus sedan with the EcoBoost motor got a few nips and tucks to the front end as well as some additional body trim that help to make that bodystyle quite handsome. Prior to now, the sedan to our eyes looked a bit like the Ford designers awkwardly lopped off too much of the visual heft from the back of the compact car. Perhaps they were trying to make the Focus sedan look like it had less junk in the trunk?

Thanks to some spoilers and reshaped lights, the 2016 Ford Focus sedan is back to looking its best and less like a hatchback that they welded the wrong sized trunk onto. Since we keep mentioning the trunk of the Focus, it offers an impressive 13.2 cubic feet of cargo room while the available hatch just pips it by offering 10 more cubic feet of room behind the back seats. But as is always true with style, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Interior Comfort, Quality and Ease of Use (8 out of 10)

The recently updated dashboard of the 2016 Ford Focus even in the mid-level SE trim is a huge improvement over the previously dated looking, busy center console what with its mishmash of cell phone style numbers and an undersized joystick meant to be the driver's means of adjusting all manner of infotainment settings from stereo to Bluetooth phone functionality. Also, the 2016 Ford Focus has a terrific feeling new steering wheel which most importantly has moved the Sync voice activation switch away from a position just left of the driver's knee. We constantly found ourselves activating it accidentally in previous years so we are overjoyed Ford fixed this ergonomic faux pas.

Our Ecoboost SE sedan model Focus is not available with leather trim or many extra interior options barring a power sunroof but nonetheless we were impressed by the quality of both the plastics used as well as the durable feel of the standard cloth seats. Our tester had the Beige-ish "Medium Stone" fabric seats which withstood abuse from a large canine's paws and after a week looked none the worse for wear. We also like the lighter interior color as the one complaint that still holds true about the 2016 Ford Focus is that its backseat is short on legroom next to the class leaders. Not that our dog complained, however.

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Technology (8 out of 10)

Although the 2016 Ford Focus is available with the easier to use and more advanced Sync3 infotainment system, if you want the 1.0 liter EcoBoost engine then you are not allowed to specify your vehicle with tech features beyond the standard Sync2 system such as in-dash navigation, a 10-speaker Sony audio system, a blind spot warning or lane keeping safety system as well as Ford's capable Active Park Assist which can parallel park the vehicle for you. In case it's just too big a car for you to handle. Or you have no idea what "parallel parking" means.

So while we think our test 2016 Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost sedan SE managed to balance a difficult tightrope of being a high value purchase while never making us truly feel shortchanged with the absence of any particular feature. And for just $20,000 this Focus also offers buyers an engine so cleverly designed to be efficient, refined, durable and small that it is almost hard to believe Ford so adeptly pulled it off with this tour de force of a motor. To give you an idea how big this engine is, a few years ago Ford debuted it at the LA Auto Show after flying it out to the event in a duffel bag they put in a commercial jetliner's overhead compartment.

Fuel Economy (9 out of 10)

Although you have to work the tiny little 1.0 liter 3-cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost motor hard to get the power you want from it, this truly is the Ford engine that could and did—return truly impressive fuel efficiency. EPA fuel economy ratings for this model 2016 Focus are 29 city/40 highway on regular unleaded and we saw an average of 34.5 miles per gallon in the real world. Admittedly, a heavy right foot could negatively impact our fuel efficiency but the six speed manual's gearing and the start/stop function that comes standard with every 2016 Focus Ecoboost helped this fun to drive compact eke every mile out of a gallon of crude.

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Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Rankings (8 out of 10)

While Ford as of late has often times been a leader in new automotive technologies in its models, some quality hiccups with features like the original MyFordTouch (which is pretty glitch free nowadays as the impressive Sync3 infotainment system debuts across the brand's line-up) have kept it from perfect scores in quality surveys. Nonetheless, J.D. Power and Associates gave the Focus 3 out of 5 stars for quality with the car receiving four out of five for quality of design and engineering.

Safety (8 out of 10)

Now, the 2016 Ford Focus does manage an impressive "Top Safety Pick" rating overall from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) but that doesn't tell the full story. In the very difficult small front overlap impact test, the safety cell of the passenger compartment buckled by the driver's head so much so that the dummy wound up sliding off the driver's airbag, missing a side curtain airbag and hitting its head on a small unprotected section of the metal A-Pillar. Was that just really, really bad luck? Check out the photos and video on iihs.org for yourself, as we would recommend for any new car you buy. Still, the Focus still performs impressively compared to a number of its competitors one might assume were safer.

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Performance (7 out of 10)

This is an odd term to apply to this Focus model with the 1.0 liter turbocharged 123 horsepower/125 lb. feet of torque 3-cylinder engine—performance. That's because in this vehicle it can mean so much be it anything from how refined the engine is to its fuel efficiency to the nature of the power delivery and of course the eternal question as to whether there is any power felt from behind the wheel anyways. Well we are happy to report that our 2016 Ford Focus SE sedan 1.0 Ecoboost with the six-speed manual was always a joy to drive even if it doesn't much like to go faster than 80 miles per hour. Not that you ever really need to anyways.

Given our past experience as well with other 3-cylinder engines that are by their nature unbalanced due to the odd number of cylinders (and we don't mean Glenn Close boils a bunny in "Fatal Attraction" unbalanced here either) we were surprised at how smooth and quiet the Ecoboost 3-cylinder was even at freeway speed. Ford came up with a number of innovations when designing this motor to achieve its engineering goals and these included a timing chain that is constantly immersed in oil for long term durability and quietness, an externally mounted crankshaft pulley and flywheel to help balance the engine and the stiff yet compact engine block and turbocharger all of which cut down on untoward cabin vibrations.

We also really felt that the six-speed manual gearbox that comes with the Focus is vastly superior and much more pleasant to use than the five speed manual gearbox that debuted in the Fiesta subcompact with this engine. Whereas in the Focus this powertrain feels modern and engaging, it felt more archaic in the not much cheaper Fiesta kind of like the worn out mechanicals of an old harvesting combine found in an abandoned barn. The difference is really that marked.

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Pricing and Value for Money (9 out of 10)

Our brand new 2016 Ford Focus 1.0 liter Ecoboost SE sedan had a base MSRP of just $18,450 which included Sync, a back-up camera, air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, alloy wheels, My-Ford Touch, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/i-Pod audio system with six-speakers, split folding rear seats and bright halogen headlamps. All that and the easy yet fun to drive nature of the Focus Ecoboost make this an ideal first car for a young person. Especially when equipped with the delicious six-speed manual transmission, there aren't many more fun ways to drive below the speed limit than in the 2016 Ford Focus with the 1.0-liter motor.

Options are limited, however, with this engine, and our tester came with the reversing sensor system for $295 as well as the highly recommended cosmetic SE Ecoboost Package for $1,495 which affords you a rear spoiler, 17-inch alloys, rear disc brakes, LED lighting, stylish fog-lamps and an aggressively handsome full body styling bid which pumps up the visual menace considerably. It does a good job of hiding the small engine under the hood. Our total came to just over $20,000 with the newly available six-speed automatic potentially costing an additional $1,100 whereas the power sunroof runs you another $895.

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The Final Numbers and the Competition (65 points out of a possible 80)

The 2016 Ford Focus still has a number of feathers in its cap to help attract a new generation of buyers and those include its truly amazing levels of "big car" refinement, its relatively frugal and affordable nature depending on how you option it out, it is stylish and most importantly to us it elevates the daily drive into something more. Something more enjoyable, more memorable and more fun. Never can we remember driving a car that so clearly did not prioritize straight line acceleration above all else turn out to be such a hoot to go the speed limit in. If you have a teen driver you want to keep safe, this car is a terrific choice for you.

The 1.0 liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost motor makes a terrific noise but it will not allow your offspring to get in any trouble hot dogging the car for their friends. But up to the posted speed limit, the Focus with the itty-bitty motor does a fine job of getting out of its own way and keeping up. Now it may not quite be the perfect car for everyone, this little Focus Ecoboost we think will definitely offer up many ways to keep some folks very happy.

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Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Hatchback - AWD
RS 5dr HB RS 4 Cylinder AWD 35900
Hatchback - FWD
5dr HB Electric Motor FWD 29170
SE 5dr HB SE 4 Cylinder FWD 19015
Titanium 5dr HB Titanium 4 Cylinder FWD 23725
ST 5dr HB ST 4 Cylinder FWD 24425
Sedan - FWD
S 4dr Sedan S 4 Cylinder FWD 17225
SE 4dr Sedan SE 4 Cylinder FWD 18515
Titanium 4dr Sedan Titanium 4 Cylinder FWD 23225

Comparison of 2016 Ford Focus with Similar Cars

2016 Ford Focus MSRP Invoice
2016 Ford Focus $17,225 $16,622
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2016 Toyota Corolla $17,300 $16,349 2016 Ford Focus VS 2016 Toyota Corolla
2016 Hyundai Elantra $17,250 $16,734 2016 Ford Focus VS 2016 Hyundai Elantra
2016 Nissan Sentra $16,780 $16,357 2016 Ford Focus VS 2016 Nissan Sentra
2016 Volkswagen Jetta $17,680 $0 2016 Ford Focus VS 2016 Volkswagen Jetta
2016 Mazda Mazda3 $17,845 $17,081 2016 Ford Focus VS 2016 Mazda Mazda3

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2016 Ford Focus ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2016 Ford Focus rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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