2018 Ford Focus: Economy and style for under $20K

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Compact cars were all the rage a few years ago, and while demand for econocars is trending downward, the Ford Focus continues to be a force in the compact niche, as it continues to deliver style and economy for under $20K.

Dropping one slot to the 12th top-selling sedan in America (all sedan sizes and luxury levels included), the 2018 Ford Focus remains essentially the same for 2018 as it was last year, with massive changes set for 2019. Ford’s econobox will sit on an all-new platform with an adaptive suspension system next year, and the body will be sculpted with crisper lines, a longer hood and a longer wheelbase.

For this year, Focus is offered in Sedan, Hatch and Electric models, and can be tailored (with options) to fit personal style for car shoppers on a budget, with a price that starts at $17,950. New for this year are a revamped color palette with four new metallic hues offered: Blue, Hot Pepper Red, Lightning Blue, and Outrageous Green are in, and Blue Candy, Kona Blue, Race Red, and Ruby Red are out. Also, the SE Appearance Package is now available on all SE models regardless of engine choice, and some minor equipment elements have been deleted from various trims. And, unfortunately, the spiffiest Focus, the RS trim, is being discontinued, with a limited run of only 1,000 vehicles available in America.

But there’s still a lot to like for 2018, as Ford Focus remains a comfortable, power-enough low-frills commuter car, with enough infotainment to satisfy younger and trend-motivated buyers. The 2018 Ford Focus has available SYNC® 3 enhanced voice recognition and entertainment system with AppLink™ and 911 Assist®, an 8-inch center LCD touch screen with available navigation, and swiping and pinch-to-zoom capabilities. Two standard smart-charging USB ports are great for families on the go with energy-hungry devices.

Visually, Focus displays a sporty architecture that seems upticked from typical economical sedans priced under $20K. Focus is fluid and rounded and exudes energy and hipness. Configured in hatchback or sedan layouts, the compact sedan, measures 178.7 inches in length (the hatchback is 5 inches shorter), 71.8 inches in width and 57.8 inches in height on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, with a curb weight of 2935 lbs. for the sedan and 3214 for the hatchback version.

Assembled at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, with unitized steel body construction, the SE trim Focus I tested was pleasing for the segment, with an aggressive demeanor and attractive lines.

For power, the standard Focus engine is a 2.0-liter Ti-VCT FFV inline-4-cylinder engine built in Dearborn, Michigan. That system provides 160hp and 146 lb-ft. of torque and is rated at 26mpg/city, 36mpg/highway with a 5-speed manual transmission. Also available are a super-economical 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost® engine built in Craiova, Romania, that provides 123 hp and 125 lb-ft. of torque. The manual version is EPA rated at 30mpg/city, 42mpg/highway and 35mpg combined, while the six-speed PowerShift automatic with SelectShift is rated at 30mpg/city and 42mpg/highway. On the downside, you DO sacrifice performance for the increase in economy. Realistically, the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder system requires a lot of strategy to pass at speed on the Interstate, and long uphill grades can be a challenge – that’s why I opted for the standard 2.0-liter. On the upside, if you crave more power for a sub-3000-lb. vehicle, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 is also available, with its 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, for an EPA estimate of 22/city and 31/highway with the 6-speed manual transmission.

My test Focus SE, outfitted with the 2.0-liter Ti-VCT FFV I-4, was mated to a six-speed PowerShift automatic. It was rated at 27mpg/city and 40mpg/highway and my mixed-use car tests churned out an average of 32.2mpg.

On the track, the 160 horses were enough to complete a 9.1-second zero-to-60mph sprint during a 17-second quarter-mile; and on the highway, the set-up was adequate enough to ease by other vehicles at speed and overcome uphills.

Inside, Focus features a center console and driver/passenger-friendly capabilities. With seating capacity for five, front head room is tight, but niche-acceptable, at 38.3 inches with 38 inches of rear head room; front legroom measures 43.1 inches with a cramped 33.2 inches for rear passengers and shoulder room is 55.6 inches in front and 52.6 inches for rear seat passengers.

Available in Sedan, Hatchback and Electric configurations, the Base “S” 2018 Focus sedan starts at $17,950; the Hatch starts at $20,540 and the Electric bases at $29,120. My test SE sedan, under $20K to start, with a manual transmission and the 1.0-liter engine, was in Lightning Blue with Medium Light Stone cloth seats. The 2.0-liter I-4 necessitated a move to the 6-speed automatic transmission for $1095. The Cold Weather Package added $645 for all-weather floor mats, heated front-seats, leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel and heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicator. The Interior Protection Package added $150 for all-weather floormats and cargo area protector. Remote start added $445 and Destination charges were $875. The sticker-as-tested was $22,305, but incentives of $4000 brought the price down to $18,305, so check with your local dealer for under-$20K deals.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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