Elisa Brooks
February 2, 2011
Photos By: Courtesy Ford Motor Company

Forget the Ford Focus as you've known it since its launch into the C-Class market in 2000. Forget the image of a lowbrow hybrid look-alike, the fact your neighbor's 16-year-old daughter has one, and while you're at it, erase the occasions where the driver in the Focus next to you was the root of your sarcastic joke. Instead, Ford's new 2012 model will evoke an emotion rarely directed at a Focus driver---envy. That's right; the image of the boring Focus is no longer apt--instead, in comes a refined, European-inspired car with a cool factor that is sure to impress even the most discerning driver.

The all-new '12 Focus boasts bold looks and tons of technology on the inside. Some models feature MyFord Touch Driver Connect on an eight-inch touch screen display with superb graphics. The voice recognition system controls the cabin climate, navigation, and just about everything in between. You can even order "take out" food just by speaking voice commands. This new wave of Ford technology makes pushing buttons rather obsolete.

The Focus comes available with Wi-Fi to keep you connected to the Web seamlessly, and an automated text reading feature, so that your eyes stay on the road. Let's not forget the push-to-start ignition and the park assist, both of which are becoming more popular in the marketplace. Ford truly thought of everything for the tech-savvy consumer looking for options often relegated to higher-end vehicle brands. The interior is nicely appointed and the race-inspired seats hug and support the occupants. The front seats are nice and roomy, however the lack of back-seat legroom is likely to leave your amigos a little cramped.

The exterior features add flavor to what used to be seen as a bland, no-frills econbox, who's only job was getting you from point A to point B. What Ford calls "Kinetic Design" shines through in the sleek bodylines, racy front fascia, and rear spoiler. The Focus is completely redesigned and sport-inspired, and is sure to please even the toughest car snobs. There is a multitude of colors, trim options and wheel packages. And in addition to the aesthetics, Ford put a lot of time and effort into creating a fun car built around safety. Upon impact, should you be so unfortunate, six advanced airbags deploy and vent with varying pressure depending on the size of the occupant(s). Over 55 percent of the body is made with high-strength specially treated steel, which actually saves weight and that creates a more impact-resistant body than previous models.

The heart of the Focus is the DOHC 2.0 liter direct-injection inline four-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. There are two available transmission options; a five-speed manual and six-speed PowerShift automatic. The auto shifter has a racy push-to-shift button, however we would have liked to see paddle shifters instead. The smooth-shifting manual provided loads of fun, more so than the automatic. Fuel economy wasn't overlooked either, and 40 mpg is nothing to sneeze at when you consider the overall driving experience.

A major advancement in the way the car drives is what Ford refers to as Torque Vectoring, which provides a similar effect as limited-slip differential. The terrain where our test drive took place was mountainous and full of hairpin turns. There was no shortage of thrills as we pushed the limit for hours. The Focus was stable, responsive, and smooth around the curves, which impressed us since it never appealed as a car we would actually want to rip around boulders and cliffs with.

Don't worry horsepower junkies; Ford didn't forget to add a sweet performance package to the new Focus. Expected sometime in 2012, the Focus ST will sport the highly anticipated turbocharged Ecoboost engine on the 2.0 liter platform mentioned earlier--except Ford, being as meticulous as it is, added forged internals to hold everything together. Your need for speed will be filled without any hits to practicality and reliability, a combination we've come to expect from the Blue Oval camp. We're looking forward to seeing what the ST version will do on, and off, the track.

Along with all of these upgrades in technology, performance, and styling, comes an increase in price. The options do add to the bottom line, just like any car, but they push this C-Class car into a different (read: higher) price point. The base model starts at $18,000 and the price jumps significantly as you slather on the options. The ST turbocharged performance package pricing has yet to be announced, but could be into Mustang territory.

So, is the Focus, now wrapped in an attractive and sporty package, amazing and worth owning? Quite simply, yes it is. Would we own one? Yes, though admittedly the price intimidates us. In the end, Ford stepped it up in a big way (once again), and we recommend you drive one to experience all the 2012 Focus has to offer.

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