Coming into Focus

New engine packs punch for Ford compact

Good things do come in small packages. That’s a lesson former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and Dave Mikesell learned this week. Case in point is the 2016 Ford Focus, which is already diminutive, but now has a new (tiny) 1.0-liter engine.

Ford, of course, has mastered the engineering of boosting small engines for maximum output. They’ve done it in their trucks, and now they do it with the Focus.

JIMMY: I love the Ecoboost technology. It never disappoints. So I was excited when I learned my tester had the new 1.0-liter turbocharged Ecoboost engine. Sure, the output numbers seem sluggish at 123 horsepower, but when compared to the 2.0-liter engine which makes only 160 hp, it’s pretty impressive. And this turbocharged Focus has just enough spunk to make it reasonably fun. I was impressed with its off-the-line speed. It won’t win a drag race, but it can get moving quick enough. Dave drove the 2.0-liter Focus, so let’s see if he was impressed by the performance of that engine, which is a carryover from last model year.

DAVE: Forewarning, this assessment is going to come with a but (one t). I think this engine is certainly adequate for most conditions. Responsive enough in town and cruises nicely. But, with 146 lbs.-ft. of torque, this is not an elite passer as I found out on a stretch of country road in northern Indiana. My gut said go, but with the engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, my head said fall back and wait for another opportunity.

JIMMY: The Focus comes as a hatchback and a four-door sedan. My tester was the sedan. The squatty styling is more fitting for a hatch and without much impressive exterior styling as a sedan, it would be ideal to eliminate the sedan altogether and focus on making the Focus a hatchback only. Dave, you drove the hatchback; do you agree with my assertion?

DAVE: It’s tough to make a compact sedan look like anything more than basic transportation. The hatchback offers a bit more leeway. The Focus gets the oversized oval grille that is beginning to run through the Ford lineup. There are nice lines that swoop to the rear, and the hatch provide nice visibility. I drove a Titanium trim — more about the differences in a bit — that added a few style touches.

JIMMY: For a car with such a small sticker price, the Focus has a nice interior. There are soft touchpoints which was surprising. The seats are comfortable. The back seat is small, but good enough for kids. Dave, you’re a tall guy; what did you think of the interior?

DAVE: Here’s how cars pass my comfort test. It’s not whether the seats are pillow soft (the Focus’s are soft and supportive enough), it’s whether at the end of a long trip — say, three hours without a stop — that you can exit and not feel like you need to immediately see a chiropractor. The Focus passed. Interior materials were upgraded last year and provide a presentation that competes with more expensive vehicles. Jimmy is our tech-guru, so he can explain the gadgetry.

JIMMY: New for this model year is the addition of the Sync 3 system. This replaces the much-maligned and outdated Ford Sync infotainment system. I actually didn’t find the previous system to be as hateful as many other car reviewers, but the Sync 3 system is amazing. It’s intuitive, clean and presents itself in a straightforward way.

DAVE: Focus comes in seven trims: three sedans and four hatchbacks. The base Sedan S starts at $17,225 and there are SE ($18,515) and Titanium ($23,225) versions of both, with hatchbacks running about $500 more. A couple of high-powered turbocharged hatchbacks are also offered — a 240-h ST for $24,425 and a new 350-hp RS for $35,900.

JIMMY: One of the biggest perks of the Focus is its fuel economy. The new small engine hits that 40 mpg platform, which is the first time for the non-electric Focus. Even the 2.0-liter engine can’t claim that. In a week’s worth of driving, mostly in the suburbs and some on the highway, I averaged 36.9 mpg. The EPA rating for the 1.0-liter Focus is 28 mpg/city and 40 mpg/highway.

DAVE: I make at least one trip a year to the state up north and the Ford Focus turned out to be a great one to take it in. The hatchback provides easy loading and plenty of space with a split/folding rear seat. It’s no wonder more that 200,000 Focuses have been sold each of the last four years.

JIMMY: The Focus is a great car for young drivers and also for those who may have a long commute. With a smaller, faster, more fuel-efficient engine, it also adds a morsel of excitement to this car. As a hatch it’s hot. As a sedan it’s less exciting, but otherwise, the Focus continues to evolve, improve and resonate with the consumer.

David Mikesell is a freelance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis. Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

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