The 2012 Ford Focus is an entirely new, more exciting-looking vehicle inside and out—now either a sharp four-door sedan or curvaceous five-door hatchback. On the outside, the Focus is crisply styled, dashing, and well-detailed. The interior is definitely a departure from what you'll find in other Ford vehicles, or other small cars for that matter, with a complex, sculpted look paired with classy, tailored details, trims, and finishes that belie its affordable price.
With 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque from its direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the 2012 Focus doesn't have impressive specs. But it all feels better from the driver's seat. You have to keep the engine revving a bit to access its perky side, but the new six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission does a great job with that, pulling off quick, snappy shifts when needed. An especially low first-gear ratio also makes takeoffs feel quick and confident (though it stumbles sometimes in city puttering). If you stick with a manual, the gearboxes offered in the 2012 Focus only have five speeds, and with a long linkage they could feel a little more sporty to match the rest of the car's character.
Handling is one of many areas where the Focus won't disappoint; we think it's about the best handler in this class—as athletic, and nearly as communicative, as the Mazda3, yet with a more compliant, livable ride—which is one of the key reasons, along with its overall sophistication and tech prowess, that it earns a 7 out of 10 and stands up against much more expensive vehicles. A standard torque-vectoring feature for the stability control helps the Focus feel especially surefooted in tight corners. Meanwhile, the Focus' electric power steering has a quick ratio yet feels nicely weighted and quite settled on the highway.
Small car surely doesn't mean 'economy car' anymore, and the new Focus seems to be the poster car for this idea. By stepping up to the SEL or Titanium trim and checking some option boxes, you can get items like the iPad-like MyFord Touch system with voice control, an Active Park Assist system, or a full-on Sport Package.