$11,469 - $32,378

2017 Ford Focus Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Ford Focus was new.


Performance: 8.2

The 2017 Ford Focus' performance largely depends on the powertrain you choose. Some say the base engine provides decent acceleration, while others say it's merely so-so. The high-performance trims are a blast to drive, thanks to impressive power and sharp driving dynamics. The Focus Electric behaves much like its fuel-dependent stablemate, except it has weaker acceleration at higher speeds and isn't quite as agile.

Most Focus models have a smooth and compliant ride. Titanium, ST, and RS models ride a little firmer, attributable to their sportier suspensions. However, these models handle with better poise. That's not to say the lower trims are not sporty. Overall, the Focus is one of the sportiest entrants in the compact car segment.

  • "… before you write off the ST in favor of something newer and more hypeworthy, consider that the Focus ST still represents 'hot hatch' performance at its best." -- Edmunds
  • "As a 'world car,' with similar versions sold in multiple countries, the Focus is designed to appeal to just about everyone in the world, really. So it's not surprising that the Focus delivers a first-class driving experience. All models combine a comfortable ride with confidence-inspiring driving dynamics." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "Thanks to its Continental turbo that helps deliver the engine's full 148 pound-feet of torque from just 1,400 rpm, the 1.0-liter EcoBoost behaves like a much larger unit – in fact, its power delivery characteristics are almost diesel-like in the way it delivers strong low-end performance but doesn't like to rev much." -- Autoblog (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 Focus comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 160 horsepower. Transmission choices include either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual transmission, the latter of which performs like an automatic. The base Focus returns 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, which is below average for a compact car. Models with the automatic return 26 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway, which are more in line with the class average.

Aside from the high-performance and electric trims, a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine is available. It makes 123 horsepower and is accompanied by a six-speed manual transmission or an available six-speed automatic. The manual transmission is the most fuel-efficient iteration of the Focus with this engine; it returns 30/40 mpg city/highway.

While some critics say the Focus' base engine supplies ready and willing acceleration, others say it's merely passable. The standard five-speed manual gearbox gives the Focus a sportier feel to match the car's deft handling ability.

Most will opt for the six-speed automated manual transmission, which feels unrefined and makes low-speed driving frustrating. Once you let off the brake, the car doesn't inch forward as most would expect with an automatic transmission. That means you'll have to hit the gas. This makes things a little jumpy, which could make driving in stop-and-go traffic more stressful. At higher speeds, the transmission sometimes struggles to find the correct gear or downshift on time.

  • "The underwhelming powertrains, however, work against the Focus. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is adequate in daily driving but isn't very exciting. The dual-clutch automatic transmission (it operates like a standard automatic for most intents and purposes) is mostly hit-or-miss due to its marginal slow-speed city performance. To get any meaningful response from the gas pedal, you really have to floor it." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2.0-liter engine is quite eager, delivering smooth and satisfying acceleration. The automatic transmission gets confused at times, however, hunting for the right gear and pausing before downshifting. We prefer the 5-speed manual, which adds a sporting character more in line with the car's essential nature." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "A well-sorted five-speed manual is standard on most Focus models, while a six-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional. The latter behaves differently than a traditional torque-converter automatic, which is both good and bad. On the negative side, the dual-clutch can be slightly herky-jerky at lower speeds, and it doesn't always creep forward the way one would expect, which can make parking a little touch and go. It does, however, provide smooth, rapid shifts once underway and return excellent fuel economy." -- Left Lane News (2015)

Handling and Braking

The 2017 Focus comes standard with front-wheel drive. It stands out for having sportier handling than most compact cars. The Focus' predictable and responsive steering has just the right weight. It tackles curves in the road with finesse, especially in the Titanium trim.

While sporty, the Focus also provides a pleasing and quiet ride on well-worn streets and freeways alike – though Titanium models have a firmer ride. The brakes in all trims provide strong stopping ability.

  • "Basically, the ride quality is smooth, quiet and docile on the highway or over broken city streets, but it still manages to handle corners well and feel especially sporty for the class. It strikes a great balance between comfortable and entertaining." -- Edmunds
  • "The top-level Titanium with its sport suspension rides a little firmer, but with even better handling. With front disc/rear drum brakes on the Focus S and 4-wheel discs on higher-trim levels, the brakes deliver sure stops." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "[W]e observed a mature, well-damped ride from the Focus' recalibrated suspension and pleasingly weighted steering with good accuracy and decent feedback for an electric system." -- Autoblog (2015)

High-Performance Trims

The first performance-oriented trim of the Focus lineup is the ST hatchback, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It is front-wheel drive and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is not an option.

For even more exhilarating performance, check out the all-new Focus RS hatchback. It uses a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission choice for the RS. Unlike the ST, the Focus RS is all-wheel drive.

While the ST isn't the most polished performance-oriented compact car, it offers the right amount of sportiness for the price, and it's truly fun to drive. Lively acceleration, a slick-shifting manual transmission, a crisp steering feel, and capable brakes make the Focus ST an appealing package. The RS, with almost 100 extra horsepower, provides stronger acceleration.

  • "Where the ST really shines, however, is in the driving experience itself. The 252-horsepower four-cylinder delivers abundant acceleration, while the crisp action of the short-throw manual gearbox makes it a pleasure to use. Communicative steering and strong brakes make the car just that much more enjoyable." -- Edmunds
  • "Although the ST and RS are undeniably athletic, even the entry-level model provides sophisticated dynamics similar to upscale sport-luxury cars. In any trim and specification, the Focus is composed, refined and satisfyingly responsive." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "The Ford ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance, or ergonomics. But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money, it scores an undisputed ten on the entertainment scale, and it won't fall apart when pushed to the limit." -- Automobile Magazine (2013)

Alternative Fuels and Charging

The 2017 Ford Focus Electric's motor makes 143 horsepower and gets 110/99 mpg-e city/highway (for more information about mpg-e, see here). A continuously variable transmission, which functions like an automatic, is standard in the Focus Electric. On a full charge, it can go up to 115 miles. Charging will take about 30 hours if you use a typical household outlet, according to Ford. With a 240-volt charging station, that time decreases to 5.5 hours. The Focus Electric's charging time is longer than average for an electric vehicle.

Overall, the Focus Electric is about as much fun as its gas-burning counterpart. Acceleration with the Electric is instantaneous and eager from a stop. However, power weakens as the speedometer climbs. It is also heavier than the gas-powered version, which hampers handling ability. Still, the Focus Electric drives better than many others in its price range.

  • "As for the Focus Electric, its battery-powered motor delivers immediate acceleration from a standing start, but that snappy sensation diminishes at higher speeds. Handling isn't quite as sharp either, but it's still one of the better-driving EVs in this price range." --Edmunds (2016)
  • "Weighing in at 3,691 lbs., the Focus Electric is considerably heavier than its fossil fuel-sipping counterparts. The extra mass takes a toll on agility, although handling remains safe and predictable." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "Focus Electric is among the more rewarding pure-electric vehicles to drive. And, for the most part, it feels like a conventional Focus." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

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