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2018 Ford Focus Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.5

For the 2018 Ford Focus, the level of pep goes from subdued to scorching. The standard powertrain delivers a satisfying amount of around-town acceleration. Though two efficient variants are available, most of the engine options fall on the thirsty side of the scale. This is one of the more agile small cars in our rankings.

  • "Much like its upscale interior, the driving characteristics of the 2017 Ford Focus help it stand out in its class even after several years on the market. For starters, it's one of the most comfortable compact cars to drive on the highway, and it has very enjoyable handling manners. 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 (2017)
  • "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. Automatic-transmission hiccups aside, it's never less than a pleasure to drive." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "The Focus delivers a first-class driving experience. All models combine a comfortable ride with confidence-inspiring driving dynamics." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Acceleration and Power

Most drivers with an urban commute will be content with the standard Focus’ powertrain. It includes a 160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic transmission is available). However, this engine’s EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway is lower than average for a compact car. Your fuel dollars go much further with the available 123-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine (standard in the SE sedan), which gets up to 30 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. This engine sacrifices brisk acceleration, however.

The Focus Electric is a battery-electric vehicle with a 115-mile range. It comes with a single electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, and it has a 143 horsepower rating. Recharging the battery takes 30 hours with a 120-volt outlet or 5.5 hours with a 240-volt connection.

On the other end of the power spectrum are two high-performance hatchback editions. Both the Focus ST and the Focus RS come with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Acceleration with the 252-horsepower ST engine is very satisfying, while the 350-horsepower RS is blistering off the line. Fuel economy drops to 22/30 mpg city/highway with the ST and 19/26 mpg city/highway with the RS.

  • "The 1.0-liter Focus is rated at a humble 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, and real-world output feels even weaker. Flooring the accelerator is often required to keep up with traffic. The transmission is generally well-behaved." -- Edmunds
  • "The standard 160-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in the S Sedan and SE sedan or hatchback is strong." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "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)

Handling and Braking

With the exception of the all-wheel-drive Focus RS, every Focus comes with front-wheel drive. This compact car is more fun to drive than most, with agile handling and a pretty smooth ride. The sharp steering is a plus for both parking lots and twisty roads. Agility (and subsequent driving excitement) increases as you move up to the Titanium, ST, and RS trims.

  • "Body roll is notable but expected. What's not expected is the verve of this car on a winding road. Ford has tuned the suspension masterfully, imbuing even this economy-minded model with a playful, light-on-its-feet character." -- Edmunds
  • "Most will like the ride delivered by the SE trim … The Titanium brings even more bells and whistles, but its larger tires and sport suspension create a rather firm ride." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "The turbocharged ST is an absolute hoot. This is one of the best-handling front-drive cars around." -- Autotrader (2016)

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