Saturday, April 7, 2012

2007 Ford Focus: Two Weeks Of Hell Come To An End!

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The Good: Comfortable, A lot of nice bells and whistles, ? Safe?, Drives smooth
The Bad: No traction control, VERY light, Terrible gas mileage, Low environmental rating, Accelerates poorly
The Basics: Blah, this automobile is way behind the times and I am quite happy to be rid of it after two weeks of being condemned to one!

I am not a reviewer for Car And Driver Magazine. I'm not big into cars, they are not my passion, I'm not an expert on how they work. I drive cars. And, alas, I occasionally get them into accidents. Such is what happened to my poor Boopsie. Boopsie is my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid (reviewed here!) and she represents, to date, my only attempt to write about cars. There are thousands of sites out there that will provide the interested consumer with the technical data on the 2007 Ford Focus I am here to review. This review will focus (pun intended) on what the car was like to drive and what my two weeks with the car were like as I awaited the return of my beloved Boopsie.

While my primary car was being repaired, I spent two weeks driving around a 2007 Ford Focus, one of the more economical cars put out by Ford Motor Company. The one I found myself driving - I was not given a choice - was gold and because I live in the middle of nowhere, I ended up putting on 1280 miles over the course of the ten days I had the Focus. That's ten days and a thousand miles I can never get back in my life and it's a whole lot more money for gasoline than I've spent in a long time!

The Ford Focus is a compact four door car (I don't know why they're called "sedans," other than the same reason some ground beef in gravy is called "salisbury steak") that is not very tall, not very long, yet is strangely rather wide. The driver is down low to the ground, which helps one to remember their connection to the road. Sedan drivers are seldom cocky and Focus drivers I imagine are perhaps even more cautious with things like backing up.

From the first moment I sat down in the Focus, I felt I was driving something that might best be described as "cumbersome." The Focus is not huge, but the interior is roomy enough that it gives the illusion of being spacious. The driver's and passengers seats have ample leg room for a tall person such as myself, but the three seats in back are terribly cramped. I could not fit into the back seats while the driver's seat was back where I needed it to be (as a long-legged individual). This makes this a poor choice for, for example, a pile of college students. Young adults will be crammed into this most uncomfortably.

To be sure, they will have headroom. The Focus was roomy enough that my head never came close to brushing the ceiling. My arms had enough room to move around and everything from the drink holders to the stereo controls was within easy reach of my fingers. This made some of the other bells and whistles (see below) seem rather pointless and redundant, but I suppose for those who are not so tall, there might be issues with reaching such things? As it was the Focus had all of the controls within easy reach and it was easy to move around in it.

It was not, however, the easiest car to move around. First, out of all of the times I hopped in the Focus and turned the key, only twice did it start right away! EVERY other time, the electrical system powered up, but the gas engine stalled and I had to make a second attempt. For those thinking I might just be so lame as to not know how to turn on a car, I followed the correct procedure of, you know, turning the key and holding it there until it gave the happy startup noises. Every time, it would do that, then stall out. Go figure.

Pulling out, I noticed that the Focus is a bit sluggish. There's a pretty sizable wheel-control differential. What I mean by this is that some cars have a feather steering wheel; you touch the wheel and your car is going in a dramatically different direction. Boom. The 2007 Ford Focus is a bit more sluggish than that; the wheel is turned several degrees before anything remotely interesting happens to correspond with it in terms of the car's movement. Backing into spots made the car seem especially cumbersome as well and the car's width became annoying when trying to park in cramped parking lots. While the car (obviously) fits within the legal parking spaces, I found out immediately that the width is prohibitive to getting a parking space AND being able to comfortably get out of the car when one is boxed in.

As far as general driving, the Ford Focus was much slower on the acceleration than my Civic Hybrid. To be fair to the Focus, the car leaps from 40 to 80 with disturbing speed, but getting from zero to 55 took a longer time and the car seemed to make a serious effort in order to make that transition. The cruise control is similarly finicky; the controls for that are on the left side of the steering wheel and setting and resetting the cruise control became more of an annoyance than a convenience as the ability to accelerate up with the touch of a button was remarkably inconsistent. When adjusting the cruise control up, I would get velocity changes ranging from +1/2 mph to +2 mph, without any sense of consistency. Similarly, the Focus was especially slow to decelerate using the cruise control controls. It could not be counted on to lower my speed fast enough, so I generally found myself knocking the cruise control off and resetting it at a lower speed once I got where I wanted, as opposed to letting the controls do it for me (which is pretty much the point of cruise control . . .).

On the subject of fuel economy, the Ford Focus is a nightmare. I refuse to look up what the gas mileage for this car was supposed to be, but I got out of it a pathetic 24.8 miles per gallon and the read-out when I picked the car up had indicated that prior to me the car was getting 23.7 mpg. In this day in age, this is an inexcusable waste of gasoline! My first Saturns all got 35 - 45 mpg and that this newer car is crapping out that low is absolutely pathetic. Who wants to drive a car that gets so little in the way of gas mileage?! But here's the thing that, as a hybrid owner, truly annoyed me when I thought about it: I had the car for ten days. I spent as much on gasoline in those ten days as I did last summer to drive cross country from Upstate New York to San Diego, CA. THAT is the biggest indictment I can give about how lousy this car truly is. 1200 miles in it cost me the same as 3,000 in my preferred vehicle!

And this is a well-maintained Ford Focus. It had only 25,000 miles on it (my hybrid had 100,000 miles when I began my cross country venture last summer!).

The Focus made me miserable from its displays the first time I turned the key. Okay, the second time I turned the key and got the vehicle running. There is nothing on the display that shows what gear one is in. That means every time one turns the car on and puts it in gear (I was driving an automatic Focus), one has to look down at the shift. I know that might sound lazy to have a gripe about that, but there it is.

The Focus does offer more leg room than my Civic Hybrid. As well, there is a trunk that is best described as "massive" for a sedan. I was able to haul all of my stock that I take to conventions in the Focus in the trunk as opposed to the trunk and back seat of my hybrid. The trunk is spacious, it's hard not to give Ford that. It is a generally comfortable cockpit.

What else doesn't work about the Ford Focus? The cup holders. Seriously, I don't know who designed the cup holders, but I think they think whomever is driving the compact Ford Focus is driving around with all mammoth mugs. I picked up a standard 20oz. coffee and when making a turn/accelerating, the coffee cup tipped in the cup holder because it was nowhere near the right size!

The Focus came with a c.d. changer which was intuitive to operate (I've never had a c.d. changer before). I imagine some of the controls, like the lights and windshield wipers become easier to use with more than two weeks driving experience, but the Focus controls did not seem to be designed with effortless operation in mind (at least to me!). The light controls are tucked away below the left side of the steering wheel, making them inconvenient to get to and annoying to find in the dark. The windshield wipers are operated by twisting a dial on the left wand and I find that far less convenient than simply shifting a wand up or down for wiper speeds.

Living in upstate New York, I enjoy traction control (something even my hybrid does not have). The Ford Focus does not have traction control and it is a car that desperately needs it. In a wintry upstate New York climate, this car needs traction control. Why? It's a VERY light car. This might be idea for climates without extreme winters or winds, but I live in one that has both. As a result, there were times when driving the Focus that I was blown something fierce. This became a control issue when I had just filled up the tank and was driving through wind and snow (about 30 MPH winds, 1/2" of snow) and I found myself losing control of the Focus. This was exceptionally unnerving and to slide in a car even when it bears the weight of all that fuel (the tank is something like 13 gallons!) is disturbing.

The heating system work quite well as does the c.d. player and radio. The car also has a allows the trunk to be open from the remote key, but I discovered that the front hood kept popping open, too.

The best I can say about the Ford Focus is that it's a generally comfortable ride. Once it gets up to speed and I stop worrying about how much money I am wasting on the gas, it drives fine. The breaking is fairly smooth, the seats are comfortable and the entire driving experience is fine, if dull.

Perhaps that's the thing, the Ford Focus isn't about exciting driving, it's about reliable transportation and on that front, it does seem to deliver. But with fuel costs being what they are, it forces the driver to pay through the nose for that reliability. And that the gas mileage is so low just seems lazy in this day in age. One only hopes that by not purchasing this car, Ford will be inspired - immediately - to do better.

It needs to do much, much better.


For other reviews, please check out my Index Page for an organized listing of my various reviews!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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