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2011 Ford Focus ReviewThe Good
The 2011 Ford Focus is priced right, handles pretty nicely, offers comfortable and supportive front seating, and saves money at the pump.The Bad
A certain lack of driving pizzazz, cheap interior materials, a glitch or two with its SYNC technology, tepid acceleration, and cramped rear seating dampen the 2011 Focus’ appeal.
The CarGurus View
Though not bad as basic transportation, the 2011 Ford Focus isn’t the mega-hit it once was. The good news is that if prospective buyers can hold off awhile, rumors say the 2012 Focus will bring back all of this compact’s former glory and more.
At a Glance
While it’s not the sexiest car on the road, and doesn't have a lot of presence, the 2011 Ford Focus still gets the job done. When it was introduced some 11 years back, this five-passenger compact had sex appeal and personality, both of which Ford squandered to appease the bottom line, leaving the now coupe-less Focus lineup as essentially basic transportation for the last few years. Fear not, however, because rumor has it that the 2012 version will bring a rebirth of this once highly regarded auto that’s expected to thrust it once more into the limelight. But that’s then, and this is now.
With the discontinuation of the Focus coupe this model year, the 2011 Focus sedan offers four trim levels, the basic S, midlevel SE, sporty SES, and top-shelf SEL. All are delivered with front-wheel drive, front bucket seats, split-folding rear seats, an inline four-cylinder (I4) engine, and 13.8 cubic feet of trunk space. Higher trims get the ever-popular SYNC infotainment/interface system, though some grumblings have been noted regarding its quirky performance.
A plethora of compact sedans, including the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and MAZDA3, challenge the Focus. Nearly all are more refined and performance oriented, and nearly all are equal to or significantly above the Focus’s thrifty base price.
In keeping with tradition, the 2011 Focus is available only with a 2.0-liter I4 engine that, along with the standard (in the S, SE, and SES) five-speed manual transmission, delivers 140 hp at 6,000 rpm and 136 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. With no variable valve timing, the stick-shift Focus is estimated at 24/35 mpg. The SEL trim, however, is delivered with a four-speed automatic as standard equipment, though mileage drops marginally to 24/34. This somewhat anachronistic automatic is optional for the rest of the Focus lineup.
Reviewers find the Focus about average off the line, with one test resulting in a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds. Passing and merging on the highway, however, can be a bit of a challenge, with the I4 generally regarded as barely up to the task. The four-speed automatic, despite its dated technology, is noted by many reviewers as timely with its downshifts, but the manual is lauded for a more engaging driving experience and better all-around performance.
Ride & Handling
While not exactly grand prix material, the 2011 Focus is touted as offering above-average handling and ride comfort. With the base S and midlevel SE delivered with 15-inch wheels, the SEL equipped with 16-inch, and the sporty SES coming with standard 17-inch wheels, most reviewers pick the SES’s ride and handling characteristics over the others simply because of its larger, more traction-friendly tires. Highway cruising is relatively quiet and decently composed, though a brisk crosswind will notch the old heart rate up a beat or two. Hard turns are handled with especial aplomb by the SES, while the more staid trims acquit themselves at least adequately in that area.
A four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson front struts and front stabilizer bar, along with a multilink rear suspension, gives all trims the necessary stabilization to smooth out minor bumps and road imperfections. Steering is noted by reviewers as reasonably responsive, with the SES coming in for special praise as a kick to drive and up to most handling challenges.
Alas, Ford continues to equip the Focus with dated front disc and rear drum brakes. Braking effectiveness is described by most reviewers, therefore, as about average. Pedal feel, meantime, is described as on par for the class, with a good dose of pressure often needed to achieve the desired results.
Cabin & Comfort
Though not exactly luxuriously endowed, the 2011 Ford Focus base S trim does offer such standard creature comforts as cloth upholstery, remote power locks and mirrors, tilt-wheel steering, air conditioning, and a single-CD player with four speakers and auxiliary MP3 input. The SE trim adds power windows, alloy wheels, front and rear floor mats, simulated alloy trim on the front console, and Sirius satellite radio, while the SES includes such standard appearance features and cabin comforts as unique front and rear fascias, a rear spoiler, heated outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and SYNC voice-activated communications and systems interface. As the most deluxe of the bunch, the Focus SEL features standard leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, Bluetooth communications technology, and a USB connection.
The S offers little in the way of options, with a few cargo organizers being about it. The SE adds available cruise control, SYNC interface technology, Bluetooth communications technology, and a rear spoiler, while the SES and SEL offer available leather upholstery, heated seats, a premium 190-watt audio system with nine speakers, and a power moonroof.
Reviewers note a certain logical design to the Focus’ dashboard and cabin. The SYNC system, however, takes some uncharacteristic hits from nearly all reviewers for unreliability, but its voice-activation features are noted as working well for the most part. Cabin materials are noted as cheap, if not downright shoddy, with even the SEL’s leather looking a bit below grade. Rear seat comfort leaves much to be desired, however front seat room and comfort are lauded by virtually all reviewers. One review did note, nonetheless, a number of misaligned cabin panels and some poor interior workmanship in one of the higher trims.
For 2011, the Focus lineup comes equipped with four-wheel ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control, dual front side-mounted airbags, and front and rear head airbags. The SE and higher trims, meanwhile, also come with a remote anti-theft alarm system and front fog/driving lights. Additionally, all Focus trims are equipped with Ford’s highly regarded, programmable MyKey system, which limits top speed and audio volume when sis or junior borrows the wheels.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2010 Focus sedan four stars (out of a possible five) in front driver and passenger protection testing, while side-impact protection in front is rated at five stars. Rear side passenger protection and rollover protection, meantime, are both rated at four stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the basically unchanged 2011 Focus its highest rating of Good in frontal offset impact testing and its second highest rating of Acceptable for side impact protection.
What Owners Think
Uncomfortably cramped rear seats head the list of owner complaints for the 2011 Ford Focus, while build quality, a need for a few more ponies under the hood, a few quirks in the SYNC system, and some steering issues also have a number of owners uncomfortable.
On the other hand, excellent gas mileage, exterior styling, a smooth, quiet ride, and a sense of value are among the items found to be praiseworthy among most owners. More than a few even mention the flawless performance of the available SYNC system. Virtually all owners with teen drivers in the household also praise the much-touted MyKey speed- and audio-limiting system.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
What's your take on the 2011 Ford Focus?
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