With the hiring of Ford CEO Alan Mulally Ford Motor Company performed an internal review of all platforms and processes, mortgaged everything but Henry the Second’s pointed observations and – most famously – divested itself of most things not central to Ford’s core business activities. That review meant Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo would be declared non-essential, while a renewed focus on Ford’s car programs became the latest Job One. That Ford has regained its right and virtuous path is made perfectly clear by a week behind the wheel of the 2012 Ford Focus.
This newest Focus, which superseded an oh-so-typical (at the time) ‘refresh’ of the previous Ford compact, would have constituted an absolute revelation as little as five years ago if it had been introduced on a domestic Ford showroom. Although Ford had been professing a ‘One Ford’ dictum for decades (check out the verbiage relative to the earlier Escort and Contour), the resulting products rarely lived up to either the corporate hype or engineering intent. Even the lowly Ranger was short-changed by the shortsightedness that comes with complacency, as updated Rangers were sold successfully through Ford’s global sales network yet denied to our own domestic dealers – and customers.
With this new Focus Ford appears to have gotten it right from the git-go. And for the global Ford Motor Company one car can’t be more important, with some 10 million units sold since the nameplate’s launch in 1998. Those Focus traits essential to the car’s long-term success have included value, comfort, safety, technology and driving dynamics. Here in the U.S. earlier generations would typically deliver two or three out of five; rarely would U.S. buyers get ‘all of the above’. For that you’d need to move to Merry Olde England…or the Continent.
Fast forward to 2012 and the newest Focus sedan and hatch appear to be nothing short of a revelation, especially when juxtaposed against their immediate predecessor. The new Focus sheetmetal is expressive, its interior design appears to reflect good design, and the Focus platform and drivetrain incorporate Ford’s global perspective on suspension and handling.
Having adapted to both the (perceived) visual and functional benefits of the hatch since the Volkswagen Golf’s stateside arrival some 35 years ago, we’re inclined to favor the Focus 5-door’s visual balance and interior flexibility over that offered by the Focus sedan. Both sit on a 104.3 inch wheelbase, while the Focus 5-door delivers some six inches less in overall length than its trunk-equipped counterpart. To its credit the 5-door’s wheels seem punched out to the corners of the car that much more, conveying an athleticism to the hatch not evident on the more expansive sedan.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll enjoy expressive sheetmetal and solid assembly. The panels fit like an upmarket BMW, and doors shut with a vault-like ‘thunk’. On some colors, however, the almost pervasive use of plastic on the Focus’ front fascia will take you aback, but it seemed less noticeable (or pervasive) on our Red Candy test car.