2016 Ford Focus SE review: Can one liter find happiness in a compact sedan?

2016 Ford Focus SE sedan

2016 Ford Focus SE sedan

There was a good reason for us to test the 2016 Ford Focus SE, and it goes beyond being near the bottom of the Focus range. When car companies provide cars for us to test, they’re usually top of the line, or nearly so. That’s because (a) we want to try the features available, and (b) the car companies know putting their best in our hands typically gets better reviews. Which is why we found the 2016 Ford Focus SE sedan intriguing. We got to see the basic trim of Ford’s inexpensive compact sedan, but more importantly, it comes equipped with Ford’s 1.0-liter turbo three-cylinder engine.

The SE is actually the next to the bottom trim line for the Ford Focus sedan in 2016. Trim levels run from the $16,775 Focus S to the $23,575 Ford Focus Titanium. In addition to the four-door sedan like our tester, there’s also a five-door hatchback, although that starts at the SE trim level. There’s no S hatchback. Expect to pay about $1,500 for the added utility of the hatch (although we’ll note that the sedan has a 60/40 fold-down rear seat with a large pass-through from the trunk to the passenger compartment, so maybe you can bring that widescreen TV home from Best Buy yourself even with the sedan).

2016 Ford Focus SE sedan engine

The 2016 Ford Focus SE sedan is powered by a one-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, which provides performance that can be deemed adequate.

Our test 2016 Ford Focus SE carried a base price of $18,515, and for that it comes surprisingly well equipped, starting with alloy wheels—because nothing looks as cheap as the hubcaps on the Focus S. But other features not long ago options or even not available on this class of car are standard equipment, including a trip computer, one-touch down for the driver’s window, a center console with armrest and storage, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, turn signals in the side mirrors (with little blind-spot mirrors on both sides), and automatic headlamps and automatic temperature control. And floor mats. You’ll pay extra for those in a BMW.

And our test Focus SE came standard with Sync. That means you can run apps, so you can listen to your own music…which is good if you do that. Our test model didn’t have. Sync has voice control of phone and can down load your phone book, plus it can read incoming text out loud. It also includes voice-activated music search and playback, Bluetooth audio streaming, Audible.com audiobooks and Sync AppLink to use many smartphone apps. And that’s all standard.

The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus SE sedan is plain but looks durable.

The interior of the 2016 Ford Focus SE sedan is plain but looks durable.

Options on our test model included reverse sensing. The $255 option means never having to say, “oops, I backed into something.”

Our test 2016 Ford Focus SE Sedan came equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is standard), a $1,095 add-on. However, the auto trans requires the SE EcoBoost Appearance Group, which raises the cost of specifing the automatic by another $895. Because most buyers go for the automatic, that’s essentially an $895 increase in the base price…or a $2,000 transmission.

So what do you get with the SE EcoBoost Appearance Group? Gloss black upper grille, black headlamp bezel, LED “signature lighting,” and fog lamps, plus more importantly, rear disc brakes.