2013 Ford Focus Hatchback Titanium Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Most automakers do one car very well. And some build a certain vehicle better than anyone else. As for Ford, they've done such a good job creating and continually developing some models that competitors always seem a generation behind. The most obvious blue oval product to get such credit is the F-150, dominant in the full-size pickup truck field since inception and showing no signs of letting go of the lead. Another FoMoCo offspring that appears to be on the same track is the new Focus Hatchback, albeit within a small car segment filled with way more competitors and nowhere near the same level of customer loyalty. All the more reason to get it right.

Ford was smart to maintain the Focus' hatchback body style while continuing forward with a sedan to broaden its appeal in the U.S., where four-door models traditionally sell better. Fortunately for we Canadians, the blue oval bunch is on CEO Alan Mulally's global "One Ford" strategy that sees us getting many of the same vehicles being offered by Ford of Europe. So, instead of making due with a reliable but outdated Focus while our European friends enjoy a much more advanced vehicle, like we did for years, we're now able to buy the latest, greatest Focus, which arguably continues to be the most advanced vehicle in its segment despite this particular design being in its second year of production.

Yes, things move fast in the car industry. Just consider information and entertainment technology alone, now just referred to as infotainment. When Ford brought its Microsoft co-developed Sync connectivity system to market in 2007 we were all more than just impressed. Wirelessly linking a cell phone for hands-free calling had never been so effortless, but now with more than five years behind us every automaker has a competitive system, some even easier to set up and use than Sync. Of course Ford has added functionality to its Sync system by bringing in third-party applications and more, keeping it at the forefront of communications connectivity, but we can't clearly call it the best now as there are others offering more intuitive pairing processes and more user-friendly interfaces that complete the infotainment experience. Just the same, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the MyFord Touch system integrated into my Focus Titanium test car has the nicest colour display screen in the segment, and maybe the entire industry.

MyFord Touch has been lauded and lambasted equally by my auto-writing colleagues including yours truly, and while it's not without fault the high-resolution display and attractive graphics that make it worth looking at are so much better than competitive systems that it's almost no contest. Even premium brands like Audi and BMW pale in comparison to the graphical experience Ford (and Lincoln) is offering. You've really got to experience it to see the difference, but one try and you'll be hooked. In that respect it's kind of like my iPhone. Its quality workmanship, vibrant retina display and beautifully designed iOS keep me coming back despite its obvious flaws as a means for communicating (how I long for a new Android or even chance to play with the ultra-fresh Blackberry Z10). Likewise when MyFord Touch frustrates me by displaying blank radio presets that I previously entered, not showing me radio station frequencies while I'm trying to set up those presets, and being overly complicated during the phone pairing process compared to other newer systems, its gorgeous display continues to dazzle, making everything seem alright.

Those colour graphics continue over to the Focus' primary gauge cluster in the form of a multi-information display tucked in between the tachometer and speedometer, just above the fuel and engine temperature meters. It's an attractive assortment of instruments; the focal point of what I think is the most appealing interior in the mainstream compact segment. Photo: Ford
I've made reference to premium quality in near-entry-level models before, but the Focus is la crème de la crème of compact car interiors. Some of the key differentiators include cloth-wrapped A-pillars and one-touch automatic powered windows in all four corners, and, of course, the quintessential soft-touch dash. But unlike all of its competitors the Focus Titanium also includes soft-touch front door uppers and other pliable surfaces. You can't get both dash and door uppers with the Chevy Cruze, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, or any of its other rivals except the Volkswagen Golf. Where it leaves the VW far behind is in those electronics in just mentioned, and fuel economy.

I'm a big fan of Ford's small displacement, direct-injection philosophy. Whether applied to a tiny four-cylinder or Ford's 3.5-litre V6, or whether installed in the brand's smallest Fiesta, this Focus, an Escape, Fusion, Taurus SHO or a full-size F-150 pickup truck, with or without Ecoboost turbocharging, the combination of new-edge technologies is a well-proven best of both worlds solution for maximizing fuel economy without kyboshing performance. You'll need to do your part, which means going light on the throttle to extract the most possible distance from a tank of gas, but that's the same with any engine. The Focus provides up to 160-horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque for spirited performance from such a diminutive 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, better than the class average, but as important to performance and fuel economy is the brand's choice of transmissions.

While my heart still longs for a manual gearbox, as the Focus' adept fully-independent suspension begs to be driven like a sports car and its five-speed DIY cog changer is particularly gratifying, there's much to be said of the optional six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission I tested with the Titanium and other Focus models before this one. That it's the newest state-of-the-mechanical-art piece of techie dream machinery is one thing, and that it delivers reduced-friction responsiveness for even better than manual fuel economy in a fully automatic experience is another. You can shift it yourself via a nifty thumb switch on the gear lever, a lightning quick process that encourages sporty behaviour through the curves or alternatively can motivate short shifting for saving fuel in the city or on the highway. The result of the latter is a claimed 7.5 L/100km city, 5.2 highway or 6.5 combined, and while my own up and down hill, traffic jammed clogged and sometimes Sébastien Loeb rallying-like experience wasn't quite as thrifty at 7.6 L/100km, that's still a fabulous number that made my Monday morning fill-up a great deal less expensive.

Price considerations in mind, the Focus Titanium isn't a bargain basement compact. One with a manual gearbox can be had for $26,849 including freight and PDI, but my hatchback tester started at $27,349. It also had a $400 Handling package that includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; $600 Active Park Assist, a feature that will actually park the car for you; a $1,500 Luxury package with leather upholstery, a six-way powered driver's seat and a powered moonroof (it's a really good deal because the leather is otherwise a $1,200 standalone option as is the moonroof so you end up saving $900 and getting a powered driver's seat); a $700 navigation system added to the standard MyFord Touch; and a $100 block heater. Take note that Ford doesn't charge much for options, allowing you to get that aforementioned premium experience for a well-heeled pauper's price, my fully-outfitted Focus Hatchback Titanium tester coming to $30,349 including destination. Then again you can get a base Focus Hatchback for only $20,649, destination in, whereas a Focus Sedan can be had for as little as $16,549.

For that price you'll get a pretty basic car that doesn't come with rear powered windows, air conditioning, cruise control, or wireless phone connectivity (although MyFord with Sync is a standalone option). It doesn't come with colour-matched mirror caps and door handles either, and doesn't include aluminum wheels or rear disc brakes, although the addition of a standard tilt and telescopic steering column, Ford's handy blind spot mirrors, a folding rear seat and the brand's cool capless refueling system is pretty impressive. It gets a full slate of safety gear too, including all the usual airbags, ABS-enhanced brakes and stability control. The base Focus Hatchback adds everything that's missing above except for alloy wheels (although the steel wheels are 16s instead of 15s) and rear discs (they come with the Titanium), plus a rear spoiler, a rear wiper and more. The Titanium is on an entirely new level, not only upping interior detailing as previously mentioned, but adding proximity sensing remote access and pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a great sounding Sony audio system with USB, satellite radio and more, a rearview camera and reverse sensors, a piano gloss black grille, fog lamps with piano black surrounds, 17-inch alloy wheels, and more.

Ford could easily put a Lincoln badge on the Focus Titanium and sell it as a premium compact without changing anything, although I'm glad it wears the blue oval. That keeps the price within reason and reminds rally fans, like me, of the car's race-winning heritage (although they race the Fiesta now). Of course, Ford has a new Focus ST to sell to those wanting more performance to go with its other attributes, but we'll leave that subject alone until I've been behind the wheel. For now, know that the Focus Hatchback Titanium is one of the most advanced compact cars money can buy, and in my opinion one of the very best.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Ford, 2013, Focus Hatchback Titanium, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

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