Overview & Reviews
Introduced more than a decade ago, the Ford Focus was one of the first small cars from a domestic automaker that was truly competitive with traditionally more dominant models from Japan. An affordable price, sharp handling, expressive styling and availability in multiple body styles all contributed to making this one of Ford's most popular cars worldwide.
Since that time, Ford has gone on to introduce second and third generations of the Focus. Sadly, the second generation lost a lot of the mojo built up by the original, first-generation model and is hard to recommend as a used car. However, Ford has refocused its efforts for the latest Focus, and as such it stands as one of our top picks for a small hatchback or sedan.
Current Ford Focus
Available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, the Ford Focus boasts eye-catching styling and a sharply designed interior fitted with high-quality materials. There are three main trim levels: S, SE and Titanium, as well as an electric version. The high-performance Focus ST is reviewed separately.
The only engine available is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, the latter actually being a dual-clutch automated manual. Fuel economy is very good no matter what you pick, and with the available Super Fuel Economy package, the Focus earns a 33-mpg-combined estimate from the EPA.
If you don't want to use any gas at all, there's the Focus Electric, which is strictly battery-powered like Nissan's Leaf. Propelled by a 107-kilowatt (143-hp) electric drive motor and powered by a 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Focus Electric has an estimated range of about 76 miles between charges. It can be recharged in just 4 hours from a 240-volt power source. Owners can also keep tabs on their electric Focus' charging state via smartphone integration.
Even the base Focus S comes with air-conditioning, full power features, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Moving up through the trims gets you luxuries such as Ford's Sync voice-activated phone/audio interface, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, keyless ignition and entry, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. There's also MyFord Touch, which features a large center touchscreen that minimizes button clutter. Options include a navigation system and an automated parallel parking assist system.
In reviews, we've been impressed by the Focus' refined road manners. Handling is sharp, with little body lean in the corners, while the steering is communicative and fairly quick. The ride is firm but well controlled over bumps. The 2.0-liter engine deserves praise as well, as it provides above-average performance and fuel economy. Changing gears with the five-speed manual transmission adds to the fun, though a sixth gear would be appreciated on longer freeway jaunts. The automatic is the one fly in the Focus' driving ointment, as it upshifts too quickly and is reluctant to downshift unless the throttle pedal is mashed to the floor.
Inside, the Focus boasts excellent materials, supportive seats and a hushed environment. Relative to its competitors, though, the backseat is a little cramped and the electronics interface can be unintuitive. But all in all, the Focus is a well-rounded, well-built economy car that is easy to recommend.
Used Ford Focus Models
A complete redesign of the Focus took place for 2012, and this generation represents massive improvements in the areas of cabin quality, overall performance and high-end features availability. Apart from subsequent minor equipment and trim level shuffling, these Foci are similar to the current model. The Focus Electric debuted for 2012.
The second-generation Focus ran from 2008-'11. It was available in coupe and sedan body styles until the final year, when only the sedan was offered. More squared-off styling distinguished it from the first Focus. Motivation was provided by a 2.0-liter inline-4 making 140 hp (130 in California-emissions states) hooked up to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Originally, the trim levels included base S, midgrade SE and sporty SES for both body styles. Ford's Sync system, which allowed voice control over cell phones and the audio system, was available and unusual for the economy car segment.
The following year the coupe's front fenders lost their glitzy chrome trim, and the trim levels were shuffled. Coupes were available in SE and SES trims, while the sedan came in S, SE, SES and leather-lined SEL trims. Stability control became optional but then was made standard for 2010.
A used Focus from this generation makes for a value-packed choice, but most competitors were stronger vehicles overall. It offered solid and reliable transportation with a few notable perks like the available Sync system, but the cabin lacked the more upscale materials quality that segment front-runners had. And although it offered a reasonably pleasant driving experience along with excellent fuel economy, its handling wasn't as finely honed as that of some sportier rivals such as the Mazda 3.
When the Ford Focus debuted for 2000, it was available as a two-door hatchback (ZX3) or as a sedan (ZX4) or wagon (ZXW). The base engine was an anemic SOHC 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated for 110 hp, or a preferable DOHC 2.0-liter engine called the Zetec that was good for 130 hp. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. These earlier Focus models went through a variety of changes, many of which are important to pay attention to if you're looking for a used Focus. In particular, Ford continually tinkered with the car's trim levels and availability of standard and optional features. From 2000-'04, the trim levels were typically base LX, midgrade SE and high-line ZTS. Antilock brakes and front-seat side airbags were optional equipment, and stability control was offered for a few years starting in 2001.
For 2002, Ford added a four-door hatchback (the "ZX5"). Starting in '04, the Focus gained an available 2.3-liter inline-4 that offered 145 hp and cleaner emissions. A 170-hp four-cylinder engine and a six-speed transmission were featured in the short-lived and rare Focus SVT hatchback. Coveted by young enthusiasts, the SVT Focus was offered as a hatchback from 2002-'04. For 2005, the Focus got a more modest refresh that provided cosmetic changes on the outside, a revised control layout inside and an updated engine lineup that included either a 136-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 151 hp (sedan only). The trim levels were renamed S, SE and SES. The wagon and hatchback were dropped after the '07 model year.
Our editors were quite fond of the Ford Focus in its earlier years, and the car earned Editors' Most Wanted award designations from 2000-'03. Although we consider the first-generation model a good, inexpensive buy on the used market, the Focus' reliability record hasn't been ideal, particularly regarding the 2000 models.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 3,280.00
Worst car I ever bought. - 2013 Ford Focus
By Teri Raia - May 6 - 2:52 pm
Do not buy this car. The transmission shudders, radio stopped working and the blind spots are horrible. This is the only car that I have owned that I am terrified to drive. Such an unpleasant experience driving this car. The only saving grace was the bluetooth and radio and now they are not working. Forget about the dealer fixing these problems. The warranty is for 35,000 miles and the problems start quickly after you have reached that mark.
Get a manual! - 2014 Ford Focus
By thue77 - January 21 - 1:27 pm
This car for the money is one of the best handling, comfortable, and sporty small size cars on the market. Although the 2.0 4-cylinder would be worlds better with a Turbo, the small engine is tuned up enough to make the SE Hatchback fun to drive. When looking at other reviews over and over again were issues with the duel clutch automatic transmission, my wife and I loved the car and wanted to get one but no way with all of the bad reviews on the automatic transmission was I going to buy one. So we made the decision to get a manual, it is fun to drive, a great little car so far, and we avoided the transmission issues which plagued the automatic. (I hope and think Ford has changed the auto transmission by now, such a shame because it is such a great little car). For the small car segment this is one of the best cars to buy, everything is great about the car but if you are looking to purchase one - it has to be a manual.
2014 focus se auto Trans slipping - 2014 Ford Focus
By Larry benton - January 14 - 2:50 pm
Our focus automatic transmission is having problems. It slips on take off.. dealer gave price of 1200.00 to install new clutch.. 500 miles over warranty. What a joke....
Value added used car - 2011 Ford Focus
By Scotto - January 12 - 12:42 pm
My 2011 Ford Focus gets 40+ MPG on the highway between 60--65 with 62K on the odometer. The heated seats and strong heater have been excellent in the winter months. The quality of the interior is a bit of a letdown as it features plenty of hard plastic despite being the top of the range trim level with leather seats and a moonroof. There is also a slight rattle from the interior that can get annoying on longer trips.
Electrical system sucks - 2005 Ford Focus
By Terry - January 8 - 3:21 pm
I bought the car used. The battery light came on intermittently. The dome lights and signals would go on for no reason in the middle of the night. I went through 3 batteries in less than 5 years. The electrical issues became worse as time progressed. It was determined that the "cluster" was bad. There was an unidentifiable drain on the battery that got to the point that a brand new battery was burnt out in a matter of months. When a new battery was installed, the car was dead the next morning. Getting rid of the ghost in the electrical system would be a costly repair -- more than the car is worth. My mechanic found that these cars are notorious for electrical/cluster problems.
Good things in small.packages - 2004 Ford Focus
By M J - January 5 - 9:48 am
I bought this car in Mau 2015 with 91k on it. I never had any issues really. Changed plugs in 10 minutes, the alternator went out, but with miles was expected. The strut mounts are squeeking, but not a safety issue. All around a decent car to have. I will have this car til it dies completely. This is my first Ford and I was skeptical. Impressive small car and great.
transmission issues that they will not fix - 2014 Ford Focus
By eileen - January 4 - 3:40 pm
The 2014 Ford Focus has major transmission issues-"shudders to the point of stalling. No one will fix it.
My second Focus with a bad transmission - 2014 Ford Focus
By Holly - January 2 - 8:28 pm
After two trips to the shop in under 30k miles, I thought my 2012 Ford Focus was a lemon so I traded it in and Holy Cow...my 2014 does exactly the same thing. The transmission shakes and jerks so badly that it scares my passengers. I feel like such a schmuck for buying this car twice , but I cant believe Ford gets away with this!!!
One Huge Problem - 2014 Ford Focus
By Gilbert G. - December 31 - 7:01 am
I just have one complaint about this vehicle, but that one complaint makes this vehicle extremely unreliable. The vehicles transmission has flaws that cannot be fixed by Ford. I have taken my vehicle into the dealership for transmission problems a total of 4 times. Every time it has been at the dealership ive been without a car for a week or more at a time. The vehicle makes grinding noises, shutters, slips gears, and transmission overheats. Everything else could be ignored except for the transmission overheating. Its gotten so bad, that when stuck in traffic the vehicle instructs you, through the small screen in between the gauges to pull over. When the transmission starts to overheat, you can really feel the vehicle shake and pull hard. Its gotten so bad to the point that I was almost stranded on the freeway at almost midnight, in some of the worse traffic I have ever been in. I had to pull over 3 times and after the second time I had to call into work because I did not think I was going to make it out of the freeway without being towed by AAA. I know this vehicle cannot be fixed no matter how many times its taken into the dealership, and even though my warranty was extended to 100,000 miles I know problems will continue.
omg me too - 2014 Ford Focus
By Paula C Bowden - December 30 - 12:15 pm
so like everyone else Im having transmission problems and I wish Id read this before buying. I went from a Honda to a ford. sigh. its dangerous. been repaired 3 times. I want to know how reasonable and safety are defined by the California lemon law.