Oakville Drives: 2016 Ford Focus SE Hatchback: A Professional Driver’s Perspective

2016-Ford-Focus-Coupe-Hatchback-SE-4dr-Hatchback-Exterior
Oakville Drives: 2016 Ford Focus SE Hatchback: A Professional Driver’s Perspective

About the Author

R. G. Beltzner

R. G. Beltzner

A long time automobile enthusiast, and competitive race driver, Rainer Beltzner provides performance driving and racing instruction for Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari owners and clubs. He's been doing this for over 25 years. Often, Rainer is found driving/teaching on one of the Canadian Tire Motorsport, Shannonville or Watkins Glen tracks. During the “off-season”, Rainer spends his spare time driving and evaluating a broad range of vehicles. Follow Rainer on Twitter @redy2rol.

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This car has been around for a while and is one of the top ten worldwide sellers for 2015. The Focus is a solid driving car with good stability, cornering characteristics and handling. It’s also an easy car to drive. The test car was equipped with the1.0L EcoBoost engine with 123 horsepower and 125 lb.-ft. of torque matched with a six speed automatic (dual-clutch) transmission.

Handling
To explain, this is basically a turbo charged engine that produces more power and uses less fuel than a regular engine with the same displacement. But this three cylinder is a lackluster performer from a standing start and makes passing on two lane highways a daunting experience. Gear changes are slow and from 3rd to 4th and accompanied by vibration felt in the steering wheel– explained in the “operating manual” as to be normal. Really? Driving this in the “S” mode and doing my own gear changes improved the smoothness considerably – but not the available power.

Ford Motor Company of Canada

Model: Focus 5-door Hatchback SE
Engine: 1.0L EcoBoost
Base Price: $19,599
Price as Tested: $25,893

Fortunately, the SE has the option of a 2.0L DOHC engine that gives you more sensible and reasonable horsepower. Unless you plan to stay as city driver, I would not opt for the 1.0L EcoBoost version on the SE hatchback. You will be disappointed. For the enthusiast, the 2.0L engine is a must or you can upgrade to the ST model that will give you plenty of power. I am also not a fan of the auto off/on engine feature standard with the EcoBoost engine that is touted for its ability to save on gas and emissions. Seriously! How much fuel are you going to save in a year? Most published comparative test give, at best, a 10% saving for most common driving situations. Fortunately there is a readily accessible “off” switch to shut off this feature if it becomes an annoyance.

So how did this car actually handle on the road? I found the front wheel drive Focus to be a nimble car with good suspension and brakes. On the QEW, it felt very solid and stable. My wife remarked how smooth the car was as we did several trips from Oakville to Toronto. Needless to say, the compact size of the Focus makes parking on Toronto side streets much easier, helped by the ever necessary “reverse sensing system” (a sensible option). I give the road handling characteristics a strong thumbs-up.

Comfort

2016-Ford-Focus-Coupe-Hatchback-SE-4dr-Hatchback-Interior

Interior of Ford Focus Hatchback for 2016

I’m not a big fan of cloth covered seats but these were actually quite nicely finished and fairly comfortable. My Focus did not have any of the fancy multi way electric seat adjustments that I usually find necessary for my 6’6” frame. The driver’s seat was perfectly fine and allowed me to position my arms and legs properly. My passenger also had no complaints about her seat so I conclude that was ok as well. This Focus was equipped with heated seats and steering wheel (option) as well as the new Sync 3 infotainment system (including the optional Sirius radio) that replaces the much criticized and confusing MyFordTouch system. As I reported in a previous review, I quite like the Sync 3 voice command system for telephone and media controls. You can also upgrade to the 12-speaker SONY audio system including an 8” touch screen (with pinch and swipe) that displays navigation, climate, media, telephone and general settings. Not necessary though. Overall, I was also happy with the steering wheel and all of the car’s displays and controls.

This car reminded me of my first new car back in 1973 – a Datsun 610. Great lines, a solid ride, “sporty but young family car” looks, all at an affordable price. Brings back memories of fun times. The back seats are ideal for youngsters, but legroom can be a bit tight for full sized adults. An added benefit of the Focus hatchback model is storage space that gets even better with the rear seats folded down.

Safety
The Focus SE hatchback base model, like many of the Ford products, comes with lots of good standards safety features including Ford’s AdvanceTrac Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) and Torque Vectoring Control. My test Focus included the six speed automatic transmission; P215/55R16 tires; the SE EcoBoost appearance package; the winter package (who doesn’t like heated steering wheel and seat warmers in this climate – worth the $700); engine block heater; Sirius satellite radio; an exterior protection package; and, the reverse sensing system (a worthwhile option for $350 – cheaper than a bumper repair.) Other available safety features include an automatic parallel parking system; adaptive cruise control; frontal collision alert; blind spot monitor; rear cross-traffic alert and more.

Things to consider
From my perspective, this is an excellent and budget conscious choice for a new young driver, college/university student, new parents, singles, retirees and as a second car. It’s comfortable, handles well, good storage space, sensible car controls, quite acceptable fuel consumption and good looks. Both my wife and I remarked on the nice feel, look and quality of the materials used on the interior of the car. I would take some time to decide on the engine choice as well as the manual vs. automatic transmission. From a comfort and safety standpoint, I would absolutely choose the winter as well as the reverse sensing packages. There are also lots of “comfort and looks” upgrades if you feel the need.

If you are looking for a more “performance” experience, there are other Focus models that provide a similar positive and handling experience but with even higher horsepower.

Fuel consumption for this 1.0 L EcoBoost vehicle is rated at 7.8 L/100 km city, 5.6 L/100 km hwy and 6.9 L/100 combined. After over 300 kms and a week of driving in both city and highway conditions, I only managed to average 8.8L/100km.

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