The 2008-2010 Ford Focus isn't a bad car, its just one that could have been so much more. To understand where we are coming from, it helps to know the story of the Focus, a car that burst onto the small car scene brimming with European style and great handling only to be undone by regular mechanical issues. But, when Ford decided to redo the Focus, it threw the baby out with the bath water, killing the hatchback model just as hatchbacks were staging a revival, stripping away all pretenses of sportiness, and giving the interior a healthy dose of mundane topped off with a generic dashboard. As we said, the 2008-2010 Ford Focus is not a bad car, it just lacks the passion found with the original, and that, thankfully, has been rekindled once more in the 2012 model.
Why You Want It
Available in Sedan and Coupe form, the 2008-2010 Ford Focus is a fuel-efficient compact that is easy to afford and maintain. Although the Focus can seat five, it's really best suited for four passengers. And, although the Focus shares its engines and transmissions with the Mazda Mazda3, it does not share the Mazda's platform or suspension, and thus doesn't have the same fun-to-drive sportiness as its Mazda cousin. On the up side, the Focus doesn't have great resale value, meaning you can get a nicely equipped used model for about the same price as a stripped down Civic or Corolla. Another Focus bonus is the availability of Ford's SYNC hands-free audio and communications system, which is available on some SE trims and is standard on the SES and SEL.
Notable Features & Options
The Focus comes in four trims: S, SE, SES and SEL. The base S features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, manual windows and mirrors, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an AM/FM stereo with MP3 compatible CD player, and an auxiliary audio input jack. The SE adds power windows, locks and mirrors, as well as keyless entry, and 15-inch alloy wheels. The SES brings 16-inch alloys wheels, fog lights, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control, and the SYNC audio system. Standard safety equipment on all models includes front side and side-curtain airbags. Popular options for the Focus include anti-lock brakes, electronic traction control, cruise control (SE), and Premium 80-watt audio or 290-watt Audiophile sound systems. The SE can be equipped with the SYNC system, a power moonroof and ambient interior lighting, while the SES can be had with leather seating.
2009: AdvanceTrac stability control is made available on all trims. A new sedan, the SEL, is added and features leather seating, SYNC and chrome door handles, while the SES Coupe receives a roof-mounted rear spoiler.
2010: The Focus receives a hefty helping of new standard equipment including anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control, keyless entry, MyKey configurable key, power door locks and a message center. Traffic, Directions and Information are added to the SYNC hands-free communication system, as is turn-by-turn directions.
Engines and Performance
No matter which Focus trim you choose, they are all powered by the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 143-horsepower in the coupe, 140-horsepower in the aedan and 132-horsepower in PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) equipped cars. While the five-speed manual makes the drive a bit more sporty and returns better fuel economy (24/35 vs. 24/33), you'll likely find most Focus models are equipped with a four-speed automatic that isn't much fun to play with. The Focus' acceleration is on par with similarly equipped compact sedans, but the 2.0-liter seems a bit coarse, especially when compared to the engines found in the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Focus drives nicely, with good steering and brake feel, a soft ride and good road manners. Sportier trims with larger wheels and firmer suspensions (SEL and SES) do better on twisting back roads that their softly-sprung base counterparts.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2008-2010 Ford Focus:
2008: A recall was issued for possible defective assembly of the driver's side airbag.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
As for its safety record, the Focus delivers a mixed bag. The government gives the Focus sedan with side airbags four out of five stars in its front and side crash tests, and five out of five stars in the driver's side crash test. The coupe, however, receives five stars in its frontal crash tests, but only three stars in the side impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Focus its highest rating of GOOD in its frontal off-set crash test, and ACCEPTABLE in side-impact test conducted on cars with side airbags.
The 2008-10 Ford Focus has a 3-year/36,000 basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Ford also offers a Certified Pre-Owned program that can extend the warranty coverage on a previously owned Focus up to 6-years/100,000 miles from the date the car entered service.
Word on the Web
We dug around hoping to find some dirt on the Focus, but really didn't find anything of consequence. It's funny how some Japanese cars have such a bulletproof reputation only to find they have more than their fair share of recalls and complaints, while domestic makers such as Ford, still have to battle a perception that their cars are not as well built. Actually, we've found just the opposite to be true, and the Focus is prime example. With only one recall and very few complaints on the web, we've drawn the conclusion that the 2008-2010 Ford Focus is one very solid car. Consumer Reports seems to agree, giving the 2008-2010 Ford Focus better than average scores in almost every category; so much for conventional wisdom.
The Focus' biggest domestic competitor is the Chevrolet Cobalt, which while comparable in price and power, can't match the Focus' impressive service and reliability record. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra also offer good service records, as well as more features, style and power. Unfortunately, their higher resale values also mean each will probably cost more at the used car lot than a comparably equipped Focus. The Hyundai Elantra is also a good car to cross-shop against the Focus, as it has similar resale values and a better warranty, although be aware that its impressive 10-year/100,000 mile warranty is not fully transferable to the second owner.
If money is not the single most important factor in your purchasing decision, we say go find a nice 2010 model. The standard safety features combined with a more generous standard feature list make it our favorite of the bunch. Trim wise, we think the SE will work for most people. But, if you're a technology nut or just can't live without talking while driving, find a good SES or SEL trim with the SYNC system. Some SE models may also have SYNC, but be sure to look for the logo on the radio faceplate to be sure.