DETROIT - We've always liked the Ford Focus. The compact sedan is spacious, practical, reliable and a decent all round everyday vehicle.
However, we were somewhat surprised when we got into the 2007 Ford Focus ST. It was sporty. That's something we hadn't expected. Our test vehicle had a four cylinder 151 horsepower engine that made 154 pounds- feet of torque. It was mated to a five speed manual transmission that made us feel like we were driving a mini muscle car.
Ford has generations of experience with five- speed manual gearboxes because of the fabled Mustang. And to us, some of that know how was transferred into our test car's transmission.
Shifting was almost intuitive. We didn't go through the short but irritating time it takes to get comfortable with the shift dynamics of a manual. Each one has a personality of its own.
We came to at least think that this particular model of the Focus might live on like past models of the Mustang. No matter their age, there's a certain mystique that demands respect. Our Focus ST had some of the same traits.
Its styling was edgy, color was red and it had 16- inch aluminum, five- spoke rims. There was also a spoiler that worked well with the body styling. Bulging fenders conveyed strength and durability.
The interior of our test car was black accented by read stitching. Our test vehicle had cloth seats, the shift knob was wrapped in leather and for the 2007 model year, audio controls were on the steering column.
We just got the feeling that properly maintained, our Focus cold be on the road for years. And since the all- new 2008 model is rolling of the assembly line, the 2007 model will get a shot at automotive longevity. We like its chances.
Our Focus was quick off the mark, responded to driver input sharply, handled the ruts of road construction well and it was comfortable, really comfortable. We've always found the back seats of the Focus sedan pleasing. It a word there's plenty of head room, hip room and, with the front seats not let back completely, there was enough leg room. In other words, the Focus can carry four adults with ease.
But we were particularly pleased with our test car's equipment. It had a premium audio system with speaks from Sony that sounded pretty good to us. There was a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an in- dash six- disc CD player with MP3 capability and mute button that as near as we could tell was meant to mute the sound system so that you could talk on a cell phone.
Now, we don't advise talking on a cell phone while driving (we violate this rule repeatedly) but a method of easily muting the sound system decreases the level of distraction. That was a thoughtful touch.
Out test vehicle also had heated cloth seats and side impact airbags. We also found the trunk quite roomy. Our test vehicle was $19,050. That was not a bad price for a small sturdy sedan that felt like it had all the right stuff to last a while.