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Weidel on Wheels: Ford’s Focus is on new looks, amenities

Compact also has solid gas mileage and good overall performance
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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A solid redesign was undertaken two years ago, giving the Ford Focus a fresh look both inside and out.

It was a step in the right direction by Ford, which unveiled this compact vehicle in 2000 and understands it has some serious competition from the likes of Honda, Nissan and a few others.

It was a redesign that frankly could have come a few years earlier for the Focus, which had a nice debut at the start of the millennium, then lost some momentum due to lack of any notable changes while its rivals kept adding more appeal.

The redesign certainly added a sportier appeal for the front-wheel drive Focus, which won’t wow anyone with its new appearance, yet doesn’t come off as looking cheap like some compact vehicles.

The Focus remains a viable option for a segment of drivers. While taking my daughter home from college my wife suggested the Focus would be an appropriate first car for our soon-to-be 19-year-old. And she was right, the Focus has enough panache to pass the style test, gets good gas mileage at 24 to 33 miles per gallon, plus comes at a reasonable price, $17,970 for the 2009 model.
Apparently, seniors have taken a liking to the Focus as well, understanding it’s a nice option as a commuter vehicle that works on many levels for someone who does mostly around-town driving and isn’t looking for anything too fancy.

While no mechanical changes to the Focus came with the redesign, the innovative Sync system was added a year ago, providing the Focus with one more weapon against the competition.

Still offered as an option, the Microsoft-developed Sync delivers hands-free cell phones and music players.

Sync’s Bluetooth technology somehow provides communication with up to six phones, while a USB port located at the bottom of the front dash connects music or a media player to the car and can be controlled with voice commands.
I’m told some minor problems do exist, but overall it’s an option that would appeal to plenty of car shoppers.

Available in six trims, including two with the coupe, first-time drivers might be surprised by the Focus’ ability to maintain power while navigating moderate hills and also passing in freeway situations.

It also does quite well for a car with a modest 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with 140 horsepower.

The Focus also will deliver a measure of confidence with its ride quality. It’s an inexpensive compact, so don’t set expectations too high. But the steering is responsive, the Focus will grip turns adequately, and is quiet enough to avoid being annoying, which is a trait of some compacts.
While no one will claim an abundance of roominess comes with the Focus, it remains a fairly comfortable vehicle that doesn’t feel cramped and has enough cargo room to be a good option for road trip that won’t leave its occupants feeling claustrophobic.

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2009 Ford Focus

Price: Starting at $17,970

Mileage estimate: From 24 mpg city to 33 mpg highway

Power: 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with 140 horsepower
   
Standard features include: Halogen headlamps; power windows, doors, mirrors; keyless entry; 24-hour roadside assistance; fog lamps; CD/MP3 stereo system; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls