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Motor Trend tests redesigned Euro Focus

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First Drive: 2008 Ford Focus European version

Dude, Where's My Focus?

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By Paul Horrell

Just as Ford in the U.S. facelifts the Focus, the Euro Focus gets a comprehensive redo, too. But at a time when the U.S. edition is losing the enthusiast models from its lineup, the Euro version is a full platform generation ahead of the U.S. version and packed with juicy tech and real driver appeal.

How about a version with Volvo's five-cylinder 225-horsepower engine? Or a six-speed double-clutch transmission to rival VW's DSG system? They get 'em over there.

A history lesson is in order. The late-1990s Euro-Focus was originally the same as the U.S. edition. But for 2005, it diverged, getting an all-new body and the platform developed for the Mazda3 and Volvo C30/S40/V50. Now it's just received another comprehensive visual makeover designed to give it a shared identity with the rest of Ford Europe's big sellers, including the Fusion-size Mondeo. They call the look "Kinetic Design" by the way.

And while the U.S. lineup is trimmed to four-door and two-door only, in Europe there are three-and five-door hatchbacks, a four-door sedan, a wagon, and even a folding-hardtop. Not to mention a closely related five-seat minivan called C-Max.

But a wide range isn't what makes the Euro-Focus special. It's the superb dynamics. And we mean superb. Engines are well up to standard. Handling makes even more expensive gear like an Audi A3 feel lead-footed. Europe's Honda Civic is an altogether sportier proposition than the one sold in the U.S., but the Euro-Focus has that beaten, too.

This Focus feels exceptionally well-oiled, a machine that's been finessed at the design and manufacturing stages. It's the sort of deep-rooted sense of quality that U.S. products, especially in the compact sector, so sorely lack -- like a good German car. Its controls are more weighty than a Japanese equivalent's, but that's no bad thing in a car aimed just as much at the enthusiast as at the grandmother. It's amazing how it has the effect of making an enthusiast out of the uninterested. Even out of Grandma.

The PowerShift tranny doesn't ship until February, nor does the facelifted five-cylinder ST (though the ST is unchanged dynamically from the pre-facelift version, and this is one of the greatest hot-hatches out there). So the test car was a 2.0 diesel in five-door body style with a manual. Sound like vanilla transport? It isn't.

You'll have read enough about how smoke-free, refined, and insanely torquey the modern Euro diesel is. This Focus has 136 horsepower, which is about right for a compact hatch, but of more significance is that it makes 236 pound-feet of torque at 2000 rpm, so there's a wave of turbo action without stressing your eardrums with high-rev noise. In fact, you can't use high revs even if you want: It's all over by 4500. Sound deadening has just been improved and noise is now no issue except for minor vibe at idle. And the six-speed manual is beautifully precise.

Even though its specialty is overtaking, this engine doesn't do badly at standing-starts. The 0-to-62-mph time is 9.3 seconds, equating to sub nine seconds for 0-to-60. And all this with 42.7 mpg U.S. in the European combined urban/highway economy test.

The Focus turns eagerly, but its true standout is the absolute proportionality of its reactions. You get what you ask for, with no surprises. There's an impressive resistance to understeer, and even when you back off the throttle, the reaction is a useful tightening of the line without getting loose. ESP is standard, but the handling is so benign and the threshold high, so you seldom see the light flash or feel the deadening of the electronics.

All the time the ride remains quiet and unflustered, albeit firmer than mainstream U.S. tastes might want. Comfort is aided by well-bolstered seats and interior space that again easily matches the competition.

The exterior panel surfaces are distinctive but still controlled, the grilles carefully detailed, the stance helped by decent-size wheels (16-inch is standard on most of the range, 17 optional and the five-pot ST gets 18s). Directional headlamps and LED taillights on many versions add to the sense of sophistication.

So how come the U.S. gets such a poor Focus instead? Because Ford decided the great American was too dumb to notice the sophistication of the Euro version and wouldn't pay the slight extra. HL Mencken said, "No one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses." Ford USA is busy proving him wrong.

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2008 Ford Focus (Europe)

Base Price N/A

Vehicle Layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 2/3/4/5-door, hatchback/sedan/wagon/convertible

Engine 1.4L/80-hp/91-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.5L/225-hp/236 lb-ft DOHC 20-valve I-5 (and eight others between)

Transmissions 5-speed manual; 6-speed manual; 4-speed auto; 6-speed twin-clutch man/auto

Curb Weight 2705-3219 lb (mfr)

Wheelbase 103.9 in

Length x Width x Height 170.7/176.4/175.9 x 72.4 x 59.3 in

0-60 MPH 6.3-13.5 sec (MT est)

European City/HWY Econ 17-43/35-65 mpg

CO2 Emissions 0.40208-0.79013 g/km

On Sale In U.S. Never

Edited by empowah
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I hate Ford for not giving us the Euro Focus but instead this warmed-over piece of crap...which is what it really is compared to it's European counterpart.

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blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

and not one f@#king word about how high a price they would have had to sell this thing at to get it here.

24 thou? 26? is that 5 cylinder dsg gonna cost more than a 4wd explorer?

AND THE THING IS

the picture of that hatchback above is not so GODLY as to make anyone wet their pants.

there must be videos on youtube of euorpeans circle you know what around a euro focus in the center because apparently its like the delivery truck is delivering Jesus and chocolate raspberry cheesecake and scarlett johanssons boobs all in one package.

ok, sure the euro focus is probably better all around. is it better looking? a bit but neither inside nor outside is it anything class leading.

this never ending pissing and moaning about 'we don't get the eurofocus' is tired and old and stale and just not worth reading or talking about. its been done . its older than the bags below below barbra streisands eyes.

its like another 10 threads on why the earth is exploding because the aura and malibu don't offer nav.

not yet ONCE in any of these auto journal rants about the euro focus vs american focus have i seen the business case that shows the euro focus plan 100% guaranteed success here. do any of those numbnuts who make their living as a journalist have any idea what went into the full decision on this?

and NO ONE HERE has prob ever driven the euro focus. or the american one for that matter.

so yes, while the am version is a rehash and older and all that stuff, it's just not worth talking about anymore. it's been done. can we please stop this euro penis envy?

in the meantime, if you wanna talk, talk to the sync system and tell it to play some music so i don't have to listen to this incessant euro focus whining anymore.

oh wait, i doubt the euro focus has sync

ford will be more than happy to sell you a mazdaspeed3 or Volvo C30 if you want a rip roaring compact. in the near future you can look at the 4 door verve concept at NAIAS.

Edited by regfootball
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blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

and not one f@#king word about how high a price they would have had to sell this thing at to get it here.

24 thou? 26? is that 5 cylinder dsg gonna cost more than a 4wd explorer?

AND THE THING IS

the picture of that hatchback above is not so GODLY as to make anyone wet their pants.

there must be videos on youtube of euorpeans circle you know what around a euro focus in the center because apparently its like the delivery truck is delivering Jesus and chocolate raspberry cheesecake and scarlett johanssons boobs all in one package.

ok, sure the euro focus is probably better all around. is it better looking? a bit but neither inside nor outside is it anything class leading.

this never ending pissing and moaning about 'we don't get the eurofocus' is tired and old and stale and just not worth reading or talking about. its been done . its older than the bags below below barbra streisands eyes.

its like another 10 threads on why the earth is exploding because the aura and malibu don't offer nav.

not yet ONCE in any of these auto journal rants about the euro focus vs american focus have i seen the business case that shows the euro focus plan 100% guaranteed success here. do any of those numbnuts who make their living as a journalist have any idea what went into the full decision on this?

and NO ONE HERE has prob ever driven the euro focus. or the american one for that matter.

so yes, while the am version is a rehash and older and all that stuff, it's just not worth talking about anymore. it's been done. can we please stop this euro penis envy?

in the meantime, if you wanna talk, talk to the sync system and tell it to play some music so i don't have to listen to this incessant euro focus whining anymore.

oh wait, i doubt the euro focus has sync

ford will be more than happy to sell you a mazdaspeed3 or Volvo C30 if you want a rip roaring compact. in the near future you can look at the 4 door verve concept at NAIAS.

Ah Reg, I love how you make excuses for Ford, especially when they have sub-par products. This hypocrisy is beautiful. Really.

First, the Malibu and Nav issue is different because the Malibu is a very good car overall, on the other hand you compare a car that is no where near as good as it's European counterpart sold by the same damn company under the same damn name.

I don't care about Sync, because I'm perfectly able to change the radio station or music track myself, I don't drive while talking on the phone either. Is it cool? Yup, but it can't make up for the rest of the car. None of the reviews of the NA Focus have been glowing, they call it decent but not much beyond that. On the other hand we have this one, which is an excellent driver's car with a variety of body styles and powertrains to suit everyone. We get one engine and 2 body styles that resemble an Escort.

You need only drive a Mazda3 and a Focus back to back to see the difference and just how much further ahead the Mazda is in terms of well...everything. I would gladly pay extra for a far superior car. Ford's supposed to be bringing the Fiesta over here, which slots below the Focus, so if you want a cheaper car buy that.

You want to talk about being tired of pissing and moaning? How about every baseless, opinionated comment you make on anything that isn't a Ford product.

As far as design, well your taste is...nonexistant half the time, so I don't expect you to see the difference, but for the hell of it I'll give you a visual aid anyway.

What we get:

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What they get

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It's excuse making and trying to justify what is obviously an inferior product that has gotten the Big 3 where they are today. At least GM can admit mistakes and is showing it knows how to build and sell cars that aren't second rate anymore.

The bitching will stop when we get this car or something equal to it, even if they had to sell it as a Mercury to justify the price hike. Then you'd have the cheapo Focus for...cheap people, and the sophisticated one for those who want a better car.

Edited by Dodgefan
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Fine, don't import them. Just import the design and build them in Mexico. I5 and DSG too rich for your blood? Fine, how about a 4cylinder that is up to even Ecotec standards in terms of power and NHV? The current Focus engine is raspy and only makes 140hp, but gets decent mileage and is clean.

New engines too much money? How about even just styling them the same ala Aura/Vectra. Use different materials if you have to, but there is no excuse for the US Focus to look like that bad.

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Use different materials if you have to, but there is no excuse for the US Focus to look like that bad.

:yes: Edited by ZL-1
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Make the Euro Focus a baby Lincoln and make the Europeans wish they could have it.

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Ah Reg, I love how you make excuses for Ford, especially when they have sub-par products. This hypocrisy is beautiful. Really.

First, the Malibu and Nav issue is different because the Malibu is a very good car overall, on the other hand you compare a car that is no where near as good as it's European counterpart sold by the same damn company under the same damn name.

I don't care about Sync, because I'm perfectly able to change the radio station or music track myself, I don't drive while talking on the phone either. Is it cool? Yup, but it can't make up for the rest of the car. None of the reviews of the NA Focus have been glowing, they call it decent but not much beyond that. On the other hand we have this one, which is an excellent driver's car with a variety of body styles and powertrains to suit everyone. We get one engine and 2 body styles that resemble an Escort.

You need only drive a Mazda3 and a Focus back to back to see the difference and just how much further ahead the Mazda is in terms of well...everything. I would gladly pay extra for a far superior car. Ford's supposed to be bringing the Fiesta over here, which slots below the Focus, so if you want a cheaper car buy that.

You want to talk about being tired of pissing and moaning? How about every baseless, opinionated comment you make on anything that isn't a Ford product.

That Euro car looks pretty good and i would supect that reviews of the USA counterpart will be " OK ". As far as Ford having sub par products I think you should ride over to the Chysler side. Didn't they just about sweep the 10 worst cars list??

As far as design, well your taste is...nonexistant half the time, so I don't expect you to see the difference, but for the hell of it I'll give you a visual aid anyway.

What we get:

Posted Image

What they get

Posted Image

Posted Image

It's excuse making and trying to justify what is obviously an inferior product that has gotten the Big 3 where they are today. At least GM can admit mistakes and is showing it knows how to build and sell cars that aren't second rate anymore.

The bitching will stop when we get this car or something equal to it, even if they had to sell it as a Mercury to justify the price hike. Then you'd have the cheapo Focus for...cheap people, and the sophisticated one for those who want a better car.

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there must be videos on youtube of euorpeans circle you know what around a euro focus in the center because apparently its like the delivery truck is delivering Jesus and chocolate raspberry cheesecake and scarlett johanssons boobs all in one package.

f'n priceless
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Damn, why do they keep rubbing it in that Europe gets the good one? Damn you Ford!

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As tired as some people claim they are about all the complaints concerning the U.S. Focus model's inferiority to the European model, I am just as tired of hearing all the excuses as to why the European version is not for sale in the U.S.

The fact that our market has to tolerate U.S. Ford's clearly inferior version of the Focus raises some seriously important questions:

1) Why didn't Ford have the vehicle engineered to enable it to be sold worldwide? The first generation was designed for this purpose, I don't understand why the second generation wasn't engineered to do the same.

2) The car shouldn't have to be imported from Europe. Why didn't Ford plan to have the vehicle produced/assembled in territories where the production costs would be lower?

3) How efficient is it to be in a position that you have to develop two different versions of the same model on two different platforms? Wouldn't it be less expensive to design/engineer one great vehicle to sell in various markets than one superior version and one inferior version?

4) Why in the world would Ford give its home market the inferior version of the Focus? All you hear about is how ill Ford's U.S. operations are. I wonder why? Could the lack of desirable, competitive vehicles be a major contributor to that problem? Just how long did Ford think that the U.S. market would tolerate their long parade of tired, facelifted vehicles and restyled products on antiquated platforms? Did Ford think that "status quo" would continue to work when the competition had long since moved on past them?

When all is said and done, one thing is clearly evident:

The 2008 U.S. Focus is a sorry reminder of how mismanaged this company has been.

Edited by cire
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The US focus is just a face lifted version of the previous model. The Euro focus is on the Volvo S40/Mazda 3 platform... so in a sense it is global.

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The US focus is just a face lifted version of the previous model. The Euro focus is on the Volvo S40/Mazda 3 platform... so in a sense it is global.

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The US focus is just a face lifted version of the previous model. The Euro focus is on the Volvo S40/Mazda 3 platform... so in a sense it is global.

ford will be more than happy to sell you a mazdaspeed3 or Volvo C30 if you want a rip roaring compact. in the near future you can look at the 4 door verve concept at NAIAS.

great. everything everyone has said above, we've all heard 10,000 times before. no $h! sherlock. how long did we have to beat the dead horse about GM pushrod v6's (and they still use a few of them in cars like the Lucerne for example). The Cobalt is most certainly not head and shoulders above the US Focus either. In fact, most folks would prob find the US focus more commodious, and more entertaining to drive. (excluding the SS).

Ford is paying dearly for a decade or more of piss poor management. Every knows this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. If your dog poops on the floor and it smells, it doesn't take a genius to figure that out either. If Britney drops her kid again, we don't act surprised anymore. Products coming out now are decisions that were made quite awhile ago. Still talking about the Euro Focus issue is like talking about whether Ross and Rachael are finally going to sleep together.

Had the euro focus design been implemented here, it would be criticized for 'evolutionary styling' over its predecessor and its bland interior.

Look at the GTO. Everyone wanted it. Until it got here, and then oh boy, the scrutiny.

Your assuming each euro dress focus that would be here would resemble the hot RS version but in truth most of them sold would have cheaper wheels, no body trim, etc. It too would blend into the carscape and instead of looking unique and unattainable. Becuase you could still rattle off a bunch of other cars you or the press would tell you is better. VW, Honda, Mazda, and all those really spendy gen Y compacts like the A3 (8,000 units sold) and Volvo.

Ford went into bunker / survival mode and considering unions and all that other BS decided the best business plan was a low investment, alternative path. take a car with good CR scores and improve upon it. Take a car they already had most of the manufacturing down on and build on it. Carry over engines and parts to lessen the brain damage.

GM was at one time the masters of this, no?

Wow that new Saab 9-3 looks 'familiar'. 9-5, also. Hey, Lutzie, how much longer can we use that W BODY?

Right or wrong, their choice here has been way overblown. The two chicks in the new black 08 Focus behind me in the mcdonalds drive thru today sure as hell must not have cared.

If i set you in a room with the all the other compacts, how many of you will actually pick the Euro Focus over every one of the other cars? AND pay the higher asking price that goes with it?

"nah, I'd rather have the GTI"

"nah, I think I'll take the Mazda"

"I think I'd still get the mini"

"I think I'll just get a Malibu instead, for the same price, its larger and nicer"

Edited by regfootball
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The "domestic" Focus is a bland "also ran" car. Nothing special, nothing to get excited about, if the pricetag stays low enough it will sell.

The "European" Focus is a tad better, but it's still not going to sell if the price isn't reflective of what is TRULY is. If it isn't cheap, there will be ZERO interest IMO.

Better products are needed to create more interest or allow higher prices.

Tellin it like it is.....

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Sorry regfootball, it's just frustrating to see Ford go down the same path to market irrelevance that they have followed in the past. They always seem to choose a quick fix solution instead of a path that will lead to long term success. I would love to see them evolve into a maker of world class products instead of always having to resort to being the value alternative. I suppose I was a little harsh, but they make me so bloody aggravated sometimes.

I guess the arrival of the upcoming subcompact products will take up the value leader positions in Ford's U.S. lineup. When that happens, I guess Ford would be in a better position to take the next generation Focus slightly upmarket in the U.S. and place it on a more modern/expensive platform. I suppose the older Focus platform gives Ford a chance to allow the 2008 Focus to cover a wider section of the market segment since there are not any current products positioned below it in the U.S. lineup. I'm still not fond of the 2008 Focus (it could have been styled much better, even on an older platform), but I suppose it does make a little more sense when it is looked at in context with Ford's long range plans.

I'm not fond of the Cobalt either. I think Chevy could have done much better with a clean sheet design. I was very disappointed with this car when it was introduced. While the car is much better than its Cavalier predecessor, it still lags behind the compact class leaders.

As far as Saab, GM has completely mismanaged this brand. The lineup is incomplete and saddled with stale products. Actually, I think GM's resources and money are too overextended to properly handle Saab. I think they should sale this brand to a company that can provide them with the proper amount of care to repair their issues.

You are definitely right about one thing: As superior looking as I think the Euro Focus is compared to the U.S. version, there is no way I would choose it over a Mazda3. If the Euro Focus would have completely adopted the kinetic look of the Mondeo (not just a front end restyle), my decision might be different.

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it really would be interesting to see if people truly believe the euro focus has 'stunning good looks'. I could understand wanting it here, from a driving dynamics standpoint, but I honestly do not think the euro focus has enough visual sizzle to be a big difference maker vs. competition that some have alluded to here.

you could say its more contemporary looking and blends into the landscape well. You could say that about the new Accord. But its not stunning or even handsome by any stretch, you could also say that about the new Accord. The RS version has visual upgrades that make it look nicer.

i'm not even a big fan of the kinetic design verve and mondeo. they still remind me too much of the aero cars of the 90's.

how bout some shoulders and some definition?

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in fairness, i did like the Iosis a bit. But that looked more like an Aston than anything.

i mean, look at this. a little too much 'Kia' here.....

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Edited by regfootball
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Hey Reg... Our Focus is pathetic no matter what compact you compare it to... be it Ford's own euro-Focus, or any of its competitors sold here. Why don't you take off your damn blinders and see reality once. IT SUCKS, STOP MAKING EXCUSES. And for the love of some imaginary friend, shut up about it. You're no better sounding than a broken record with a faux chip on your shoulder. I know you're in your 40's, but grow up already. You're supposed to be wise, not cynically out of touch with reality. Jeesh louise. :P

It's about time Ford grew some balls and gave us something worth buying instead of a bunch of also-ran crap.

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ok, "millenia man". Is that an Amati tag on the trunk?

That was retarded, baseless, and immature. But hey, at least his car doesn't look like crap.

Stop making excuses for Ford, admit that they should have and have had plenty of opportunities to bring the car over. It could easily have been a Mercury if they didn't want an expensive, sophisticated Ford. They dropped the ball and continue to do so.

And it doesn't look like a Kia, it looks like the new Mondeo.

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ok, "millenia man". Is that an Amati tag on the trunk?

Haha... What? You're high on cocaine and growing senile? Really? I would have never guessed.. :P Edited by blackviper8891
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The 2008 Euro Focus is a reskin, not a re-design, it is still on the C1 platform.

Yeah, which is still a far superior and newer platform to the NA Focus

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Much like the crosshairs have been overdone on Chrysler grills and the new Malibu front end resembles the Chevy trucks a little TOO much IMO - I think the Ford "pound big chrome grill strips on the front of a car" has to be weaned back too.

Too much focus is on brand IDENTITY, or grasps at it- instead of making a certain concept/production car's lines FLOW.

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blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

and not one f@#king word about how high a price they would have had to sell this thing at to get it here.

24 thou? 26? is that 5 cylinder dsg gonna cost more than a 4wd explorer?

I don't believe that...if Ford had invested the money to build the new Euro Focus in the US like the current Focus why should it cost substantially more?

The Euro Focus is on a newer platform, has a better range of engine choices than the US one, not to mention it has better styling and body styles (stupid move of Ford to drop the hatchbacks in the US, since in a compact FWD car a hatchback makes a lot more sense than a trunked model)..

this never ending pissing and moaning about 'we don't get the eurofocus' is tired and old and stale and just not worth reading or talking about. its been done . its older than the bags below below barbra streisands eyes

Dude, you bought an Aztek..thus your opinion has no weight, so just hush please.. :)

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