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trinacriabob

Ford Focus 2.0 base sedan (rental)

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The month of August means higher rental car prices in California, but I somehow managed $22.00 a day for a compact 2 weekends ago. I went up over the Sierra and to Reno for the weekend, so I figured I'd pick up a rental. (I don't gamble, so it was buffet time...damn, my beloved $8.99 breakfast buffet at the Reno Hilton's "The Lodge" has deteriorated since it changed over to the Grand Sierra Resort).

I really like the styling changes on the Focus sedan. They've improved its appearance over the last-gen model. I can't say the same for the changes they've made to the coupe. The previous-gen hatchback coupe with the lights up in the rear pillars was unique. I once rented one and thought it was almost fun to drive. So, now, after many attempts to get a Focus and always being given a Cobalt or Corolla, I finally got to try a Focus when renting within the compact category.

It was a silver 4-door base model. It's an attractive vehicle and there is nothing quirky about it. The side character lines/indentations work well and the greenhouse is proportionate to the overall look of the car.

Inside, it is fairly roomy. Visibility is great and the C-pillar picks up those "opera windows." Thank God, the headrests don't create a "problem" as they do in the Cobalt or Malibu. While I like those cars, the rear visibility is compromised by the headrests and I immediately (unsuccesfully) tried to remove them from my rentals. In the Focus, the headrest profiles mesh nicely with the rear seat design, so they seem to make sense. The seats are fairly comfortable. At this price point, one can't expect nice upholstery...nor a high level of ergonomic comfort. As I said, it was a base model -- it had the power windows, the power locks, the power mirror adjustments but NO cruise control. I couldn't have made much use of it, but had it been I-40 in Oklahoma, that might have been different. The overall layout of the dash and controls makes a lot of sense. The best thing is the cowl/eyelid at the top of the center stack. It has the clock and some other basis information whereas the Cobalt and Malibu have a storage bin. Here, the storage compartments are placed lower, in the console. All of the instrumentation and controls are predictably placed and the shift lever/console have a good feel. There were 3 things about the car I didn't like though - (1) the secondary gauges in the instrument cluster are real small, (2) the climate control center has small buttons and is busier than it needs to be, and (3) the graphics on the speedometer and tach are the friggin' ugliest I've seen...at night, they are both blue and red. I still can't get over these ugly graphics. The trunk is very reasonably sized for a car this size.

Driving the car was fairly predictable. It's comparable to the Cobalt and maybe a little firmer than a Corolla, which has gotten increasingly more vague over the years. The shifts of the 4-speed automatic are smooth and can be felt -- not as clean as those of a Fusion/Milan or a LaCrosse, but not bad either. It rides nicely over even freeway pavement, but rougher pavement can send the drone-type sound into the cabin. It can take an acceptable amount of lean, but pushed hard into a cloverleaf or a curve, it becomes questionable. On 2-lane roads in the Sierra, it wasn't looking to do acrobatics, just provide nuts-and-bolts transportation. The 2.0 litre Duratec DOHC 4 cylinder has supposedly been worked into being a good engine and now reportedly has a long service life. Damn, are they "ugly" when you pop the hood. For some reason, Ford engine compartments don't look as "organized" as those of GM. However, for everyday driving, there is enough spunk and the only range in which it seems to be lacking is the high-speed pass (i.e. trying to overtake a semi going up the Donner Grade). Consumer Reports seems to give this car a good share of "red dots."

I didn't like the fact that the base model was as austere as it was...not having cruise control is kind of weird. I think that the "one level up" model, in 4-door form, could be a very cost-effective form of transportation for many people. It doesn't cost much to buy, it's easy to maintain, they seem to last a fairly long time and, based on the mix of driving I did, it seemed to use fuel sparingly. I probably will never own a car smaller than a Malibu or a Fusion/Milan, but the new Ford Focus is very competent for its price point.

Edited by trinacriabob
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having spending 2 weeks in 2008 driving rental focus while my cars were getting fixed, i must say you are pretty much spot on.

the center stack and console and interior friendliness and commuter personality make the focus that kind of car that will please those who like user convenience and congeniality.

i like the top display, and myself i liked the HVAC and radio controls. i echo your complaints on the instrumentation.

the seating is nice in my opinion and is one reason to maybe bypass a cobalt for a focus....although the cobalt is more sprite.

but ok, i have owned like 5 fords or so since 95, i love fords, all that.

after driving those focus for two weeks and liking it as a pleasant vehicle i can honestly say the astra is a wayyyyyyy more enjoyable car to drive. it lacks a few features / convenience aspects that killed it in the market. but ride and handling is on another level. the astra's build quality is another step up. the focus auto is a bit faster, but manuals, the astra is way more responsive and fun.

before anyone uses the MSRP card, many or most of the focus similarly equipped i see MSRP for very high prices, often higher than the astras with the same equipment.

the focus has reliability which makes it a good product too.

the kia forte is MUCH larger and more comfortable on the inside than the focus.

Edited by regfootball
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i can honestly say the astra is a wayyyyyyy more enjoyable car to drive.

many or most of the focus similarly equipped i see MSRP for very high prices

the focus has reliability which makes it a good product too.

Ok, I just went to the Ford site.

The Focus SE (one level up) sedan with the following:

Mechanical - auto trans instead of stick

Exterior - alloy wheels

Interior - the driver's package which includes cruise controls, remote audio controls and a leather wrapped steering wheel

amounts to:

$19,670.

I was expecting about $750 to $1,250 less. Hitting close to $20,000 is more than I thought. It had better be a 200,000 + mile car.

I definitely like the Astra 2-door coupe. I've seen their Opel equivalent in Europe, but never inspected one up close.

Edited by trinacriabob
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They tend to be a good handling little car.

I'm looking forward to the next gen c1 based one....

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Looking forward to the next gen myself. I think the Astra was a real step above the Focus, esp. in ride driving qualities.

Ford has done a great job with the exterior paint finish from what I can tell. A whole world better than the crappy Sentra we had as a rental a few weeks back.

Chris

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Ok, I just went to the Ford site.

The Focus SE (one level up) sedan with the following:

Mechanical - auto trans instead of stick

Exterior - alloy wheels

Interior - the driver's package which includes cruise controls, remote audio controls and a leather wrapped steering wheel

amounts to:

$19,670.

I was expecting about $750 to $1,250 less. Hitting close to $20,000 is more than I thought. It had better be a 200,000 + mile car.

I definitely like the Astra 2-door coupe. I've seen their Opel equivalent in Europe, but never inspected one up close.

thing is you can option a loaded focus up to like 22 grand, i.e. as much as the astra. now, the focus will have an armrest and sync.

the astra is so much more solid of a car than the focus. yet the focus is very agreeable, as a commuter.

truth is though the forte is a much better car than the focus for the price, if all you want is a commuter.

hold the phone, Jetta S's being advertised for 15,999 new 09's free sched maintenance. if it wasn't for that $h!ty iron block boat anchor 5 cylinder and terrible gas mileage, it really would be jetta all the way.

jetta feels heavy. focus feels light. astra feels solid and frisky, the perfect inbetween.

cobalt vs. focus is a draw IMO. cobalt has more power and better engine. focus has a little nicer interior.

Edited by regfootball
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