2009 Ford Focus SES Coupe Review
By Kevin Miller
When the Ford Focus was redesigned for the 2008 model year, we North Americans got the proverbial short end of the stick. While Europeans got a new Focus riding on a new platform, we got a sort-of-new Focus on the old platform that debuted in 2000. Worse still, the good-looking, versatile three- and five-door hatchbacks were discontinued, leaving only a four-door sedan and a two-door notchback coupe. The new North American Focus was introduced with a generic new-Ford style, with a horizontal-bar grill. It also had appallingly garish “fender vent” decorations on the front fenders. Our review of the 2008 Focus SES sedan found the car to be capable though not outstanding.
With the new-for-2008 Focus so recently introduced, it was a bit surprising to read last May that the 2009 Focus coupe was being mildly re-styled, losing the fender vents and gaining a spoiler at the top of the rear window, as though the coupe wished it was a hatchback. Those two stylistic changes, along with 17” painted alloy wheels help to give the Focus coupe a bit more aggressive look, although the car still has a fairly slab-sided appearance and is clearly derived from a sedan.
While the car has a new look, many features betray the car’s decade-old roots. The Focus’ key and separate unlocking seem to be from another era- I’m sure my father-in-law’s ’99 Taurus used the same ones. Once inside, the instruments are handsome and very easy to read, though dash and console materials are decidedly low-rent. Hard plastic materials comprise the dash top and face, though the heated seats in my car were upholstered in nice looking leather, and there was a stitched faux-leather upholstery on the doors as well. The door and center armrests are nicely padded.
While the front seats look great, I had a hard time finding a comfortable driving position. My wife felt the passenger seat was too high off of the floor; it wasn’t height adjustable like the driver’s seat was. The sun visors in the Focus seemed to be little more than upholstered cardboard, and had gaps near the A-pillar and mirror where they didn’t block the sun. Unexpectedly, the interior rear view mirror is the auto-dimming variety.
Between the front seats is a very deep, spacious storage compartment, and it has storage for pens and business cards cheaply-yet-functionally molded to the inside of its lid. In front of that bin are two cupholders, and a third cupholder is behind the console at its base for the backseat passengers to share. Each of the cupholders has an ambient lighting LED lamp in it, and there are similar lamps in each footwell. A button on the dash allows the color of the lamp to be selected (yellow, orange, green, red blue, pink, purple, white, or off). At night the ambient lighting was nice to have, and it illuminated clear plastic water bottles nicely (even if the effect was a little bit techno). The front cupholders’ LEDs unfortunately reflected in the passenger side window.
The back seat has three individual headrests and leather upholstery, but the side panels are strictly hard plastic, and there is no fold-down center armrest. Remarkably, the back seat has enough legroom for a forward-facing convertible car seat behind the driver, and an infant-carrier with snap-in base behind the passenger, with still enough room in the front passenger seat for an adult passenger to be comfortable. This meant that our family of four was able to travel together in the Focus, though getting the preschooler and the infant into the back of the two-door car was a bit of a hassle, requiring us to re-adjust the front seats each time. Unfortunately, the upper tether anchor in the Focus wasn’t located far enough rearward to allow the Graco ComfortSport convertible seat to be cinched tightly. The lower LATCH anchors were quite easy to locate and use.
I rode in a Nissan Versa during my week with the Focus, and the difference in the interior material quality was striking. Although Focus’ dash materials are not at the top of their segment in appearance or quality, the functionality is just fine. There are a lot of buttons on the dash for controlling the audio/infotainment system, HVAC, heated seats, and various other systems. The buttons themselves looks like leftovers from a decade ago, and the sheer number of buttons, and the similarity of shapes, means that you’ll be spending time quickly reading the buttons before using them. They are functional, though.
Unfortunately, the windshield wipers are controlled by a rotating sleeve on the turn-signal stalk, rather than by a separate stalk on the right side of the steering wheel like most modern cars use. This setup caused me to turn the wipers off when using the turn signals in the rain.
The Focus SES is equipped with the Ford SYNC system. The Focus was my first experience using the SYNC system, and I came away impressed by how easy it is to use. The fact that it downloaded all of my iPhone’s contacts and allowed me to dial by voice was great. The one flaw in the system was that referenced my contacts by last name first, meaning that to call myself I would have to say “Call Miller Kevin” rather than “Call Kevin Miller”. The SYNC system understood my voice commands every time (something my Volvo’s handsfree system is unable to do), and calls were always clear. The system also had Sirius satellite radio, with 30 station presets available. A dash-top display showed call and music details as well as time of day.
The trunk was just large enough to fit my two large equipment cases and a briefcase, though a speaker box on the driver’s side of the trunk hogs too much space. The rear seats do fold down in a 60/40 split to increase cargo room. Outside, there is an indentation in the top of the back bumper so that you can reach down to lift up the trunk lid; unfortunately there is no drain for that indentation. Reaching down to open the trunk on a rainy afternoon, I had to put my fingers in the dirty water that had collected. I was not impressed.
Also leaving me wet was the driver’s door; every time I opened it in the rain or snow, water that had collected on the door’s weatherstrip dripped onto the driver’s seat, except if I was sitting in the seat it dripped onto my leg. You could say that this dampened my enthusiasm for the Focus’ design.
The driving experience in the Focus was satisfactory, if not inspired. The shift lever seems to be a bit too tall, the clutch doesn’t offer much feedback, and the shifter lacks any precision in the feeling of shifting through the gears. A shift-up light on the dash reminds you when to shift to get the best fuel economy. Rowing through the gears, the 140 HP 2.0 liter four-cylinder proves to have adequate power for moving the Focus around, and brakes were capable, even though the nice-looking wheels show off rear drum brakes rather than discs. On most freeway surfaces, a lot of road noise made its way into the cabin, though the suspension did iron out a lot of road imperfections. It is also worth noting that the Focus performed admirably in the snow on its standard all-season tires, successfully navigating three inches of un-plowed snow on neighborhood streets to get me to work.
My Vista Blue metallic Focus was a bird poop magnet. I’ve never had a car so frequently marked by birds; in the course of my week with the Focus I had four different major incidents. It could be that the birds thought the bright blue Focus was a body of water; or it might just be their way of voting against the Focus.
When I received the Focus, its trip computer showed an average of 28.0 MPG. I reset the computer, and at the end of my week and 230 miles my average was 28.4 MPG. It has an EPA rating of 24/35 MPG.
Focus SES coupe has an MSRP of $17,750, and includes such standard features as 17” painted alloy wheels, rear spoiler, heated exterior mirrors, fog lamps, air conditioning, aux-in, power windows and locks, message center with trip computer, SYNC, electrochromatic mirror, front, side, and curtain airbags, and leather wrapped steering wheel with cruse and audio controls. Options included Antilock Brakes with Electronic Stability Control for $745; the Moon & Tune Value Package for $1270, which added a six-disc in-dash CD changer, Audiophile Sound System, and Power Moonroof with sunshade; and Leather Upholstery with heated front seats for $810. Including the $695 destination fee and a $475 discount on the Moon & Tune system, total vehicle MSRP is $20,615.
After my week with the Focus, I came away with an unexpected appreciation for the car. While the Focus might not be the most sophisticated vehicle in it segment, it feels well put-together, and the nicely-equipped SES coupe I tested had plenty of high-end features like the SYNC system and heated seats. Its reliance on technology from the previous Focus means that it should be a solid choice for many years of reliable service. With generous interior room for a car in its segment, and good fuel economy ratings, the Focus is absolutely worth a look if you are considering the purchase of an economical two-door car.
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