Any Manhattanite worth a grain of overpriced, designer salt understands the value of making an understated, classy entry into a crowded room. By that logic, when the opportunity arose to test the Ford Focus Electric — which wears the same sheetmetal as the gasoline-powered Focus hatchback but packs substantial, though invisible whizbangery under its skin — I vowed to remain impartial. Could it make a statement, albeit a quiet one? Continue Reading →
By Carl Malek
Following in the wake of Chevrolet’s recent announcement of a manual transmission option throughout most of the 2012 Cruze model lineup, Car and Driver magazine reports that Ford is also planning to expand availability of a shift-it-yourself 5 speed manual transmission to Ford Focus Titanium models. This announcement should please enthusiasts that wish to row through the gears themselves when the road get twisty.
By Kevin Gordon
If you have ever watched the BBC’s Top Gear you have probably heard the presenters discuss how much they respect Ford’s cars. In fact, the Ford Mondeo is one of the very rare cars that all three presenters agree is a great car. I have always found this to be a bit odd considering the general ribbing that those pecky and hilarious Brits continuously give the stereotypical American. How can Ford’s products can garner such respect with the most stringent of automotive critics? If you listen closely their love of Fords cars come from the way that they drive, much the way the American auto magazines endlessly gush about BMWs. Here again was a point of confusion for me. I have driven a lot of Fords, including living in a family that owned a number of 1990s era Tauruses (SP?). Few of these cars ever caught my attention as being great to drive. Even their much-loved Mondeo was a commercial flop in the states when it came here as the Contour/Mystique. Sure the SVT version was a nice car, but what did they sell… 31 of them?
Back to the point. When the 2012 Ford Focus ended up in the Autosavant parking lot for a week, I was expecting to spend my time focusing on economy, practicality, and other things that auto journalists have to do in order to have the chance to spend time in exotics and supercars. As it turns out I wasn’t in for such a boring week.
By Chris Haak
A few weeks ago at the New York Auto Show, I remarked to a colleague that I was amused by the proliferation of asterisks in some of the claims that auto manufacturers are making. Depending on who you’re asking, there are more than a half-dozen answers to the question of “what’s the most fuel-efficient small car?” To wit:
By Chris Haak
New-vehicle interior design and materials have come a long way since the dark, Tupperware/Fisher-Price days of the 1990s. When once hard plastic and no adornment was the norm, we now live in a world where a compact Chevrolet has been recognized as one of the ten best interiors among all 2011 models sold in the US. Spoken as someone who spent over 100,000 miles behind the wheel of the Cruze’s ancestors (the Grand Am and Achieva), that alone is nearly remarkable news. For 2011, Ward’s reported that there were a record 51 nominees for their top-ten list.
Each year, Ward’s doles out its interior awards “based on materials, ergonomics, safety, the human-machine interface, comfort, fit-and-finish, overall value and aesthetics.” All of those criteria are relevant ones when determining whether an interior is a good one or not. The value message is important, because as I’ve noted on this site before, it’s much more challenging to balance the tradeoffs inherent in a $20,000 car’s interior than in one with a larger budget, like the Bentley Mulsanne. Without further ado, here’s the list of winners:
By Charles Krome
The EPA fuel efficiency ratings for the 2012 Fiat 500 have now been announced, with the Chrysler Group’s much-hyped hatchback achieving 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway/33 mpg combined when kitted out with a five-speed manual and a line of 27/34/30 with a six-speed automatic. But as high as those numbers are, they represent somewhat of a disappointment given the competition.
Now, the natural choice of rivals here is the MINI hardtop, since both vehicles are small niche products that will claim a lot of their sales based on style, so here is how they match up against each other in some of the more relevant measures.
By Charles Krome
In addition to my writing here at Autosavant, yours truly also has a number of other auto-related gigs, including a semi-regular spot on a weekly web-based “talk show” called Open Line (check it out on Mondays at http://bit.ly/OpenLine). And in this past episode, we chatted briefly about a new approach to fuel efficiency that I’m eager to try out on my fellow Savants.
Here’s my thinking: It’s always struck me as odd when vehicles in two different segments somehow ended up with very similar EPA numbers. For example, both the Ford Fiesta and the new Ford Focus are going to post marks of 40 mpg highway. Now, one way of looking at this is “wow, Ford was able to build a compact car that gets the same great fuel economy as its subcompact.” But I can’t help approaching this from the other side, wondering how, if the Blue Oval can get that kind of performance from the Focus, it can’t do better with the smaller, lighter Fiesta.
By Charles Krome
After striking online gold with its comprehensive “Fiesta Movement” marketing campaign, Ford is taking things to ye olde next level for the launch of the 2012 Focus. That’s the word this morning from Dearborn, Mich., where Ford brought in the media—including yours truly—for the launch of its “Focus Rally: America” effort.
The short story here is that Ford has teamed up with the creators of The Amazing Race reality show to essentially put together an online, automotive version that will run on Hulu.com beginning early next year. The event will feature six two-person teams, with each duo in their own Focus, as they drive across the U.S. and compete to finish a variety of sure-to-be-wacky challenges on the way. (Those interested in getting some seat time in the promotion can head over to www.FocusRally.com for info on casting.)
By Chris Haak
The Chevrolet Cruze compact has been on the market in the rest of the world for over a year, and has done reasonably well for GM in markets like Australia and South Korea. US production in Lordstown, Ohio began in July, and it’s slated to hit dealer lots this month. The car is sold as a Chevrolet Cruze in Europe, a Holden Cruze in Australia, and a Daewoo Lacetti Premiere in South Korea, but the only visual differences are powertrain choices, design details like grilles and bumpers. All sheetmetal is identical among the variants. Overall, GM currently sells the Cruze in 70 countries worldwide.
By Kevin Miller
After months of hype including the Fiesta Movement, product placement on American Idol, and the auto show previews, the Ford Fiesta is finally here. Being a fan of small European cars that are efficient because of smart engineering choices, I’ve been eager to get behind the wheel of the Fiesta. Having recently spent two weeks driving two-ton, 300 HP luxury cars I finally got my chance, and climbing into the Fiesta SES hatchback was like a breath of fresh air. Far from bare-bones, the SES trim level of Ford’s smallest entry in the US car market has upscale features like keyless entry and pushbutton starting, and Ford’s SYNC system, the mainstream market’s best implementation of telephone and media integration.
As soon as I got the Fiesta, I installed my two kids’ car seats, loaded up our luggage, and headed from Seattle toward Washington State’s San Juan Islands. I had a ferry to catch, and two anxious kids in the back seat. Not having a lot of time to acquaint myself with the Fiesta’s features, I found myself driving above 75 MPH without significant effort. At those speeds, the Fiesta was settled on the road, not particularly noisy, and essentially right at home. We arrived at the ferry terminal about 90 minutes later, to learn that the sailing we had hoped to take was already full, and the next boat was four-and-a-half hours later. After a quick stop for groceries, we pulled in to the lot and waited… and waited longer as the sailing experienced a 75 minute delay. My daughters and I made the best of the delay, using the Fiesta as our base for snacks, naps, and activities.
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