The Ford Focus is one of many reasons why I’ve come to appreciate the Blue Oval. I’ve been testing this compact model for 15 years in various states of tune and trim, from basic fuel misers to luxuriously lined hyper hatches, in just about every body style imaginable, and they’ve always provided reliable service mixed with enjoyable driving dynamics. What’s more, they’ve usually been a cut above their competition when it comes to interior refinement and electronics.
The same holds true today, even though the 2016 Ford Focus isn’t even close to being the newest compact on the block.
Still state-of-the-art despite its age
My most recent Focus Titanium Sedan tester is a prime example of all that’s good about this car, combining understated good looks with a surprisingly luxurious cabin filled with some of the latest industry tech, while its powertrain remains one of the most advanced available despite its age. When the current generation was introduced here in early 2011, it was among the first in the class to offer direct-injection gasoline power and a sophisticated dual-clutch automated transmission, not to mention other advanced technologies. Many of its peers are still lagging behind.
While a 5-speed manual gearbox is also available, the 6-speed dual-clutch PowerShift automatic with SelectShift manual mode comes standard in the Titanium model, delivering ultra-smooth, lightning-quick shifts and especially efficient operation ― 7.7L/100km combined city and highway, which is very good considering its performance.
Lots of efficient power
Power comes from a direct-injected, 2.0L 4-cylinder that’s plenty energetic with 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque; with Sport mode engaged it makes for quick getaways and loads of highway passing power.
Additionally, few compacts can keep up with the 2016 Ford Focus on a twisty road, the Titanium coming standard with Torque Vectoring Control that automatically applies braking to the front inside wheel so that extra power goes to the more adherent outside wheel. My tester also benefited from a set of sticky 235/40ZR18 Pirelli P Zero Nero tires wrapped around slick-looking, 5-spoke, silver-painted alloy wheels.
The performance rubber didn’t seem to upset ride quality as this upscale compact’s fully independent front and multi-link rear suspension proved wonderfully compliant over rougher pavement and quite smooth around town. Meanwhile, its ABS-enhanced, 4-wheel disc brakes were easy to operate in regular driving and extremely effective during panic testing situations.
Luxury that goes above and beyond
You may not be fully prepared for the premium way Ford has dressed up this top-line Focus. Let’s first point out that there’s no Lincoln version of this car, so Ford is making up for this big time with Titanium trim.
Included are soft-touch materials across the entire dash top, right down to the midpoint of the instrument panel, not to mention more than halfway down the sides of the centre stack. The front door uppers get the high-end treatment, too. Applying such expensive material to both areas is unusual in the compact class, but so is this Titanium’s nicely padded and stitched leather sport steering wheel, complete with comfortably shaped thumb spats at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. The shift knob is comprised of leather as well as metallic trim, the left side incorporating a thumb-actuated toggle for rowing through gears. A sporty leather boot finishes off the shift lever, the surrounding trim done out in an attractive gloss dark grey that’s duplicated over on the door pulls, while key areas are highlighted with ambient LED lighting.
On top of all this you’ll find extremely high-quality switchgear throughout the cabin. Ford is doing a better job than many rivals with tighter-fitting, better damped controls made from more substantive plastic than the hollow, cheap-feeling plastic buttons, knobs, and toggles offered by a number of very pricey luxury brands. Another Focus attribute is its combination of digital interfaces: The Titanium includes a bright, full-colour, high-resolution, multi-information display between a set of analog gauges, and it’s filled with stylish graphics and loads of data that you can access via steering wheel controls.
SYNC 3 resets the industry standard
Atop the centre stack is one of the best infotainment systems in the industry, Ford’s new-for-2016 SYNC 3 touchscreen interface that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as downloadable apps and available navigation with excellent mapping and accurate, quick-responding route guidance.
The graphic design of the interface is modern and refreshing, especially if you like light blue on white, while tablet-style pinch and swipe capability makes it easy to operate. Strangely, its voice recognition system actually comprehends audible prompts and its functions are easier to setup than with the old MyFord Touch system. You also get the expected rearview camera with active guidelines, top-tier phone and streaming audio connectivity, and more.
Another standard Titanium upgrade is a Sony audio system that produces excellent bass response thanks to a rear subwoofer. Combined with the bright, crisp highs of its front pillar-mounted tweeters and the rest of its 10 speakers, the sound is delightfully rich. Standard satellite radio provides ample music and talk alternatives. There’s no shortage of USB connectors ― one in a pocket above the shifter and another under the centre armrest, right beside a 12V charger and holder for your key fob, which is set up to automatically charge it (a very smart idea).
Back up on the centre stack, an upmarket dual-zone automatic HVAC system sits within a beautifully finished interface that, when visually combined with the equally appealing glossy black surface treatment around the rotating infotainment controller, could once again challenge any premium brand for style and quality.
Premium-level features abound
Next to the shift lever on the lower console is Ford’s optional self-parking system as well as a button for the rear parking sensors, while a switch for the optional heated steering wheel joins standard 3-level heated seats for near immediate warmth in the depths of winter. Being that spring had sprung and the resulting temperature was in the mid-20s, I appreciated even more having a storage case for sunglasses integrated into the overhead console.
Proximity-sensing access gets you inside, and a button starts the engine. Alternatively, you can use remote start to warm it up and/or Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad to gain access. Once seated, only extra-large folks will find the 2016 Ford Focus remotely cramped, as there’s plenty of shoulder and hip room plus a lot of headroom despite the Titanium’s optional glass sunroof. The 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support is extremely comfortable and at least as nice to look at, the standard leather feeling higher in quality than most other top-line models in the compact class and finished with beautiful detailing that includes subtle contrast stitching.
The seats in the rear also get a folding armrest with twin cup holders. Their seatbacks fold 60/40 to provide extra cargo space as needed, while under the 374-litre trunk’s cargo floor was an optional full-size spare tire surrounded by a very handy tray system that’s ideal for stowing road emergency equipment or valuables.
Smart styling showing signs of age
So, what’s wrong with the 2016 Ford Focus Sedan? Nothing. In fact, any bugs early models may have had now appear to be exorcised out of the latest iteration, which hasn’t experienced any recalls at all ― only one of its closest competitors has made it through the year without getting called back for critical service.
Some of these rivals, such as the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic, were more recently redesigned and therefore are upstaging the Focus’ handsome albeit conservative styling. Sure, the Titanium comes with a set of showy auto on/off quad-beam halogen headlamps, fog lamps, LED signature driving lights, turn signal indicators integrated within the body-coloured mirror housings, LED taillights, a rear spoiler and more, but it’s not the type of car you buy to be seen in. That might be a problem for those willing to buck up $26,499 plus freight and dealer fees to get into one, even with ample chrome detailing and my tester’s gorgeous Kona Blue paint.
In my case, the $500 wheels, $800 navigation, $1,200 moonroof, $400 active park assist, $100 block heater, $300 Titanium Winter package (heated steering wheel, all-weather floor mats), and $750 Technology package (auto high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist) pushed the price up to $29,745.
Final thoughts on Focus
There are plenty of reasons to consider the 2016 Ford Focus, whether dressed up in Titanium duds or done out in one of its many other trims, powertrains, and body styles. Also, I’m willing to bet your local Ford retailer won’t be against sweetening the deal with a nice discount. It’s already priced reasonably when factoring in all that’s included, and this top-line Focus Titanium Sedan is easily good enough to rival premium-branded challengers like the Acura ILX and Buick Verano.