What it Is
Ford Focus Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: The 2008 Ford Focus is the Blue Oval’s smallest car, offering economical and sporty transportation in a compact package. It originally debuted in 1999 as a 2000 model, winning the 2000 North American Car of the Year award. The 2008 Focus is redesigned inside and out and features standard thorax side airbags, side air curtains and Ford’s Personal Safety System for increased crash protection. Ford also says that its suspension refinements make it feel like a more substantial vehicle. For 2008 the only two body styles are a four-door sedan and a new coupe. Ford does not currently field a subcompact “B-car segment” vehicle, so the Focus must simultaneously satisfy sport compact enthusiasts and environmentally conscious buyers.
Why it Matters
Ford expects annual growth of five percent in the small car market through 2008, meaning one third of new car sales will come from this segment. Therefore, the 2008 Ford Focus is extremely important. The Focus has experienced incredible popularity worldwide, and Ford needs to leverage this nameplate and the potential efficiency of this model to appeal to a diversifying group of buyers with increasing options every day. Its design is also crucial. Ford is trying to strengthen its brand by solidifying vehicles under a common and effective styling language, and the 2008 Focus extends this to a whole new category of buyers.
What’s Under the Hood
The 2008 Ford Focus is powered by a standard 2.0-liter Duratec four-cylinder DOHC engine that is matched to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. It benefits from a new air intake and cooling system, and output will be close to the current model’s. For “green” states that follow California’s emissions standards, a 130-horsepower Duratec 20E engine qualifies the Focus as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV). The new model is expected to give the same 37 mpg fuel economy as its predecessor.
What it Looks Like
Elements carried over from the latest Ford design portfolio positively influence the 2008 Ford Focus, giving this compact car a distinctive and bold styling stance. The headlights are more upright and sweep back into the front fenders. Connecting the front lamps is a two-bar horizontal grille that draws from the popular Ford Fusion sedan, but subtle enough to not offend small car shoppers. A bulging character line infused hood suggests power and precise articulation. Along the side, a higher beltline creates a sleeker profile, according to Ford. Small, high-mounted taillights create a tail end with premium-quality character.
The 2008 Ford Focus boasts a sophisticated and refined interior, with an acoustic windshield, thicker side glass and sound-deadening materials employed to increase comfort and quiet cruising. The center stack is topped off with an eye-level message center that communicates radio function readouts. A large horizontal panel swathes the dashboard, creating a more inviting space, says Ford. Cool ice-blue interior lighting increases illumination to instruments and switches and is easier on the eyes for night driving. An available ambient lighting package allows customizable lighting in the cup holders and foot wells, with seven different hues available for interior accenting.
What Ford Says
Ford sees an expanding compact vehicle market for models like the 2008 Ford Focus in the near future, but also envisions shifting expectations from buyers in this class. “The small car segment is not only growing, but is changing,” said Cisco Codina, Ford group vice president of North American Marketing, Sales and Service. “Focus is coming to market with more content, more standard features and strong fuel economy, while remaining competitively priced. With its bold stance and improved driving characteristics, the new Focus will be a solid competitor in the segment.”
What We Think
The Focus has been a big winner thus far, but a lot rides on the 2008 Ford Focus. As the marketplace changes, this small car will have some big shoes to fill, as Focus represents Ford’s fuel-efficient bargain-priced model. Other manufacturers that are now successfully fielding new subcompacts and hybrid-electric vehicles threaten to influence or dominate the gas-saving segment. However, Focus’s blend of refinement and design, C-class room at a B-Class price and fuel economy, along with a clean four-cylinder engine, could teach consumers that compromise is not always required when embracing a compact car.
Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Co.