2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: What Is It
People who appreciate great cars must give thanks that Ford’s current CEO, Alan Mulally, thinks it is a huge waste of money, time, and talent to build vehicles that are unique to specific markets – with a few exceptions. Under a program dubbed “One Ford,” Mulally is consolidating the automaker’s global product portfolio onto as few platforms as possible, powered by as few powertrain variants as possible, all engineered to be sold anywhere on the planet. The goals of this product simplicity and large-scale production volume are to generate big profits for Ford Motor Company, while delivering great cars, trucks, and SUVs to consumers.
The current Ford Focus is one result of this new “One Ford” philosophy, a car on sale all around the globe and built with as few regional modifications as is possible. Americans can choose between a 4-door sedan and a 5-door hatchback body style, and the Ford Focus you can buy in the U.S. is basically the same as the Ford Focus you can buy everywhere else. Better yet, Ford of Europe developed the new Focus, which means it drives like a good European car, one that could easily wear a blue-and-white badge marked with the letters B, M, and W.
But does that make the Focus a good car? Let’s find out.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
For our latest look at the Ford Focus, we obtained a sedan in SE trim. For 2013, the Focus Sedan is only available in S, SE and Titanium trim levels. The SEL model is cancelled this year.
Select the Focus S Sedan, and you’ll drive home in the least expensive version of Ford’s compact car at $16,200. The Focus S rolls on 15-inch wheels with plastic covers, but it does include standard air conditioning, power front windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, power exterior mirrors with integrated blind spotter mirrors, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a 4-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio input jack. Additionally, the Focus is equipped with a capless fuel filler system to make pumping gas just a little bit easier, as well as side mirrors that manually fold inward. Few options are offered for the Focus S.
The Focus SE is the most popular model at $18,200. It comes with standard 16-inch aluminum wheels, body-color trim, integrated side mirror turn signal indicators, automatic headlights, and fog lights. Additionally, the SE Sedan is equipped with cruise control, power front and rear windows, front floor mats, a center armrest, illuminated entry, articulating headrests, and two extra stereo speakers. MyKey programmable vehicle technology is also included on the SE model, along with Sync Bluetooth connectivity and a MyFord information display. The Focus SE can be upgraded with numerous options that equip the car nearly to the level of the top-of-the-line Titanium model.
The Focus Titanium starts at $23,200. It is equipped with a whole bunch of stuff, including a PowerShift automatic transmission, 17-inch aluminum wheels, blacked-out grille and headlight trim, a rear spoiler, and shiny beltline moldings. Inside, the Titanium model includes leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, MyFord Touch infotainment technology, keyless entry with push-button ignition, and a Sony premium sound system with 10 speakers, HD Radio, and satellite radio. A reversing camera and rear park assist sensors are also standard on the Titanium, along with a 6-way power driver’s seat, automatic operation for the power windows, ambient cabin lighting, and more.
My test car was the 2013 Ford Focus SE Sedan with the optional PowerShift transmission, wearing a base window sticker of $19,840. The optional SE Appearance Package added leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, satellite radio, 4-wheel-disc brakes, a rear spoiler, fog lights, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Additionally, my Focus SE had a power sunroof, rear parking assist sensors, and rear floor mats, for a grand total of $23,530.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: What It’s Up Against
Given that the Focus Sedan packs impressive technology and luxury-oriented features in a stylish and compact package, and because traditional definitions of luxury are currently in a state of flux, this Ford competes against a wide range of mainstream and premium models. In my book, the Focus should be cross-shopped with the Acura ILX, Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza, Suzuki Kizashi, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta.
In the near future, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes are all planning to enter this segment with new models of their own, further blurring the lines between mainstream and premium small cars. The Ford Focus Titanium is likely to be less expensive when fully equipped than the bare-bones versions of these new entry-luxury models, and given how well the Focus drives, I’d be inclined to go with the Ford.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2013:
- SEL model dropped for 2013
How It Looks
The 2013 Ford Focus Sedan is an attractive car, though its gape-mouthed frown takes some getting used to, and I think the taillights are too big for this vehicle’s compact proportions. Nevertheless, a Focus Sedan with a set of 17- or 18-inch wheels, and painted any color except Candy Blue, looks more expensive than its price tag indicates.
To achieve this upscale look, buyers can choose the SE model with the SE Appearance Package or the Titanium model. Alternatively, the SE Black Pack provides a trendy set of black-painted wheels with machined faces, and a Titanium Handling Package with a sport suspension and beautiful 18-inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels is available for the top-of-the-line Focus.
The car shown in these Ford-supplied photos depict the Focus Titanium with the optional 18s.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Interior
What’s New for 2013:
- SEL model dropped for 2013
How It Looks and Feels
The Ford Focus is modern and stylish inside, and the appealing materials give the car an air of quality too often missing in the segment. Soft-touch upper door panel trim, soft armrests, a thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel with thumb rests at the 10-and-2 o’clock positions, quality switchgear, and crisp gauges and displays all help to justify our car’s substantial price tag. Even the backs of the steering wheel spokes were covered in a soft material. That’s greater attention to detail than you get in some luxury cars.
Unfortunately, the accolades for the interior end there. Excessive design flourishes give the cabin a busy appearance, and many control markings are not instantly discernable. The Focus is a car that makes the driver think too much while zooming down the road, and this interior disagrees with my preference for a simple layout combined with clear, legible control markings.
The center control panel, with its oddly shaped and curved buttons, is the worst offender, but I will admit that it becomes easier to use as the driver acclimates to it. I never did get the hang of cycling through the MyFord menus, the system proving to be a hit-or-miss proposition in terms of executing the right command on the first try. The steering wheel features an overwhelming constellation of buttons to operate the cruise control, the Sync Bluetooth connectivity system, the MyFord system, the MyKey system, and the stereo. At night, the Focus is lit up like the dome of an observatory, glowing in soft whites and blues. For some reason, however, I could never find the cupholders when driving in the dark, or the overhead lighting.
Our test car’s leather upholstery was average in terms of quality, and to its credit, it felt more supple than stiff. The exposed contrast stitching, however, only added to the overall jumbled appearance of the cabin. The seats themselves are comfortable. Their positioning, not so much.
Larger people will be snug in the Focus. A good driving position is easy to achieve thanks to the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. For taller people, the roof’s B-pillar and low hip point hamper entry and exit, and the dashboard also juts forward to threaten knees and shins when throwing legs into the car. The optional power driver’s seat adjuster can be hard to use while underway.
With the driver’s seat adjusted for my 6-foot-frame, and I prefer to sit tall with the seatback in a fairly upright position, there was inadequate room in the back seat. My knees and shins were in full contact with the soft front seatback, a situation I typically experience only in mini-compact and sub-compact cars.
Trunk space is adequate at 13.2 cu.-ft. The lid does not offer a grab handle inside the trunk lid, which means dirty fingertips are the norm for Focus drivers who often use the cargo area.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2013:
- Manual transmission offered on all Focus models
How Does It Go
The 2013 Ford Focus provides a direct injected, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 146 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,450 rpm. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on the S and SE models, while the Titanium is equipped with a 6-speed PowerShift automated manual transmission. The manual is a no-charge option for the Titanium, and the PowerShift transmission is an extra-cost option for the S and SE models.
This engine offers more motive force than some others in the class, but the Focus Sedan also weighs 2,960 lbs. in base trim. That’s on the heavy side for a small car. The EPA says the Focus ought to return 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. As usual, these estimates are optimistic. We got 31.8 mpg, and we spent plenty of time cruising on the highway at speeds between 40 and 70 mph.
Additional hardware details include a standard 4-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, front-disc/rear-drum brakes for the S and SE models, and 4-wheel-disc brakes for the Titanium model (optional for SE). The 2013 Focus is also equipped with electric steering, and its just about the best we’ve ever experienced.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: How It Drives
The 2013 Ford Focus Sedan drives like a good German car. Wait. Make that a good expensive German car, not one of those dumbed-down Volkswagen Jettas or softened VW Passats that people are buying in droves. The Focus is taut yet supple, responsive and refined. Dynamically, the Focus is fantastic.
The occasional exception to this rule relates to the PowerShift automated manual gearbox, which Ford has been refining since the current generation Focus debuted for 2012. While I noticed fewer hiccups in power delivery with this test car compared to my last week behind the wheel of an early-build 2012 Focus, there are still times when the transmission exhibits a momentary hesitation that makes the driver wonder if the gearbox has somehow slipped into neutral gear.
Otherwise, in regular “Drive” mode, the PowerShift transmission delivers crisp shifts and holds revs when appropriate. I wasn’t a fan of the “Sport” mode, though. What this car really needs is a set of paddle shifters instead of the silly +/- button on the shift lever, but since the steering wheel is already a mess of buttons, this is unlikely to happen.
In any case, I rarely felt like the 160-horsepower Focus needed more oomph, and it proved exceptionally entertaining to drive on its 17-inch wheels and with its standard 4-wheel-independent suspension tuning. The Focus feels agreeably solid and stiff on the highway, the refined suspension brilliantly filtering what you don’t want to know and communicating what you do need to know. In this way, the car’s ride and handling are not unlike that of an Audi or BMW. Titanium models can be equipped with a sport suspension and 18-inch wheels that look terrific, but based on my previous experience with this setup, the ride quality is destroyed in the process.
Ford’s beautifully executed electric steering is proof that such systems can be tuned to deliver the feel of a hydraulic system even if there’s no direct connection to the front wheels. The Focus exhibits confident on-center feel and excellent off-center response and effort levels. It should serve as a model for how electric steering is done.
When equipped with the 4-wheel-disc brakes, the Focus provides excellent brake pedal feel and modulation, making it easy to bring the Focus to a smooth, controlled stop. It’s unfortunate that the brakes aren’t standard, but Ford is wise enough to pair them with any wheel upgrade, perhaps assuming that buyers seeking bigger wheels and more aggressive tires will appreciate better brakes.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Matters of Safety
The 2013 Ford Focus Sedan is equipped with six airbags, a traction and stability control system, and antilock brakes with brake assist. A reversing camera and rear parking assist sensors are optional on the SE model and standard on the Titanium model. An Active Park Assist system is also offered for the Focus Titanium.
Last year, the 2012 Focus Sedan received an overall crash-test rating of 4 Stars from the NHTSA, and a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Neither organization had carried these ratings forward for the structurally identical 2013 Focus as this review was written.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Final Thoughts
So, is the 2013 Ford Focus a good car? The short answer is a qualified yes.
This affirmative response is qualified because the interior needs to be redesigned. Ford should keep the high quality materials and the lighting scheme, find a way to carve out extra legroom (especially in the back seat), and redesign the entire center stack for greater ease of use. The MyFord and, based on previous experience, MyFord Touch technology also requires continued refinement. And the daunting array of steering wheel controls is just over the top.
Otherwise, this is a terrific car, easily one of the best in its class. Especially for people who enjoy the trip as much as the destination.
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Review: Pros and Cons
- Driving dynamics
- Fuel economy
- Driving position
- Quality materials
- Stylish design
- Cramped cabin
- Confusing controls
- Confounding technology
2013 Ford Focus Sedan Photos provided by Ford Motor Company