While GM’s Tri-shield brand is making much noise by promoting the Buick Verano as America’s first compact luxury car, a strong case could be made that the Ford Focus Titanium got there first. Now leveraging, remember, the same fairly premium underpinnings that long had U.S. buyers looking at the European Focus with envy, the Titanium model also packs on enough upscale Ford goodness to realize an MSRP of $22,200 in sedan form and $22,700 as a five-door hatch; the Verano, as a point of reference, begins at $22,585. But even with a long list of standard content, there was apparently one item customers came looking for and couldn’t find: a manual transmission. Which is why the Blue Oval recently confirmed a five-speed DIY gearbox would now be offered on both body styles of the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium.
Reading between the lines here, the automaker believes a significant chunk of the customers who come shopping for the car is made of “automotive enthusiasts” and “buyers migrating from higher-priced import brands” who “frequently prefer manual transmissions.” Although down a cog as compared to the automatic—and some rivals’ manual transmissions, too—Ford’s five-speed unit should allow drivers to wring a bit more excitement out of the Titanium models’ already upgraded and sport-tuned suspensions, which boast stiffer springs and dampers as compared to other members of the Focus lineup, along with a standard stabilizer bar and control-blade-type rear setup. And combined with the optional Titanium Handling Package, featuring a bevy of optimized suspension components and aggressive 18-inch alloy wheels, the result will likely be the hottest-handling Focus on the road—at least until the hi-po Focus ST breaks out a bit later this year.