A 2012 Ford Focus
A 2012 Ford Focus Ford

Ah! The Ford Focus, the mainstay of utilitarian, somewhat bland American sedans for over a decade, you might think, and in recent years, you would have been correct. As our review will show, though, the 2012 Ford Focus got upgraded in a big way, and the results are apparent in looks and performance.

The 2012 Ford Focus is an excellent compact car -- I tested the hatchback, and my minor complaints are far-outweighed by everything Ford did right in this car. For starters, the car has been restyled, and it looks downright sporty, especially as a hatchback. The carriage and wide open grill-work make it look like the 2012 Ford Focus is ready to launch itself down the road like a greyhound and gobble up a helpless little bunny rabbit, and that's meant in the best possible way.

The interior looks good as well, but the base model is definitely not lux. Poking around the cabin of the car reveals why the car starts at with an $18,300 MSRP. It doesn't look cheap or like Ford has skimped on feathers. Rather, the car feels like most of the cost has been put into durability and performance, rather than needless frills. That said, it does have heated seats, a beefy sound system, and most important of all, for someone 6' 2, lots of leg and headroom.

The only real downside of the car was that some of the features for integrating its technology were difficult to use and unintuitive enough that they could not be figured out without parking the car and messing around for a while. Obviously, the owners-manual explains all, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out on your own, right? It took a while to get the Bluetooth pairing to work, a process which was delayed several times by a safety feature preventing you from making many technical changes while the car is in motion, and we never did figure out how to get the car to play audio from a Bluetooth connection although it is technically able to do it.

Likewise, although the car has a USB port that you can hook an iPod up to, we were never able to get it to play music from a Mac formatted iPod and instead had to use an audio cable and the auxiliary port. The 2012 Focus does have a lot of available options like HD Radio, Sirius XM, voice activated navigation and enough other gadgetry to make you wonder if it could gain sentience if left to its own devices long enough. It even has an available self-parking option.

The flaws in the 2012 Focus' technical systems are minor, and they are more than made up for by the phenomenal handling and performance of the car. The 2012 Focus drives like a much sportier car, and the 160 horsepower inline-4 engine manages a tidy 146 lb-ft of torque, enough to do 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Not bad for a car under $20k.

I drove the 2012 Focus almost exclusively in its sport setting, and the tight suspension, good acceleration and small size made for an absolutely killer driving experience on twisting, mountain roads. On the highway, the 2012 Focus was a joy as it was able to overtake with ease anything the road could throw at it. The best part about driving the 2012 Focus is the way it will dig into a turn. The sharper the corner and the faster you move, the more gas you feel like you can give it. The 2012 Focus imbues the driver with a sense of safety and grip, even at high speed and in corners.

The car is rated for 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and even sport mode we consistently did better than 32 mpg. It's not just the gas millage and the great driving dynamics, though, that make this car really shine, but also the little details like the push-button-opened gas tank cover or the wide-angle side-view mirrors that make the car a joy to drive.

The 2012 Ford Focus is a utilitarian yet still sporty car and would be a great purchase for a consumer looking to buy either a first car, or perhaps a second car for a family. While not luxurious, the 2012 Focus feels well put together and complete - nothing about the car makes it seem like Ford cheaped-out. Rather, the feeling it leaves you with as you accelerate through a curve or pass an 18-wheeler on the highway is that Ford put absolutely everything in it that they could.