Last week, I was invited to be a part of the Ford Focus Challenge. It was a full day filled with challenges that would demonstrate the various features and functions of the all new 2012 Ford Focus. This is quite different than what we did with the 2011 Honda CR-Z sports hybrid, but it did give us a chance to really get to know the car.

So, how does the Focus stack up against direct competition like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3? Let’s find out.

Entertainment, GPS, Autopark…

One of the first things that struck me about the new Focus — which is truly a global car that, aside from a few minor differences, will be the same across all international markets — was the amount of technology that was inside. You have to realize that is is mostly an economy-geared car. Pricing starts at $15,369 and tops out at just about $26,000 including freight and PDI.

At the top of the range, you get a touchscreen interface on the center console (MyFord Touch), which is split into four quadrants. This includes voice-activated GPS navigation, iPod integration, Microsoft SYNC technology, and more. I found the voiced commands to be a little buggy at times, but we were given pre-production models for testing.

An additional $800 option gets you a rear-view camera and automated park assist. I was thoroughly impressed by this autopark feature. It’s something normally reserved for higher-end luxury cars and it worked beautifully. After lining up the car, you simply feather the brake and let the car do the rest.

Powerplant and Fuel Economy

Just because you’re getting a more economically-oriented car doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice too much power. All trim levels of the 2012 Ford Focus come powered by a 2.0L inline-4 engine, generating 160hp at 6500rpm. You also get a suitable 146 lbs-ft of torque. These figures aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re more than adequate for the average city dweller.

You would never pit the regular Focus against higher end sports cars, but I never really felt like I was lacking in power when getting around town and along the highway. Our test vehicle was fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission, which makes use of a new dual-clutch transmission. Unlike most other autos, this gearbox is actually more fuel-efficient than its five-speed manual counterpart. Shifts were quite smooth.

The Titanium hatchback gets 7.3L/100km in the city and 5.2L/100km on the highway, which works out to about 32MPG and 45MPG respectively. With our, let’s say, more aggressive driving style, we were only able to get about 12L/100km, bearing in mind that we got the worst fuel economy of the different teams participating in the Focus Challenge that day.

Handling Through the Twisties

So, how does it handle? To really push the Focus to its limits, we took it to an autocross-like test in an empty parking lot. The video below is courtesy of Ed Lau, who was on the same Focus Challenge team as us.

The 2012 Ford Focus is equipped with something called torque vectoring. This is meant to mimic the limited slip differential that you’d normally find in higher performance cars, helping to balance the distribution of engine torque during turns.

This is still a front-wheel-drive vehicle, so we did experience some understeer in the hairpins especially, but we also have to realize that a slalom and autocross-like course is outside the realm of normal operation for the Focus.

A Lot of Toys in an Affordable Car

Considering the amount of money that you pay, the new Ford Focus brings a lot to the table. From the automated park assist to the torque vectoring, you are getting features that you wouldn’t normally find in a car at this price point. From a gadget perspective, the touchscreen interface, integrated Bluetooth, built-in GPS, iPod integration, A/V inputs in the armrest, and so on are all serious pluses.

You can expect us to have a much fuller review and overview of both the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback and the Focus Challenge very soon. That’ll be posted up on our sister site at, so stay tuned for that. Thanks again to Ford for providing us with this opportunity.

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