In the market for a new vehicle, the current one having just rolled past 200,000 miles, but budget is tight and will limit the choices. Price matters most, so what vehicle provides the most for the price?
The Sticker Price
The three 2012 vehicles currently available with starting sticker prices under $16,500 that fall in the mid-range economy class were: The Volkswagen Jetta, the Hyundai Elantra, and the Ford Focus. I currently drive a Jetta, my daughter an Elantra. So it was an obvious choice to test drive a Ford Focus.
I was a little disappointed right off by the options packages. I had assumed the lowest priced model would be manual transmissions, and it was, and that there would be a price increase of perhaps $1,000 for an automatic.
However, Ford does not offer automatic transmission on the base “S” model, so an upgrade to the sportier “SE” model for $1,000 came first, followed by the $1,095 for the transmission. But when I checked, the Hyundai Elantra offers automatic transmission on the base “GL” model as a $2,250 upgrade, so I was still getting a sportier car with automatic transmission at a lower price.
My Focus had only the standard package, which was still everything one expects in a new car: Power windows, mirrors, and door locks, CD/MP3 player, and air conditioning. It also came with some things I was not expecting: dual front and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and electronic tire pressure monitoring. Being an “SE” model, my Focus also included 16″ wheels instead of the standard 15″.
Ford employs a proprietary technology named MyKey, which is invaluable for parents of young drivers. Each key to the vehicle can be programmed so that when that driver is operating the vehicle, it cannot exceed a certain speed and the radio cannot exceed a certain volume. This is a standard feature on Focus.
The Joy Ride
The interior cabin was well thought out, with everything easily accessible and ultra modern looking. Being a value-priced vehicle, there was no chrome or wood or leather, simply plastic in varying shades of silver and black and cloth seats.
Not to worry, this Focus was as ready to run as its crouching stance and sleek body lines hinted it was. The 2.0 liter engine had plenty of jump, and the independent front and rear suspension allowed the car to dive into turns rather than shy away from them. Rated at 28 City and 38 Hwy with an automatic transmission, this Focus gives a lot of gusto for what little gas it consumes.
The Focus shows why Ford has been the most successful US carmaker and why a company once synonymous with trucks is making a name again in the small car market which Ford has lacked since the Escort.
Focus has style, excitement, performance, and some unexpected extras. And the price, even with the automatic transmission and a blue-tooth option was still under $19,000. It is worth ever cent. But with a lease price under $200, and twice the gas mileage of my old car, I just may end up driving this Focus for free.