2009 Ford Focus SESPosted on May 31st, 2009
Sporty coupe gets 35 mpg on the highway
By Nina Russin
The Ford Focus should be on the short list for car buyers who are watching their budgets, but don’t want to sacrifice fun behind the wheel. The upscale SES test car has a MSRP of $17,570. In addition to its peppy engine and smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission, buyers get a high level of comfort and convenience features.
On the flip side, two key safety systems- antilock brakes and electronic stability control- are a $745 option. The Focus comes with standard front disc and rear drum brakes: drums don’t stop as evenly on wet pavement, and are harder to service.
Power comes from an inline four-cylinder engine rated at 143 horsepower, and 133 ft.-lbs. of torque. The gear shift lever for the five-speed manual gearbox looks more like a truck shifter: taller than it needs to be. But it shifts smoothly and crisply. Gears have enough range to make the gearbox viable in stop-and-go traffic.
Fuel economy is 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway; 24 mpg in the city. Its good gas mileage protects the Focus owner from the fluctuations in gas prices car owners have come to dread.
Options on the test car include the ABS and ESC safety package ($745), an audio upgrade and power moonroof ($1,270), and leather upholstery ($810). The leather seems out of place on a car with manually adjustable seats.
The audio system upgrades the standard unit to a six-disc in-dash CD player with MP3 capability. A package discount takes $475 off its price. For buyers who enjoy their music as much as I do, I’d say it’s worth the investment.
SES model gets a wheel and spoiler upgrade for ‘09
Designers spiced up the Focus’ exterior with standard 17-inch aluminum wheels and a new roofline spoiler on the SES model. A new final drive ratio on manual transmission models adds 5 horsepower at the wheels. A sport-tuned exhaust gives the upscale Focus a nice growl during acceleration.
I test drove the Focus on highways and surface streets around Phoenix, Arizona. Not only is the coupe an easy car to live with: it’s a car that I looked forward to driving. In fact, I’d say that it was as much fun as some similar products that cost a lot more.
The five-speed manual transmission enables the driver to better control engine power. I appreciated that merging onto highway traffic, especially in areas where construction had caused worse-than-normal congestion.
I could live without the upshift indicator on the instrument cluster. I don’t care if keeping the revs at 1000 rpm saves gas. If the driver has to make an emergency maneuver, he better be able to shift fast before doing it. Considering the engine’s 6500 rpm redline, keeping it at 3000 rpm will provide a better balance between power and fuel economy.
Visibility is pretty good all the way around the car, although thick B-pillars limit the driver’s visibility on the left side. Power rack-and-pinion steering provides plenty of assist at all speeds while maintaining good response on the highway. The seventeen-inch wheels increase the turning radius to 36.5 feet, but making the occasional U-turn is a non-issue.
A fully independent suspension provides a compliant but not overly soft ride. A front stabilizer bar enhances the car’s cornering. I took a couple of cloverleaf ramps at speed just to be sure.
The standard braking system works fine on dry pavement, and shouldn’t be a problem for drivers in this part of the country. Those who live in four-season areas will want to look for something with rear discs, which are self-drying.
When I lived in the Midwest, I had the dubious pleasure of whacking the daylights out of drum brakes to break the rust ridges loose. Trust me, discs may cost more, but they’re worth the investment.
Stylish interior with seating for four
The Focus is available as either a coupe or sedan. The coupe is the more stylish of the two body styles, though less practical for those who plan to travel frequently with rear passengers. While access and egress to the rear seats isn’t terrible, a second set of doors makes it a lot easier.
Up front, both the driver and front passenger enjoy sport bucket seats with good lower lumbar support. The manual adjustments are easy to use. Standard redundant audio and media controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The standard Ford Sync system is a great value, since it adds Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity.
The doors come with standard map and bottle holders. Front passengers also have access to large cupholders in the center console, and two 12-volt power points at the base of the center stack. Temperature and media controls on the center stack are easy to figure out, and within reach of either front seating position. The standard center console bin is large enough to stow a stack of compact discs.
Since the Focus lacks any overhead lighting in the rear, the optional moonroof really improves lighting for the rear passengers. There is adequate legroom and headroom in back in both outboard positions. A cupholder in back of the center console makes it impossible to use the center position for anything but a child seat.
Designers added colored ambient lights throughout the interior. It’s not my style, but I can see where the colored lighting would appeal to some customers in the target market.
A standard pass-through extends the trunk floor for larger cargo. While I wouldn’t call the Focus bicycle-friendly, it’s a very handy feature for items such as skis or snowboards. Those who plan to use the pass-through with any frequency should consider the sedan over the coupe. Rear doors make the seat releases on the rear seatbacks much easier to reach.
All models come with front and side curtain airbags, keyless entry and 24-hour roadside assistance for the duration of the vehicle warranty. Ford builds the Focus at its Wayne, Michigan assembly plant.
Likes: A sporty, fuel-efficient car priced well below $20,000. Ford’s standard Sync system adds value for buyers who need Bluetooth or MP3 interface.
Dislike: Antilock brakes and electronic stability control are a $745 option.
Model: Focus SES Coupe
Base price: $17,570
As tested: $20,615
Horsepower: 143 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 136 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Optional
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 24/35 mpg city/highway
2 responses to “2009 Ford Focus SES”
We would like to use a quote from Nina’s write up of the 2009 Ford SES Focus write up for the 2010 Ford Focus catalog. As follows:
“The Ford Focus should be on the short list for car buyers who don’t want to sacrifice fun behind the wheel.”
Can you please let me know if we have approval?
No problem. Could you please mention the name of our web site and my name with the quote. Thanks, Nina
Leave a reply