Review: 2011 Ford Focus SEL Sedan

One of the reasons why I haven’t been updating this blog as frequently as I usually do is that I’ve been traveling on business frequently. Often when I travel I have to rent a car. On my most recent trip I lucked out in terms of getting my hands on a Ford Focus SEL sedan. Now the SEL variant is one of Ford’s upper trim levels, so I was kind of surprised that it was sitting at a car rental place in a US airport. But I went with it as it didn’t cost me an arm and leg to rent and it came pretty much with everything I like to have in a car. That includes 6 airbags and stability control. Another thing that I liked is that it had a very European feel to it. It was firm but not punishing. That’s great because previous Focus models have been dumbed down for North Americans. But let me expand on that. It looked like an European car and drove like one. The handling was very impressive. No doubt helped by a feature called torque vectoring which used the brakes to make sure the car stays on the path that you want it to go. It also had a fair amount of get up and go as it had a 160 hp engine. However that get up and go was surely impacted by a rather crappy transmission. Ford decided to use what’s called a dual clutch transmission for the automatic variant. This setup has two clutches. One for the odd gears and one for the even ones. The idea is that this type of transmission can make lightning quick shifts and save gas at the same time. Well, Ford got the fuel economy part down right as I used way less gas than I normally would on a four day trip in the US. However, the transmission shifts were slow. Compared to some VW products that I’ve driven with dual clutch transmissions, that was very disappointing. In fact some Google searches found that I am not alone in feeling this way as Consumer Reports hit them pretty hard over this. The other thing that I found problematic is the MyFord Touch system. It didn’t work for me as well as I expected it to as I had to do too much with my voice to do pretty much anything which in my mind defeats the purpose of having a voice activated system in your car. Maybe if I had a few more days with it, I could become more comfortable with it. I’m not sure, but I do know that I wasn’t impressed with what I used.

So would I buy one? Honestly, I think that I would buy the hatchback variant over the sedan. Also, I’d either take the manual transmission, or wait for Ford to address the issues with their dual clutch transmission. And I wouldn’t get it with MyFord Touch. Which is too bad, because the car handled well and I really liked that.

Sorry Ford. Right now the Focus is a pass for me.

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