2012 Ford Focus

LOS ANGELES — For some time Ford has been on a real roll. A group of us had the good fortune to be among the first to put the 2012 Focus through its paces and as we rolled through Southern California it didn’t disappoint us one bit. In fact it was sweet.

Our route took us through some of the twistiest roads in America, let alone in the mountains of California. Whether driving aggressively or poking along like Mr. Magoo used to when going through city traffic, Focus took it all in stride. What C-car wouldn’t when equipped with a completely new electric power-assisted steering system? It practically begs the driver to challenge it.

The 2012 Ford Focus is powered by a new 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder engine with twin-independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) and gasoline direct injection. The EPA recently certified the 2012 Focus equipped with a Super Fuel Economy package and a six-speed automatic transmission with a 40 mpg rating, the fourth vehicle in Ford’s lineup to achieve this status. It’s one of the most advanced non-turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains Ford has ever offered – 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It’s bolted to either an advanced dry-clutch six-speed automatic Ford PowerShift transmission or a five-speed manual.

Performance driving enthusiasts who traverse roads like our drive route will no doubt find the manual transmission the choice of champions. The automatic however is expected to be the choice of most.

Ford’s 2012 Focus with the higher trim levels are filled with technology such as a premium Sony 10-speaker audio system with subwoofer, SYNC with MyFord Touch connectivity and ambient lighting and an array of convenience features including a rear-view camera, Intelligent Access with push-button start, Easy Fuel capless fuel filler system, adaptive headlamps and rain-sensing wipers and rear parking aid sensors. It also has a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Two particularly impressive items: the vehicle’s extreme quietness and the roominess of the interior. Focus offers more shoulder room than an Audi A4 and more front headroom than a Toyota Camry. Furthermore, it offers more hip room than either one of the imports.

One of the slickest technology items ever invented is available on the 2012 Focus – Ford’s Active Park Assist. With the help of sensors, the system literally will parallel park itself (providing it senses the space is accommodating enough). This system has heretofore only been available in Ford and Lincoln’s larger and luxury vehicles.

The 2012 Ford Focus comes as a five-door hatchback or sedan and is available in four trim levels: S, SE, SEL and Titanium.

— Al Vinikour