Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Ford Focus Titanium Sedan

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

 Ford's Focus may not be first compact car in the minds of Canadian buyers – it ranked seventh in sales behind the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Jetta in 2015, and the Nissan Sentra is also ahead so far in 2016. Elsewhere around the globe, however, the Focus is a huge deal: it's the world's top-selling car and the most common car on the road in England. 

The new Sync 3 interface is arguably either "cleaner looking" than MyFord Touch, or perhaps "a bit plain", depending on your perspective.

The current-generation Focus has been around since the 2012 model year, and for 2015 it was given a mid-cycle facelift with a new familial Ford grille, slim new headlights, new taillights, new hood, and a restyled trunk lid for sedan models.

For 2016, Ford's world-girding compact has received only a few minor changes for the North American market: There are some revisions to the options packages, the 1.0L EcoBoost engine (an option in SE cars only) is now available with an automatic transmission and, perhaps most significantly, Ford's new Blackberry QNX-based Sync 3 infotainment interface replaces the previous much-maligned Microsoft Auto-based Sync 2 MyFord Touch system.

I'm one of the few people, it seems, who didn't actually mind the Sync 2 MyFord Touch system. It took a little getting used to, it's true, and it could sometimes be a little slow to respond, but it wasn't so bad. It looked nice, and I generally had little trouble finding the functions I needed. Mind you, I was driving brand-new cars for only a week at a time, so I never experienced the frozen screens and other problems that some owners complained about. Or wait … I do remember once having to shut down and restart a MyFord Touch-equipped car in order to get the radio to work.

The new Sync 3 interface is arguably either "cleaner looking" than MyFord Touch, or perhaps "a bit plain", depending on your perspective. It's certainly more streamlined, however, and definitely more snappy in its responses. Visually, it replaces the dark background and four-quadrant layout of the MyFord Touch system with a simple blue-and white colour scheme featuring clear function icons at the bottom of the screen. For the most part the touchpoints are much larger than the outgoing MyFord Touch system – a change that I definitely appreciate – and there's a useful split home-screen presentation that allows you to see navigation information on one side of the display, with phone and audio information on the other side.

The system recognizes smartphone swipe and pinch gestures, and everything I tried out – from connecting my phone, to changing vehicle settings, to swapping between music and navigation, to playing music off a thumb-drive, to entering navigation destinations – all worked easily and seamlessly without any hiccups, glitches or delays. So in terms of function and ease-of-use I have to give the system high marks. On the downside, there aren't currently a lot of apps available for the system, and early Sync 3 systems don't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although Ford will be adding that functionality for 2017 models, with free updates for 2016 models.

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The interior of the Focus uses nice-looking materials with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, and it has a visually appealing dashboard layout featuring easily read instrumentation. It took me a couple of minutes to find the control for the adjusting the interior ambient lighting (the lighting uses a selector switch positioned in the overhead console, while I was thinking it would be controlled through the infotainment system's "Settings" function), but other than that all the controls are logically placed and fall easily to hand. 

I found the front seats plenty spacious, and the rear seats are decent too, although there isn't much wiggle room for taller passengers in the back – at 5'11" I could comfortably "sit behind myself" with my knees just brushing the seatback and about a finger-width of clearance above my head. The trunk is reasonably commodious at 374 L but the trunk opening is a bit small and you have to beware of the big exposed "hockey-stick" hinge arms when loading things in, lest you crush them as you close the trunk.

In terms of kit, all Focus models get air conditioning (manual in the S and SE trim, and dual-zone automatic in the Titanium), tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power front windows, split-folding rear seats, 12V power outlet, rearview camera, and an audio system with auxiliary input, twin USB plugs, and Bluetooth phone connectivity. S and SE trim cars get cloth upholstery as standard. 

The SE trim adds features including 16-inch aluminum wheels (instead of 15-inch steel wheels), cruise control, illuminated entry, power rear windows and a rear 12V power port. Titanium trim adds things like a six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission (lower trims get a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment), 18-inch alloys, classy contrast-stitched leather upholstery (although I noted that the door panel inserts remain cloth), heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, keyless entry with pushbutton start, remote start, ambient lighting, fog lamps, upgraded 10-speaker Sony audio system and much more. 

You can add an array of options on top of this, either individually or in various packages, and suffice to say that it's A) somewhat confusing and B) capable of spec'ing out a car with near-luxury levels of equipment and a mid-size car price tag. Whether it's better to have a fully loaded compact car or a lesser-equipped midsize car remains an entirely personal choice, but I found my loaded Titanium test car to be a remarkably pleasant place to spend time (and the available active park assist will amaze your friends, even if you're skilled enough at parking that you never really need it). 

The Focus is a pleasure on the road, too: the chassis and suspension are tuned with a decidedly European feel, giving the Focus crisp, accurate, and very assured handling. The flip side of this is that the ride is a little firmer than some of the Focus's competitors, especially if you get the Titanium trim with its 18-inch alloys and low-profile tires, which are unforgiving over sharp road imperfections and generate a certain amount of tire hum on the highway. The bigger wheels also give the Focus a surprisingly large turning circle for a compact car (11 m / 36 ft), transforming two-cut parking manoeuvres around my townhouse into three-cut affairs.

In S and SE trim the Focus's standard-issue 2.0L Ti-VCT (that's Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing) direct-injected four-cylinder engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed Powershift automated dual-clutch box, while Titanium trim cars are available with the automatic only. The engine is well-suited to the car, being both reasonably peppy and quite efficient, and Ford seems to have really worked to smooth out the shifts and creeping properties of the Powershift automated dual-clutch transmission. I found that it works well, but it definitely has a slightly different character than a conventional automatic. 

When motoring sedately around town in Drive the transmission is keen to quickly upshift for economy, but it's less eager to downshift again, so on occasion I found that my test car could feel like it was caught in too high a gear. When driving with a bit of enthusiasm in shift-it-yourself Sport mode, however, the transmission really shines and you can really feel its crisp-changing character, although the experience is spoiled a little by the fiddly Selectshift shifter button mounted on the gear knob, and a longish delay between requesting a shift and having it executed. Actual shifting happens quickly, but the signal takes a while to reach the box.

Performance- and efficiency-wise the Focus Titanium with the six-speed Powershift automatic will run from 0-100 km/h in just over 9 seconds (if you want more speed, there's always the Focus ST), and it turns in official fuel consumption ratings of 9.0 / 6.2 L/100 km (city/highway). In my own mostly city driving I saw an average consumption of about 9.9 L/100 km.

In terms of safety, the Focus comes standard with a full array of active and passive safety features including electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring system, and all the expected airbags. My test car's Technology Package added a lane keeping alert and a blind spot information system with cross traffic alert. In IIHS crash tests the Focus scores an Acceptable crash rating on the small front overlap test and Good ratings in all other tests.

With Ford's "Employee Pricing" promotion in place at the time of writing, the Focus S sedan starts at $16,456, making it thoroughly competitive with other sedans in the segment. The SE starts at $18,248, and the Titanium at $24,389 (which is $2,110 off my test car's $26,499 base sticker price). As driven, my loaded test car topped $30,000, but for that money you get a remarkably luxurious and well-equipped car. Ease up a little on the options and the Focus remains nicely equipped and a solid value, and its crisp styling, upscale interior and engaging chassis help it stand out regardless of trim level.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

Chevrolet Cruze
Dodge Dart
Honda Civic
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte
Nissan Sentra
Subaru Impreza
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Jetta

Model Tested 2016 Ford Focus Titanium Sedan
Base Price $26,499 ($24,389 at Employee Pricing)
A/C Tax $1,00
Destination Fee $1,600
Price as Tested $26,499 ($24,389 at Employee Pricing)
Optional Equipment
$4,350 (18-inch Wheel Package $500, Technology Package $750, Winter Package $300, Block Heater $100, Power Moonroof $1,200, Navigation $800, Active Park Assist $400, Exterior Protection Package $300)