Quick Spin: 2015 Ford Focus BEV

The Ford Focus has been a longstanding success in Canada, North America and around the world for over 15 years now, becoming the best-selling car in the world in 2013 and 2014 thanks to a solid base in Europe and North America and strong growth in China. We love it because it’s a stylish little hatchback (the sedan is okay, too) that delivers a sporty drive and a long list of options and technology.

The Ford Focus has been a longstanding success in Canada, North America and around the world for over 15 years now...

However, that technology has also been a sticking point, MyFord Touch suffering recurring issues like freezing, random self-diagnostics and slow response. In my week in the Focus, we saw none of the above, all the functions working without interruption and only typical touchscreen slowness, but nothing worth complaining about. The system itself is great, with four quadrants for phone, climate, navigation and audio. Screen resolution is sharp and the graphics are appealing, with enough screen real estate to make the major functions easily spotted and pressed. Peripheral stuff might require a stoplight or parking to pinpoint.

The audio system in this trim was the powerful Sony upgrade, and sound was good, with Sirius satellite radio adding an endless variety of music options to your Bluetooth or USB connected device. The hard buttons for audio controls surround the central volume button, an arrangement that takes a bit of getting used to, but is easy enough for those that prefer traditional buttons. Climate can also be controlled via buttons and dials on the console. Audio, Sync voice recognition (which failed me by interpreting “Call Hannah Yarkony” as Tune to Caliente…), cruise  control and the trip computer can be operated via the multi-function steering wheel. The gauges are also stylish and crisp, with flyout menus to the right of the speedo that can monitor and control audio, phone and navigation.

The seats in our tester were covered in a light cloth, with only manual adjustments but still made for a comfortable result with no issues to note. Back seat space is a bit tight, and the seats flat, with a hump on the floor making life uncomfortable for middle seat passengers. Trunk space is pretty pathetic, but does have a neat little sub-trunk that is ideal for a small load of groceries.

Getting behind the wheel, the Focus takes off smartly, with 143 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque offering plenty of acceleration for a compact hatch, driving the front wheels through a super-smooth automatic transmission. The ride lives up to expectations and previous Focus drives, though this one riding with a bit more cushion and body motion as the 17-inch wheels are wrapped in 225/50R17 Michelin Energy Saver low-rolling resistance tires. The ride on the highway is whisper quiet, but still feels solid, though steering and braking are a bit soft for my tastes, though everything comes together reasonably well and you can hustle it around like most any other Focus.

But this isn’t just any other Focus. Right about now, we usually prattle on about fuel efficiency, but this Focus didn’t need any gas at all, as it was the fully electric powertrain, and I did all my motoring on electricity loaded up at home, the office, or public charging stations. Filling the liquid-cooled 23 kWh lithium-ion battery will take 20 hours on household 120V outlet, or less than 4 hours on a stage 2 240V charger, which seems a logical household upgrade for anyone considering an electric vehicle. The only time I did not get a full charge overnight was when I used most of my range running errands and having family adventures on the weekend, taking it down to 14 km of its potential 140+ km range, needing a second overnight charge to top up.

Since we’re on the topic of charging, I’ll post my compliments here on one of the better charger storage solutions I’ve seen in the various plug-in vehicles I’ve tested to date. There is a hidden compartment under the in-trunk cargo box that may be a bit hard to find, but it has a fitted tray for the charger, which itself has a generously long cable. Porsche is incredibly stingy with their charging apparatus, forcing me to park its plug-in vehicles (Panamera and Cayenne – I can only dream about the type of charger they have for the 918) inches from my garage door just so it reaches the vehicle’s charging port.

While mostly hypothetical, that range seemed achievable in ideal conditions, as I was frequently able to stick to my ‘budget’ and even add range by driving moderately – not hypermiling, just dialing back my aggressive acceleration, maintaining distance and braking gradually (recapturing maximum energy), and keeping my cruising speed down. It should be noted that matching the pace of traffic on GTA’s 400-series highways often means 120+ km/h, which really starts to eat into functional range. As does the climate control – on thing I found irritating was that there was no ‘fan-only’ setting. Commuting in stop-and-go traffic  on moderately warm days seems to be just what Dr. Electro ordered.

As fun as it was to motor around gasoline-free for a week, it would only be realistic for our family as a second vehicle. Something as simple as a camping trip to Algonquin or a family reunion in Montreal suddenly means rental car or a logistical nightmare. Even in our weekly routine, we have occasions that we might drive 25 km into work, need to cross town for appointments, then head home and off to extra-curricular activities without time to charge – this might add up to just a little over 100 km, but as soon as you factor in cold temperatures, running a heater, or getting stuck in traffic, and it’s just not comfortable for us.

However, for those that are looking for a medium-range, emissions-free transportation solution, The Focus BEV is one of only a handful of reasonably priced electric models, the Nissan Leaf chief among them, offering better cargo and passenger space from its dedicated electric vehicle platform or the recently launched Kia Soul EV that is impressive but widely unavailable, not to mention outliers like the Smart ED or Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Other options that might come into play are the pricier BMW i3 or the perfect compromise in my books, the Chevy Volt, with enough juice to cover the daily commute, just the right kind of power, a good enough driving experience for any commuting appliance and a small engine and reasonable gas tank to make long-distance trips feasible.

The Ford Focus BEV is a good effort for a compliance vehicle, behind the curve as far as other electric vehicles go, but hints at the potential that Ford could offer if they went at the segment wholeheartedly.

Pricing: 2015 Ford Focus BEV
Base Price: $35,499
Options: $300 (Exterior Protection Package)
A/C Tax: $100
Freight & PDI: $1,565
Price as tested: $37,414

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance; 8 years/160,000 km selected hybrid powertrain components

Kia Soul EV
Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Nissan Leaf
Smart ED

The Ford Focus has been a longstanding success in Canada, North America and around the world for over 15 years now, becoming the... 4/20/2015 10:28:15 AM