Monday, February 8, 2010

2011 Ford Focus Review and Prices

Ford is redesigning its compact car with a renewed focus on “whole-earth” appeal--in more ways than one. International style, high-efficiency powertrains, and green-tech engineering should make it a strong competitor from Boston to Beijing. A full-electric version could prove popular too, especially if gas prices go through the roof again.

What We Know About the 2011 Ford Focus

We know it’s a bit early to be talking about the 2011 (or will it be 2012?) Ford Focus. But we also know that a full redesign of this compact car is already underway, and we can make some educated inferences about it based on recent announcements by Ford executives, competitors’ likely moves, and general industry trends.

All Ford Focus Prices & Reviews

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For starters, the 2011 Ford Focus will be a true “world car,” sold around the globe with only relatively modest tailoring for local needs and tastes. The debut year-2000 Focus was a “world car” too. But where Europe and other overseas markets got a redesigned replacement in 2005, Ford kept the original “C1” design for North America as a cost-saving move. Though that seemed prudent at the time, it meant the model was bound to fall behind key competitors. Sure enough, most of them have been redesigned twice since the millennium turned, so the North American Focus now seems dated despite a 2005-model freshening and an even more-extensive redo for ’08.

Under the “One Ford” product strategy ordained by CEO Alan Mullaly, the next-generation Focus is being designed and engineered by Ford Europe, the company’s designated center for global small-car development. The aim is to trim upfront costs and boost manufacturing economies of scale with a single basic design that can be built and sold anywhere, rather than having disparate regional variations. That’s been the appeal of every world-car project since Ford’s own Model T, though only the original Volkswagen Beetle (and maybe the Toyota Corolla) has had similar global success.

Unlike today’s North American Focus, most of its overseas cousins use Ford’s newer C2 platform. So do the Mazda 3 and Volvo’s C30/S40/V50 compact cars. The replacement C3 architecture would presumably serve future versions of those models as well as the 2011 Ford Focus, but should be even more “scalable” to suit a wider range of vehicle types. That includes crossover SUVs and stylish compact people movers like Ford Europe’s popular Focus-based S-Max.

2011 Ford Focus Features
We expect the 2011 Ford Focus to be roomier than today’s car, as the C3 platform is likely to bring modest gains in width, height, and wheelbase. Overall length, however, will probably be unchanged or even slightly reduced. Because weight is the enemy of performance, fuel economy, and a car’s carbon footprint, we also see Ford paring pounds through greater use of aluminum, plastics, high-strength steel, and other lightweight materials--costly substitutions for this price class, but necessary in light of tough new U.S. fuel-economy standards and equally daunting Euro-zone caps on CO2 emissions.

Toward the same end, the 2011 Ford Focus should benefit from new high-efficiency front-wheel-drive powertrains that Dearborn is said to be working on. These involve a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and engines designed to do more with less. Dubbed PowerShift, Ford's new dual-clutch gearbox behaves much the same as a conventional automatic transmission. But the company says the dual-clutch transmission weighs less than a 4-speed auto, and helps increase fuel economy by about nine percent.

The U.S.-market Focus will get a clean-sheet 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. Other gas-fueled engines are possible as well, and we also see the possibility of a “clean-diesel” counterpart and maybe even a 4-cylinder turbodiesel. The European Focus already offers thrifty “DuraTorq” diesel fours, but the upcoming engines would be even cleaner and thus 50-state legal. Nevertheless, a diesel-powered 2011 Ford Focus could well boast EPA-rated fuel economy of 40 mpg city and 50 highway--as indeed it will need to with the way fuel prices are going.

2011 Ford Focus Additional Features
We haven't heard any official word on a gas-electric hybrid version of the Focus, but Ford has confirmed that a full-electric version will go on sale in North America during 2011. A so-called Battery-Electric Vehicle (BEV), the all-electric Focus is being developed in partnership with auto supplier Magna International and will be built in Michigan. Details are still sketchy, but Ford is suggesting a possible 100-mile range using a lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged through a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet.

As for styling, company designers are said to be collaborating on a new global Ford-brand look that reconciles Europe’s current “kinetic” motif with the “Bold American” theme exemplified by the Fusion midsize car and Edge crossover SUV. Based on the pre-production models Ford has shown, the 2011 Ford Focus will look something like a cross between the current Taurus and Fiesta with a smooth lozenge shape punctuated by crisp sheetmetal creases and a big trapezoidal grille. An optional "Titanium" trim level adds sporty interior trim that is a bold combination of leather and technical fabrics. It is a classy, complex look that reminds some of Puma or Nike athletic shoes or clothing and could help the new Focus stand out in a crowded market.

A Notable Feature of the 2011 Ford Focus

A good many Americans could be downsizing their rides in the coming years, but they won’t want to sacrifice safety or convenience features for higher mpg and lower emissions. Ford is well aware of this from decades of doing business in Europe, where feature-laden, tech-filled compact cars are strong sellers. We thus expect the 2011 Ford Focus to have more standard equipment and a longer option list than today’s U.S. models. It will still be a competitively priced mainstream compact, but luxury features should proliferate to ease any buyer pain associated with going small. For example, Ford's new My Ford Touch control system and an improved version of the popular Sync system will certainly be available on the next-generation Focus.
2011 Ford Focus Buying Advice
There’s little advice we can give this far out, other than repeating the old common sense mantra about scouting the field before you buy. The 2011 Ford Focus could be a new class trendsetter, much as the original was back in 2000. But you know competitive brands won’t be sitting on their hands, so Ford’s redesign will have to be very good just to be a contender.

2011 Ford Focus Release Date: Ford recently announced that 4- and 5-door versions of the new European Focus will start North American production in late 2010. So the 2011 Ford Focus should be out of the gate by spring of 2011.

2011 Ford Focus First Test Drive: Again, assuming all goes well--including model-year 2011 timing--media previews could be set for the fourth quarter of 2010.

2011 Ford Focus Prices: Inflation keeps making everything more expensive, so a Focus will certainly cost more in the next decade than it does now. How much more? That’s tough to predict so far in advance, but we’d guess prices will start around $17,000, about $3,000 above today’s minimum, and range into the mid-$20,000s with a hefty option load. The BEV version will probably cost even more than a loaded gas-powered Focus. If that sounds like a lot for a small Ford, keep in mind that the Focus arrived eight years ago starting just under $12,000.

2011 Ford Focus Preliminary Specifications

The 2011 Ford Focus will be available as a 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback (shown).

The Basics

Vehicle Type: compact car

Drivetrain (CG estimates)

Drive wheels: front

Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder

Horsepower: 160

Torque: 160 lb-ft

Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic

Dimensions (CG estimates)

Wheelbase: 105.0 inches

Length: 174.0 inches

Width: 69.0 inches

Height: 58.5 inches

Base curb weight: 2,450 pounds

For more inside information on hundreds of new cars of today and tomorrow, check out:

C­onsumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for hundreds of new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide.
Ford: Read Consumer Guide's full reports, including ratings, prices, specifications, and fuel economy.
Compact cars: The 2011 Ford Focus will compete in the compact car class. Here's Consumer Guide's roundup of all the compact cars on sale today.
2010 Consumer Guide Best Buy and Recommended Award Winners:
Check out which cars won our Best Buy and Recommended awards for 2010.
Future Cars: Step into the automotive showroom of tomorrow with reviews, analysis, pictures, prices, and preliminary specifications on scores of vehicles that will be appearing next year and beyond.