We remember racer Jackie Stewart's method of testing steering wheel performance at a Ford Motor test track a couple of years ago. He used the Ford Focus to show how it's done. We've applied that same raised index fingers method many times since then and have applied the Focus mentally as the template to beat. Not a bad recommendation for how a compact car should handle.
Focus, a world car, has become a staple and won many awards since its U.S. debut following an award winning kickoff in fuel conscious Europe. Here it has won several "car of the year" honors and boasts continuing annual "best" rankings including one "All-Star" victory.
For the choosy, there are several Focus "ZX" iterations to choose from. It comes in three and five-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and wagon. Trims are S, SE, SES and a ZX4 ST performance sedan.
Changes for 2006 follow major design and engineering upgrades a year ago. There's a new Street Appearance Package for all but the wagon, plus content upgrades for all models. Dark Toreador Red Metallic, Pueblo Gold Metallic and Screaming Yellow join the palate of clearcoat exterior colors. All models get standard CD/MP3 players. (The CD cubbie by the driver's left knee holds six.) Six-disc audio now comes with steering wheel controls.
All lines get upgrades for '06. Among S trim adds are 15-inch wheels and speed-sensitive sound system volume control. SE gets power windows, locks and entry, plus auto mirrors and AC. The up model SES gets 16-inch spoke alloy wheels, fog lamps and available alloy wheels, body color exterior trims, enhanced stabilized suspension, auto speed control, tach and tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Sedans add many amenities, including performance-tuned suspension, chrome-tipped exhaust and ground effect fascias, sport buckets, heated outside mirrors and several interior upgrades. Among options: Perimeter alarm, power moonroof, plus side impact airbags for all trims.
Focus is powered by three Duratec engines, a 136-HP 2.0-liter Duratec inline four, 151-HP 2.3-liter inline four, and super clean Duratec 20E in California and four Northeast states. Base is just over $13,500. Expect about 26/35 miles per gallon. Lose six with the ST performance sedan.