- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

For 2005, the Focus is restyled inside and out for a more modern appearance. And while the specialty SVT Focus is gone, there’s a new, peppy ST sedan that combines a strong four-cylinder engine and sporty suspension.

Sold in several body styles, the Focus has starting manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, including destination charge, that remain competitive. Starting price for a 2005 Focus hatchback is $13,775 for a three-door model, while a 2005 sedan starts at $14,375 and a Focus wagon starts at $17,575.

No other low-priced small car has as many body styles as the Focus.

The Focus test model, the new ST sedan, looked fresh and clean on the outside. New, jewel-look headlamps and a larger grille that’s similar to the one on Ford’s new midsize Five Hundred sedan make the Focus seem a more substantial car.

The same is true inside, where a spartan interior has an updated look thanks to a new design and some new materials. For example, the ST sedan includes nice, silver-gray trim around the gauges. Too bad, though, that Ford continues to install tachometers that don’t include a redline that indicates where engine power peaks. It’s not there, even in a model such as the ST sedan that’s marketed as a performance car.

The test ST sedan had optional leather and suede bucket seats that dressed up the all-black interior and gave good support on long drives. The Focus was one of the first small cars in America that put seats up at a slightly higher position than they are in traditional cars, so passengers don’t feel they’re riding low to the pavement.

The smallish, sporty steering wheel and gearshift lever for the five-speed manual — the only transmission available on the ST sedan — were wrapped in black leather, too, and had stylish red stitching as an accent.

Working the gears, I had a spunky ride in the ST test car. The 2.3-liter, double overhead cam, Duratec four-cylinder delivers a commendable 151 horsepower and 154 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. This compares with 136 horsepower and 133 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm from the other Focus four-cylinder that’s 2.0 liters in displacement. This base engine is available with a four-speed automatic as well as a manual.

Fuel economy is noteworthy among small cars, and the Focus is no exception. Even with the sportier engine, the Focus is rated by the federal government at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

The Focus wagon with base 2.0-liter engine and manual transmission ranks as the second most fuel-efficient wagon on the market with a rating of 26/35 mpg. The diesel-powered Volkswagen Passat Wagon is first.

If I wanted, I could squeal the tires on the Focus ST sedan at startup, and the stiffer-than-usual chassis in the ST conveyed a sporty ride. The suspension is sport-tuned on this model, so I felt most road bumps. My body felt vibrations most of the time, but only pot holes brought jolting heaves.

Still, on mountain twisties, the Focus ST held its line with confidence, and body motions were mild.

The horn on this small car sounded like one from a large car, and the air conditioning worked fast to produce very cold air, even on a 103-degree day.

Radio buttons and knobs are good-sized and easy to reach, and trunk space of 14.8 cubic feet is exceptional for a small car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2005 Focus sedan five out of five stars for driver protection in a frontal crash. The front passenger position is rated at four stars. In a side crash, the 2005 Focus sedan receives three out of five stars for front-seat occupant protection and four out of five stars for rear-seat occupant protection. The Focus sedan has four out of five stars for its rollover rating.

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