2012 Ford Focus Review

Tim O'Brien | 33 Comments


Vehicle Style: Five-door hatchback and sedan
Price range (starting price for each): $21,990 Ambiente, $24,490 Trend, $27,390 Sport, $35,590 Titanium

Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.5 l/100km – 7.2 l/100km (depending upon drivetrain)
Fuel Economy (tested): not recorded


Ford’s sporty new 2012 LW Focus is a defining car. Spend time with it and you will understand why the European press has heaped such praise upon it.

Inside and out, and on the road, it really impresses.

From the entry-level Focus Ambiente to the top-tier Titanium, it is absolutely laden with features and technology, or can be specified, that you simply don’t expect to find in the small hatch and small sedan segment.

But, not only superbly equipped, it is also a cracking drive – better balanced and more refined than the Mazda3 and at least a match for the Golf, perhaps a nose in front.

On a first drive taking in a city crawl, open roads, tight passes through Victoria’s temperate rain-forest and long stretches of slippery gravel and corrugations, the new Focus could not be induced to put a foot wrong.

And where the outgoing Focus seemed a little beige, the new model is brimming with personality.

The new LW Focus range comes with a four-tier model line-up, from entry-level Ambiente, to the mid-series Trend, then Sport and the higher-end Titanium models. We drove each, alternating between petrol and diesel configurations.


Quality: For style and quality feel, the new Focus sets a new benchmark for the small car segment.

With soft-feel dash, piano-black and enamel facings (depending on the model), appealing trim materials, premium Sony audio and a sharply designed ‘cockpit’ layout, it is a very nice place to be.

More to the point, there is a snug solidity - lacking in some competitors - that gives the Focus a premium edge, noticeable even in the Ambiente and mid-spec Trend models.

Comfort: The sports-trimmed seats are well-shaped, both under the thigh and in the lower back. They give good support when pushing harder but do not envelop too firmly as some sports seats do.

The reach and rake adjustable multi-function steering wheel is neat and uncluttered and feels solid and direct under the hand.

There’s also more room inside than you may expect, courtesy of that extended swoopy roofline. Even with the front seats pushed fully back there is room for longer adult legs in the rear.

The shaped rear bench is comfortable with ample shoulder room for two adults, or for kids three-abreast.

Equipment: Inside, Sport and Titanium models come with a premium Sony audio system, with nine-speakers, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-functional display.

All in the range get MP3 compatibility, USB port, auxiliary connection for external audio devices, voice control, remote audio and MFD controls, audio streaming (with compatible mobile phones) and digital signal processor (DSP).

Other features common across the range are capless refueling (designed to prevent you putting in the wrong fuel), cruise control with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD) and steering wheel-mounted controls.

The Titanium also comes with “hands-free” parking as standard (Active Park Assist), heated front seats, and keyless entry with “start” button. Both Sport and Titanium feature automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and ambient interior lighting with a roof-mounted ‘cabin lighting hub’ for setting the mood.

Rear parking sensors are standard on Trend, Sport and Titanium.

Storage: The boot in both sedan and hatch offers ample space for a young family (or for golf clubs and other weekend follies), 277 litres for the hatch, 372 litres in the sedan (with full-sized spare). Rear seats in the hatch fold 60/40, extending the available space to 1062 litres.

Inside, there are larger cupholders, door bins front and rear, and a sensible glovebox.


Driveability: We drove both the 2.0 GDi direct injection petrol engine, 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT petrol (in the Ambiente) and 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel, both with six-speed PowerShift twin-clutch automatic transmission and petrol manual.

The smaller 1.6 litre petrol musters 92kW and 159Nm; the 2.0 litre petrol, 125kW and 202Nm, while the diesel bangs out a very healthy 120kW and 340Nm of torque.

The pick, by a country mile, is the diesel. Smooth, strong, quiet and frugal, it has the petrol options whipped all-ends-up. While the 2.0 litre petrol is willing enough, and feels quite lively when mated to the five-speed manual, the diesel goes like a shower.

The only debit is the fiddly manual-shift mechanism for the Powershift transmission: it sits under the left thumb on the lever and takes your eyes away from the road while you sort it out. A simple 'paddle' shift would be far better.

Refinement: There is a premium snug feel to the interior of the new Focus, assisted by superior NVH performance. Even the diesel is transparent: free of clatter, just a slight but appealing groan finds its way into the cabin.

Wind and tyre noise are quite low (on coarse surfaces, it’s considerably quieter than the Mazda3), there is a barely noticeable 'feathering" of wind around the wing mirrors, but this is quiet interior - with a feel more like a larger car.

Suspension: The strongest impression of the Focus is its superior handling performance.

Always its strong point, the new model sets a new high-bar for providing the right balance between comfort, compliance over broken tarmac and gravel, and handling performance.

Turn-in is very sharp, and, thanks to a superbly engineered front-end and torque vectoring control, the new Focus can carry higher speeds into a corner and hold very tight lines through it. On a winding road, even a slippery one, it is very sharp and very quick.

Braking: Fade free braking, a good pedal feel (and with ABS, EBD and EBA), provide strong braking performance.


ANCAP rating: Five stars

Safety features: Stability control, torque vectoring control, individual single stage front airbags and 3D side thorax airbags for the driver and front passenger, standard side curtain airbags for the first and second row seats.

Side airbags come with adaptive venting technology for smaller occupants.

Also standard is anti-lock braking (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), and emergency brake assist (EBA), dynamic stability control (DSC) with traction control (TCS) and hill launch assist (HLA).


Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres.

Service costs: TBA


Volkswagen Golf (from $21,990 to $49,990) – Until now, leader of the pack for personality and on-road dynamics and balance. Ford’s new Focus though has the Golf’s measure for verve and performance, and betters the Golf on rougher surfaces.

The Focus is also better equipped. And style? Well, that’s subjective, but to these eyes the dramatic sporting lines of the Focus win the day. (see Golf reviews)

Holden Cruze (from $20,990 to $28,490) – Sedan only, for the moment, the Cruze is neither a standout for on-road dynamics, nor style and accommodation.

It is nevertheless a competent all-rounder and good-value buying but doesn’t have the answers nor the personality of the sporty new Focus range. (see Cruze reviews)

Mazda3 (from $21,330 to $41,915) – The benchmark for the sector and sales hero, there is a lot more to the Mazda 3 than winning style, but the robust and better-equipped Focus feels more solid, more modern and more refined. (see Mazda3 reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


With its new Focus, new Territory, the super Fiesta, and a new Ranger coming, Ford is assembling some heavy artillery in ‘blue-oval’ showrooms.

But the outgoing Focus, it’s fair to say, didn’t really inflame buyer passions.

That’s going to change. Sampling the new Focus at launch was a gob-smack. While it has met with glowing reviews in Europe, we didn’t expect it to be quite so complete and quite so impressive in so many areas.

In the segment, it is a real standout.

There may be some things we’ve missed on the first drive – a longer test of each of the models will tell the tale – but check out the new Focus range if shopping for a classy, stylish, feature-filled and beautifully-built small car.

Filed under: Featured, review, petrol, ford focus, 2012 ford focus, diesel, sedan, hatch, automatic, Manual, fwd, small, ford, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 4door, 6a, 5m, tim o'brien, ford focus review, 2012 ford focus review

Leave a comment:
Enter comment here.
  • Daniel Clutterbuck says,
    4 years ago
    1 like
    "Braking: Fade free braking and a good pedal feel Braking revisions brought in last year have made the Mazda2’s brake pedal more responsive. Although the disk/drum brake package is small, the lightweight 2 can be stopped very quickly." -- What the?
  • Tim O'Brien says,
    4 years ago
    Yoiks, yowsers... that's what happens when you overwrite another article (too damn lazy to re-type the headings). Damn and blast, there goes the bonus.

    Good brakes but.


  • simone says,
    4 years ago
    Tim, how would a titanium petrol automatic compare/value for money to the premium hyundai elantra
  • JT says,
    4 years ago
    Oh man this car looks so much better with two reversing lights as apposed to the outgoing model which only has one like the VW Golf which makes a car look cheap in my eyes.

    Can't wait to see how this car goes with the upcoming ecoboost line of engines.
  • Ward Paterson says,
    4 years ago
    Looks like they had Hyundai design the centre console and dash.
    • giov says,
      4 years ago
      1 like
      they have had that design in euro for ages. focus is up there with golf as one of the best cars in that segment.
  • Callous says,
    4 years ago
    Way too dear . Near on 50 grand for the top spec is greed pure and simple. I have little doubt it is a good car but not for that money.
  • Emily says,
    4 years ago
    I love my Focus hatchback. It drives wonderfully and has more features than so called "luxury" cars. Not to mention how good it looks.
  • Pamela Thorne says,
    4 years ago
    Love my new focus, just have the standard but it up there, only thing is I don't know why they didn't put an ambient light on the ignition, hard to find in the dark
    • Keith says,
      4 years ago
      leave your door open(and hence the interior light) until you put your key in
  • David Griffith says,
    4 years ago
    Test drove a Focus Sport.Lacked real performance compared to Golf 118TSI. Electronics to confusing and don't need most of it. Auto headlight sensor obtrusive.Handled quite well and miles in front of the Holden Cruze,but the Golf still has the edge.
    • Roger says,
      4 years ago
      Focus will receive Ecoboost turbo engines soon. Already running the 1.6 EcoBoost in Europe, ST will have 2 litre like Falcon. Diesel is the pick at the moment.
    • Ben says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      I can understand your thoughts if you drove a Demo car. The engines are realy quite tight early on. They are also elctronically limited until ofter 3000km for run in puposes. After that they really start to shine.
  • Rocket says,
    4 years ago
    The Focus Sport diesel is a real alternative to the Golf GTD and is 7K cheaper.
  • di says,
    3 years ago
    What is the spare wheel like, a real one or a blow up pretend?
    • Allan M says,
      3 years ago
      1 like
      Spare wheel? Think wheelbarrow....laugh
      • eddy says,
        3 years ago
        they are all cheap wheels now,space savers,more like cheapsteaks what is wrong with car companies now just to save couple hundred bucks.
    • Ben says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      Spacesaver! These days it's all about onboard weight. Why carry around needless weight? We haven't used a spare in any of our 4 cars in over 4 years. I had a Falcon for 8 years and 250,000 km and the spare NEVER left the boot.
  • Specialk says,
    3 years ago
    HELP! Need to make a decison on this vehicle ASAP it would be a five year financed purchase for me as the budget is VERY skinny.
    Im not up with these things at all but isnt the price of diesel about to go up dramtically because of the way gov subsidy will be removed / reduced? So performance would be better in the diesel but servicing more expeno and fuel cost higher than petrol. Am I right??
    Im looking at Sports GDI model too. If that helps other guide me.
    • Tim O'Brien says,
      3 years ago
      Yo, you can put the panic pills away SpecialK, there is no subsidy on diesel for 'normal' private motorists like you and I - you know, vaguely humanoid if not entirely sane.

      Nor is there a subsidy on petrol, nor even on gas.

      But there are two excise (tax) regimes at work on all fuel purchases (some call it "tax", others prefer "extortion").

      Petrol and diesel attracts 38.14 cents per litre (cpl) excise, plus GST, whereas LPG is currently taxed at 5 cents per litre, rising to 12.5 cpl in 2015 (plus GST).

      BUT, if you're planning to become a billionaire miner tomorrow, or by sometime next week or the week after...

      AND if you acquire a few great big holes in the ground the contents of which you'd like to send somewhere in very big ships...

      AND you reckon a fleet of diesel Focii (is that plural of Focus?) will be just the ticket for carrying all the dirt you can shovel into the back of them up to the lip of the very big hole...

      THEN you become eligible for a very large diesel subsidy...

      Formerly called the diesel fuel rebate, this subsidy is now called "the fuel tax credit". Believe it or not, it amounts to around $2billion dollars a year finding its way back into the pockets of the mining sector.

      (Oh yes, one more thing, it's not 'means tested'... even the most profitable of the most profitable of miners get the rebate.)

      It's a guess, but I'm figuring you're not a billionaire miner, not yet anyway.

      So, getting back to the question SpecialK, relax.
      Three nice deep breaths will do it. A fuel efficient diesel like the Focus should save you a few shekkels at the bowser.

      ... oh, but hang on, some are predicting the barrel price of oil to head north of USD$130 over the next 12 months due to global supply constraints, so petrol and diesel and gas will all be going up... (pretty soon we'll all need to carry around a gross or two of panic pills)

      Funny old world at the moment.


      • SpecialK says,
        2 years ago
        OK....so I went ahead with the Focus Sport diesel 2012 LW and I LOVE it. Its a fab drive, great feel, economical around town, easy park, great boot space, roomy for passengers & thrilling on the open road. Just hate the space saver spare and Im about to resolve this by buying another wheel and like another reviewer a little disappointed that the key-to-ignition manoeuvre in the dark is tricky (I don't leave my door open to light the way for safety reasons.) Anyone got a solution for this?
        • Ben says,
          2 years ago
          Sorry, our LW mk11 Titanium has keyless ingition - just leave the keys in your pocket, grab the door handle and open it, get and push the start button.

          Seriously though, try an LED keychain torch. I have one about the size of a 20c coin, soft rubber, that just needs to be squeezed in the middle.
  • Gunzo says,
    3 years ago
    I will buy the 2 litre petrol "trend" if I can get it for 20k, otherwise it'll be a mazda, mitsu or hyundi
  • ab says,
    3 years ago
    I'm looking at the sport...manual...
    Diesel or unleaded????
    That's my big question.
    Never owed a diesel.
  • crummydore says,
    3 years ago
    With the Ambiente at $20,000 its a great deal.
    Believe me I tested everything half decent in the $18,000 - $22,000 bracket and for the price it can't be matched.
    Interior is great, good quality plastics (bar the top of the door trim - too hard) and the Voice system works a treat.
    The only thing that I would say is if you want to be shoved back into your seat best spend the extra on the Trend. The 1.6 is good but you have to use the gears.
    We bought a manual and added rear sensors - total of $20,700 drive away.Very happy so far.
    • muscles says,
      3 years ago
      About to pick up my red Ambiente, how's your been so far?
  • Haggis says,
    3 years ago
    I've just ordered the diesel sport, I get it next week, we had a wee look at a few different cars and the focus stood out way more than all the rest. We looked at Renault,Hyundai,Subaru etc... value for money the focus was the one that gave us that littie bit more. I was going to have a look at a golf diesel but my brother in Scotland how is in his third new golf had the timing let go in the motor on the highway three weeks out of warranty and VW didn't want to know..shame,shame,shame...
  • Jeff stronghold says,
    3 years ago
    Is it just me or do the late 2012 Focus Titaniums not have heated seats? Why?
  • Joy Wise says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    downside (1)
    Advertising, listed as a 6 speed auto, why? when this vehicle has a computer controlled manual gearbox
    downside (2)
    If stop required on a steep gradient (eg, traffic light)when you take your foot off the brake to accelerate again the vehicle runs backwards unless you use the handbrake, this is a very dangerous and distressing situation which does not occur with a true automatic gearbox
    • Wahlburg says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      Have been driving the end-2013 6-gear powershift automatic (mine's a diesel) - no such issues with the gearbox: changes are quick, no indecisiveness from the box and there's just a centimeter of roll-back on hills before it starts creeping forwards. Couldn't be happier with my purchase... If you're concerned, take one for a test drive. You'll probably drive it home afterwards.
  • Angry Focus owner says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I bought my new Focus Trend petrol auto in January 2012. I have never before owned a car with such a terrible gearbox. It shudders. It often can't make up its mind which gear to change into and takes a second or two thinking about it. It gives a feel like the clutch is slipping. The Ford dealer repeatedly tells me that the gearbox is working 'to specification'.

    At the time I bought the car expert car reviewers made no mention of this common problem in the Focus. They still barely refer to it. They let me and a lot of other Focus buyers down badly.
    • D Kelly says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      I am having the same problem, I have had the vehicle for a week it feels like I am driving a Manual car the gear box grinds and is slow at changine gears and when it decides to there is a big clunk and the car shudders, I am finding it very stressful and unpleasant to drive.

      I was told that the clutch settles in the computer has to adjust to how I drive it and it will settle at around 3000 Klm to drive it normally.

      + they adjust it at very service !

      Is anybody else having this problem the Ford service guy said it does go away, DOES IT?

      Why have a manual/automatic clutch in a automatic car!

      I just want it to go away.
  • Kevin says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Hello, thanks for your comments on the focus,
    Are they the same for the 2011 model?
Get the Latest

Get a deal on this car