Used Vehicle Review: Ford Focus, 2012-2016

Vehicle Type

Owners say they appreciate Focus’s styling, upscale interior, and attention to thoughtful details

Compact Sedan / 5-Door

History/Description

The latest-generation Ford Focus hit the road in 2011 as a 2012 model, with new styling, features, and a globally leveraged platform and powertrain family. Competing with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and others, Focus was big on selection and content – with two body styles, and numerous trim grades and packages helping to fine-tune the Focus to any need, taste or budget.

Feature content may include a back-up camera with parking radar, automatic lights, wipers and climate control, a sunroof, heated leather seats, self-parking capability, a full-colour driver computer, Ford Sync with navigation, and plenty more. If you’re after a fully loaded package, the Focus SEL or Focus Titanium is the model you’re after. The Focus’s S and SE trim grades were entry and mid-range models, respectively.

Note that Focus was offered in several special versions, including two high-performing models (the ST and RS), and an all-electric model, as well. For this feature, we’ll be focusing on the far more popular mainstream Focus models, which were available in both a four-door compact sedan, and a more versatile five-door hatchback.

Engines

Most used models will feature a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, generating 160 horsepower. Some models got a five-speed manual transmission, while most run a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which largely operates like a conventional automatic, has no clutch pedal, and saves fuel while enhancing performance. From 2015, Focus got a facelift to improve its looks and feature content, as well as new programming to the dual-clutch transmission for improved refinement. A new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, from the EcoBoost family, was available on the SE EcoBoost package model from 2015 as well. With this engine, economy focused drivers got 123 horsepower, and slightly more torque. Notably, the 1-litre engine is gutsier than its specs lead on, and more refined than the standard 2-litre engine.

What Owners Like

Many owners say they appreciate Focus’s styling, upscale interior, and attention to thoughtful details, with features like the capless fuel filler door, dual tailgate pull-down handles, and adequate on-board storage for smaller items all being appreciated on the daily. A comfortable ride on most surfaces, and good feature content for the money are also reported. In all, this one looks like a nicely equipped, nice-to-drive compact.

What Owners Dislike

Some Focus owners wish for a quieter and smoother ride on rougher road surfaces, more logical placement of certain controls, and a little more power.

Here’s a list of Ford Focus Owner Reviews.

The Test Drive

Start with the gadgets. Zone in on the Ford Sync system, and give it a workout. Pair your phone, make and receive a call, confirm all touchscreen touch-points work as expected, and give the steering-wheel-mounted controls a full check, too. The Focus has numerous steering-wheel-mounted buttons that are used to control numerous functions, so ensure they all respond as expected. If they don’t, a bad clock-spring (a form of electrical connector in the steering wheel) may be to blame, and will need to be replaced.

Note that, for maximum functionality and minimal likelihood of getting Italian-level angry at a non-functioning Sync system, you’ll want to ensure all software updates, available from your local Ford dealer, have been installed to the system. A clumsy navigation system, or a laggy media interface, may also be remedied by software updates. Also, sometimes, a Sync system that’s being stubbornly uncooperative just needs a hard reset.

If equipped, you’ll want to run the Focus’s advanced parking systems through their paces, too. Some models utilize a radar proximity system to aid with parking, and others can even self-steer into a parking space at the touch of a button. Check the owner’s manual for instructions. If you notice any malfunction or warning messages relating to the Focus’s parking system, the vehicle will need some attention from a technician.

Next up, be aware that the Focus’s dual-clutch transmission has been the source of numerous well-documented owner complaints, and numerous actions from Ford to attempt to resolve the issue. This potential problem is complicated and in-depth. If you want the full story (and have a few hours to kill), check out the details here, or here.

In simple terms, an internal fluid leak can allow oil to contact and contaminate the clutch friction surfaces, altering the operating parameters within the transmission. Depending on numerous factors, symptoms may include sluggish performance, a Check Engine light or warning messages, the car being locked into “limp mode”, and more.

Best advice? Talk to the seller, asking if they’ve ever had any issues with the transmission, and if they have any documentation outlining any dealer fixes. Revised seals and clutch components were made available to help remedy the problem. On the test drive, any unusual sensations or warning lights or messages relating to the transmission, should be a sign to either seek further advice from a Ford technician, or to move to another unit.

Further, in this thread, a technician explains how Ford extended warranty coverage on the Focus’ dual-clutch transmission, and how the issue seems to have been remedied by time model-year 2015 rolled around.

Note that this issue hasn’t necessarily affected every, or even most Focus models, but that it’s worth being aware of, nonetheless. Of course, a model with the manual transmission is a safer bet, if that’s a possibility. If it’s not, be aware of the problem, have a technician investigate the car if you have any concerns, and opt for any extended powertrain warranty that may be available. If the Focus you’re considering is still under factory warranty and begins acting up, get to a dealer for an inspection, straight away.

Next up, confirm proper operation of the A/C system. Failure to consistently pump cold air into the cabin when asked may be a result of a cracked condenser, a refrigerant leak, an overfilled refrigerant system, or a problem with internal system lubrication. If any issues are detected with air conditioner performance, note that your local Ford dealer has the diagnostic equipment to quickly source the problem. Finally, note that a plugged cabin air filter is a common cause of problems like this one, so start here if the AC system seems fussy. Here’s some more reading.

Here’s a 286-page thread on suspension noise. Listen for it on your test drive, especially from the front end of the vehicle, at lower speeds, and with the windows rolled up and climate control fan, and stereo, switched off. Healthy vehicles don’t make noises when travelling over bumpy roads. If the Focus you’re considering exhibits any popping, clunking or snapping sounds in this situation, the remedy may be to replace bushings, control arms, or even strut mounts. Some owners have had luck with extra lubrication of affected components, too. Further, while parked and idling, turn the wheel fully, from one side to the other, a few times. A grinding or clunking sensation during this exercise likely indicates strut bearings that are in need of replacement.

Next up, check all power window switches, all door locks, all keyfobs, and (especially) the trunk release. Here’s some more reading on non-functional power windows, which may require attention to their motors or regulators. And here’s some reading on trunk release and latch problems. Note that the vast majority of Focus models do not suffer from these issues, but shoppers are advised to be aware of them nonetheless.

The Verdict

Most Focus owners report largely trouble-free operation of a vehicle that’s comfortable, upscale and nice to drive – though a few fairly significant problems, reported somewhat frequently, reinforce the importance of a pre-purchase inspection on this model by a qualified Ford technician. If you’re set on a Focus with the dual-clutch automatic transmission, adding extended powertrain warranty coverage is highly advised, unless you can confirm via your dealer service advisor that the unit has been repaired with updated parts.

A list of recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars

Check used Focus transmission issues 3/16/2017 6:28:00 AM