2012 Ford Focus Platinum

The 2012 Ford Focus Platinum is a joy to drive and another trump card in Ford’s simple quest to provide maximum performance in modestly priced vehicles.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Well-equipped, peppy and responsive, the Fusion is all about bang for the buck – as much of the Ford line is these days. It certainly drives like the best domestic car its size and can serve as a rival for German and Japanese cars in the same class.

The model we test drove for one week carries an MSRP of $30,633. While there are certainly cheaper five door, front engine/front-wheel drive hatchbacks (especially Japanese makes coming out of Toyota, Honda and Mazda), but you’re not likely to find a better deal when you pile the rest of the specs into the mix.

The Focus Platinum comes standard equipped with 2.0 liter inline V4 providing 160 horsepower and 146 ft. lb. of torque. By remaining dedicated to its eco-generated, lighter recycled materials in the seats, the dash, fabric, etc., Ford reduces and controls the Focus’ weight to squeeze as much quickness as possible out of those 160 horses.

And, by controlling weight and using composite materials, the Focus Platinum can provide 36 MPG in highway conditions. That falls just a little short of what the high compression engines in the 2012-2013 Mazda SKYACTIVs and Volkswagen sporty hatchbacks can do, but it’s a strong number for a domestic car of this size and entertainment value.

A size up from the Ford Fiesta, you can seat four to five adults comfortably in the Focus with enough room in the cargo space for ample gear. Fortunately, there’s enough pep in the front loaded gear ratio to get you out into urban traffic with a surprised little smile on your face.

You can buy the car with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, but we had the pleasure of taking on the SE model and its six-speed manual. As this reporter has said many times, driving a sportier car with an automatic transmission isn’t really driving. It’s just steering. I much prefer the smooth manual shifter in the SE.

Overall styling is vastly improved over the Ford Focus of old. Dearborn’s home team automaker adopted the similar striking grill design as in their Taurus and other models. If you max out the kit, the Focus will include “Active Grill” slats that open and close according to conditions and driving speed to maximize fuel economy.

It turns out Ford is so confident in the Focus’ design – and rightfully so, in my opinion – that they made the car a global model. A couple bits and bobs might change here or there around the world, but the Focus sold in the U.S. is essentially the same as the one you’d up end with at showrooms in the UK, Continental Europe, South America, Canada, etc.

Finally, the 2012 Focus Platinum comes with the much improved MyFord Touch interface. Heeding the complains of Ford owners and MyFord uses in years passed, Ford greatly simplified, clarified and enhanced the interface, adding SYNC AppLink, a no-charge and industry unique system that controls smartphone apps via voice control. AppLink can access Android and BlackBerry smart phones using Bluetooth and through a USB connection for iPhones.

In a car review like this, I’m expected to offer as balanced a view of a car as I can in the word space provided. I look to tightly evaluate the good and the bad and indicate who would get the best use out of a particular car.

In this case, I can’t find much to complain about the Focus Platinum. Well-equipped, fun to drive, fuel efficient and competitively priced, anyone looking for a sporty hatch with a little more size to it should give it a look.