When I bought this car in the summer of 2017, it was mainly for three things: fuel economy, cheapness, and the fact that everybody in history has owned a small Ford in their life and it only seemed fitting that at twenty-six years old, it was about time for me to own one.
Let's start with this particular generation of the car. The earliest models of this car were fairly well received based on the simple fact that Ford had brought the then-new European-based Focus to North America, by which it was in every possible way better than the lumpy and awkward generation that preceded it. Then after a few years, Ford cleaned up some of the design a bit more on the outside and gave us this (below). A sharp looking car that brought it up to par with the rest of Ford's existing design language.
Better than before, and arguably the best looking Focus ever made at the time.
This to me was a design that even in 2019, still manages to catch my attention on the basis that it's a sharp design. Granted in 2019, it's now a five year old design and the latest generation of the Focus is one we won't be seeing in North America. It's a pity then because in the process, Ford has already managed to alienate would be buyers, and in any case, there were many of these on the dealership lot back in 2017 and the sheer fact of the matter is that this at sticker price, the most basic Focus you could get at the time was just over $17,500. Ford was so quick to want to sell this car to the masses that in the summer of 2017 they sold it to me with a $5,000 factory rebate and a small discount, taking it down to just under $13,200. Bargain of the century that is to me, because what this car really is, is a big fat lazy cow that is stupendously cheap, reaffirming that statement: it's a bargain. A fairly used one these days will run you about $10,000, and when I sold mine back in February, after just nineteen months of ownership, I got $8,500 for it.
So why did I sell the car? One simple issue that I simply grew tired of dealing with: the ill-conceived, cheaply made, poorly designed PowerShift double-clutch transmission. I can understand the concept of these things. It's a smaller unit than a conventional automatic transmission, which means less weight to lug around, and coupled with the fact that it has less parasitic loss than a conventional automatic, meant that it could get up and go when you asked, usually. For at least a year, this worked well. Until it didn't. I also knew at the time that what was basically achieved was all the basic thrills of a manual transmission with the added convenience of an automated clutch. However I wish I had found one of these with a manual transmission instead.
When I bought the car, everyone was adamant that this transmission no longer had the issues that plagued early versions in earlier generation Focus cars, the slipping clutches, poor shift patterns, etc. I believed them when they said "yes, Ford finally fixed the issues with this car, you shouldn't have problems for miles to come." - well, they weren't terribly wrong but they weren't exactly right either. You see, this iffy transmission ate its first clutch pack at just 13,000 miles, and exactly 1,000 miles later, went through that second clutch pack as well, complete with total and utter failure while making a left turn on a slightly busy city road - the second time that it had ever happened, actually. So after taking it back to the dealership for warranty covered work, I picked it up and took it to work the next day, where, while making a right turn, it failed to engage at all, and wouldn't allow me to accelerate after the turn. That's when I had snapped on this otherwise pretty decent car. In the span of three months and almost 2,500 miles, the car suddenly refused to be decently reliable anymore, and it simply was not happy with having its clutches replaced. On its third trip to the dealer to have the service done, I decided enough was enough, it was time for it to go. Kind of a sad moment really. The car wasn't particularly sporty, but despite being a front-wheel drive compact car, it wasn't ungainly in the twists, and the 2.0L four cylinder, though naturally aspirated and buzzy at high RPMs, was fairly torquey enough to push the car along in a zippy manner. It was a stout little engine and this fact alone perhaps made this car one of the best four-cylinder cars I'd ever driven. It also had great visibility all around, could take a decent amount of cargo in the trunk, and could seat four people in a pinch. The HVAC system worked well despite the engine taking three and a half miles to warm up and the car having un-tinted windows, and the basic SYNC audio system wasn't half bad either. For a base-model Focus, I wasn't expecting much and though I wasn't much of a fan of the interior design - a lumpy and contorted design composed mainly of dark black and light gray plastics that still felt fairly cheap - it still managed to be the car that got me across town for two and a half weeks on a single tank of gas every single time. Basically, it was an appliance of a car, and it served me well for all that I asked of it.
So, should you buy a used one then? No. For a few reasons.
1) Almost every Focus that's on the road these days is a higher trim spec, and I think I'm right in saying that almost none of them were equipped without the PowerShift DCT automatic. Your mileage may vary here.
2) Short of the ST and RS models, why would you want one of the plebeian eco-boxes anyway? The Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Golf, and Hyundai Elantra were all reasonably better cars at the time, a fact that is still proving itself today - those cars are still on the road with minimal issues.
3) They didn't depreciate very well. Let's be honest, mine was stickered at just under $18k, and it sunk to $8.5k in less than two years. The only thing that sinks faster than that is a rock in a lake.
So, the Pros: Useful commuter car, great on gas. Cons? Backseats are cramped, trunk could've been deeper, 2.0L four-cylinder could've used a turbo, lousy transmission behaviors and reliability. I wouldn't have minded if Ford put the manual transmission on all trim lines either.
Final Word: If you find one of these on a used car dealer lot with an automatic next to something else, get the something else.
Nine feet of basically "some" car.