2012 Ford Focus Electric Test Drive - Insane Mileage at a Price

2012 Ford Focus Electric

A surprisingly sporty, comfortable, fun little car that seats 5 and gets an unprecedented 110 miles per gallon equivalent. This might be the car that will change American's perspective on electric vehicles.

The manufacturer says

Focus Electric is the flagship of Ford’s transformed lineup – one-third of which will feature a model with 40 mpg or more in 2012 and build on the company’s commitment to give fuel-efficiency-minded customers the power of choice.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company
  • Year, Model: 2012 Focus Electric
  • Class, Type: 5-door hatchback
  • Propulsion system: Electric only
  • Vehicle range: 76 miles
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Time to refuel: 20 hours 120V, 4 hours 240V
  • Base Price: $39,200
  • MSRP as tested: $41,050
  • Availability:
  • Rolling out now in select cities.

Overview

The Focus Electric is extremely sporty and its one-speed transmission puts out a lot of fun response as soon as you push the accelerator. Once the initial fun of driving electric begins to wear off, you realize that the car has even more going for it. We were excited when the car first unveiled last year. Ford has pushed up the release date (and model year) on the car since its unveiling.

The Focus is a nice vehicle to start with, even in its gasoline version. For the segment, it's a sporty, fun to drive, and well-outfitted little car. Interior room is spacious for a compact and the hatchback means plenty of storage, though in the electric version it's a little more limited. Still, there's enough there to make the average small family happy.

The Focus Electric claims a range of 76 miles per charge, a few miles more than the Nissan Leaf – it's direct competitor. While the Ford is heavier and a little larger than the Leaf and it's battery pack is slightly smaller, it's liquid cooled and heated and so has a better range and power retention than the Leaf does. With the Focus, there's no "warm up time" to get going and little or no power loss when the car is parked and not plugged in.

Of course, being an EV, the Focus Electric is not for everyone. Its range is long enough that anyone who lives in the city or suburbia and commutes to work at 50 miles or less per day will have no worries with range anxiety. Charge times from empty are very long unless you purchase a 220V power station for the car. Ford has partnered with some providers that have a plug-and-play unit that is not permanently attached to a location, however, so the investment is not lost if you move.

What we like

Very fun to drive - this car has a lot of fun factor. It's very fast (one of the few front wheel drive compacts you can smoke the front tires in), handles well thanks to its low-slung weight distribution, and there is no "shift clunk" or hesitation because there's no shifting.

Great informational display - inside the cockpit, the car is informative without being distracting or pushy. A great "Butterfly Effect" display near the battery gauge shows how well you're eco-driving is going. The car can even be synched with your smart phone so you can find out the state of the car no matter where you are.

What we don't

Roomy, but still small - as are all compacts in general, of course. This beef is as much with the EV industry in general as it is with this car, as we have yet to see a realistic mid-sized or larger sedan in electric.

Limited availability - the Focus Electric is available in only 19 cities making the "smile" (both coasts and along the bottom with Denver, Colorado the only exception). It will likely roll out nationally in 2013, though.

Conclusions

A fun, great little car that fits the segment and target market perfectly. While the price is high, the $7,500 tax credit and some state credits ($5,200 in Colorado, for example) bring it down to manageable levels. Ford executives we spoke with believe the price point will drop in the next two or three years as more and more are built and sold.

Test Period Length and Limitations
This car was test driven at a ride-and-drive event hosted by Ford. Lunch was served and presentations given to explain the car and Ford's plans for it and its electrification efforts. Test drive was approximately 20 minutes for about 10 miles plus parking lot time for speed and maneuverability trials.

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