Ford’s 2012 compact an absolute winner

Before you flip the page after reading the word “compact” in the headline, you might want to keep reading — especially in light of the rising gas prices that are expected to top $4 a gallon by this summer.

Additionally, the definition of “compact” is rapidly changing — especially when it comes to cars.

Not only are compact models a lot roomier than they were a decade ago, you would be surprised how much performance these fuel efficient models are capable of delivering.

And another area you might find surprising would be the amenities.

Unlike the Spartan compact models of the past, today’s models not only include a nice assortment of premium amenities, but a lot of cutting edge technology as well.

And to top it off, the all-new 2012 Ford Focus has a projected EPA fuel economy rating of 40 mpg.

While the official EPA figures have yet to be released, according to the information on the Focus driver information screen, I averaged 38.2 mpg during my test drive, which included a combination of both city and highway driving.

That’s with an automatic transmission.

Again, the new Ford Focus is peppy.

It’s fun to drive.

It’s got all the bells and whistles you’ve grown accustomed to on your larger, upscale sedans and SUVs, as well as a long list of standard safety features.

Who said downsizing has to involve a compromise?

Available in sedan or hatchback body styles, the 2012 front-wheel drive Focus is available with a long list of smart technologies, including: active park assist; Ford Sync with traffic, directions and information; MyFord Touch; HD Radio with iTunes tagging; ambient lighting; torque vectoring control; rearview backup camera; and intelligent access with push-button start, to name a few.

In addition to the S, SE and SEL trim levels, Ford is also offering a Titanium trim for customers who want it all. And I do mean everything.

After spending a week behind the wheel of the new Focus, I’m a fan.

I’m also very impressed by the performance of the 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine that combines high-pressure direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing.

In plain English, it has a lot of get-up-and-go, yet still goes a long, long way on a tank of gas.

And when it comes to pouring more of my hard earned dollars in the gas tank as fuel prices keep going up, the new Focus engine is certainly music to my ears.

With a base price starting below $17,000, the five-passenger Focus is a stylish, no compromise option that allows you to get the most out of your transportation budget.

What’s not to like?

It even comes with push button start, and my favorite new automotive technology — Ford Sync.

Before you buy a new vehicle, visit a Ford dealership and ask them to demonstrate Sync.

Sync is not only making the task of driving more convenient, it is making driving a whole lot safer.

Whether considering downsizing to save money or just needing a new car, the 2012 Ford Focus is an absolute must for the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2012 Ford Focus

5-seat sedan or hatchback

Front-wheel drive

Trim packages:

S, SE, SEL, Titanium

PRICE RANGE:

$17,000-$24,000

ENGINE:

2.0-L I4 (160 hp/146 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed manual

6-auto with PowerShift

EPA: MPG ratings pending (Rated as a Low Emmissions Vehicle).

MADE AT: Dearborn, Mich.

FUEL: Regular unleaded

SUSPENSION:  Independent MacPherson strut with 23 mm stabilizer bar (front); control blades multilink independent with 19 mm stablizer bar (rear).

BRAKES: ABS with electronic stability program

LENGTH: 178.5/171.6 in.*

WHEELBASE: 104.3 in.

WIDTH: 71.8 inches

HEIGHT: 57.7 inches

WEIGHT: 2907-2948 lbs.

TRACK: 61.2/60.4

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 12.4 gallons

TIRES: 15-, 16-, 17-, or 18-in.

CARGO: 13.2-23.8/44.8 cubic feet (sedan - hatchback behind 2nd/1st row)

*sedan/hatchback