- Weighted Voronoi Stippling
- Painterly Rendering
- mustache.js improved
- Entropy Solitaire
- Tone Preservation with Ice Crystal Growth
In the month of June 2011, I purchased a 2012 Ford Focus to replace an ailing 1999 Pontiac Grand AM. There is no accounting for taste, but my two primary motivations in the purchase were gas mileage and somewhat sporty aesthetics. I had placed a $25,000 budget for the purchase of a car, and after some back and forth, the car that best fit my requirements was a 2012 Ford Focus SEL. Cars become money sinks in the long term, so it is incredibly difficult to say if the initial test drives and reviews are any indication of the longer term quality and enjoyment factor of a product. The areas that I will focus my review on will be gas mileage to see if it meets the guidance numbers of the dealer sticker and what I will dub my “enjoyment factor” with the car. Examples of things that might adversely affect my enjoyment of the vehicle are a crashing infotainment system, rockier than expected rides, unforseen maintenance requirements, etc.
The car is a Sterling Grey 2012 Ford Focus SEL sedan with automatic transmission, auto-dimming rear view mirror, heated cloth seats, reverse sensing system, rain sensing wipers, and dealer installed window tinting. Basically, I picked the baseline SEL model, added “Rapid Spec 302A”, and said “yes” when the dealer offered tinting. The car comes with a standard 3 year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty and 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty. I boosted the warranty to 5 year/120,000 km bumper to bumper based on the idea that since it is an “All-New” model, it will have more problems than a refresh model. This moved me slightly past my $25,000 target, and the acturials at Ford say they came out ahead in this transaction, but it gives me a bit of peace of mind and apparently you cannot put a price on that.
|Advertised Mileage (Highway):||5.3 L/100 km|
|Advertised Mileage (City):||7.5 L/100 km|
|Factory Scheduled Maintainence:||Every 6 months or 8000 km, whichever comes first.|
Build and material quality for the car (both inside and out) seems to be pretty high (although, the only other new car I can compare it to is a 2011 Nissan Altima 2.5 SE, so take this for what it is worth). Everything feels solid and the seaming done on the upholstery looks to be very good. The carpetting plate used on the trunk floor to hide the spare tire does seem a little flimsy but I guess since it is not going to be removed too often that is a small point. There was a bit of extra material jutting out from the passenger side ceiling join, but that was easily removed with a pair of cutile scissors and now looks very good. The running boards also seem a little flimsy, which makes it harder to bang your shoes clean before getting in the car in the winter, but not too big a deal I guess. Overall, the upholstery and everything on the car feel solid enough. If any problems pop up I will make a note, but I suspect nothing will happen until later in the car’s life.
By far the feature I second guessed myself the most on after my initial purchase agreement was the dealer window tinting at $300. I really thought I had gotten suckered in by a seasoned salesman, but I am really happy with this addition to the car. My eyes are freakishly sensitive to light so not having to wear my sunglasses as often definitely makes driving more of a pleasure. The car still gets hot in the company parking lot and I still have to wear my sunglasses (conveniently located right above the rear view mirror) when the sun is out full tilt, but tinting was definitely worth the price for me. A more savvy buyer would have checked out the aftermarket tinting prices before saying yes at $300, but that is a life lesson I will apply to my next purchase.
The turn signal indicator levers on this car are annoying in two significant ways. The lever resets too easily when the steering wheel is re-centering. The slightest turn in the direction counter to the indicated turn direction and the lever resets. This is annoying when you need to adjust your vector which for me at least is (apparently) quite frequent. The lever is also too sensitive and triggers as soon it is even slightly nudged either up or down. The signal then turns off automatically after three seconds. According to the manual, this is a feature for changing lanes quickly, but I find it to be nothing but annoying second-guessing on the car’s part and wish that I could turn it off somehow.
Not much to talk about here. The car has excellent visibility, especially with the added corner concave side mirrors. There are probably cars with better visibility, but I have absolutely no complaints in this department.
As mentioned initially, I opted for the auto-dimming rear view mirror when I bought the car because I have crazy amounts of sensitivity to light. Let me preface this section by saying that I have no frame of reference for more modern rear view mirrors. All of the cars I had driven prior to the Focus included a bog-standard prismatic mirror with manual dimming. Even when put into dimming mode, these prismatic mirrors reflected a fair chunk of glare from headlights when the angles between the two cars was right, so they were sub-optimal. The rear view mirror on the Focus is an electrochromatic dimming mirror which is light years ahead of the prismatic ones I have used in the past. The amount of glare that is reflected in is basically zero now, which makes night time driving incredibly comfortable for me. Again, I do not know if every car has this feature these days or if more modern prismatic mirrors work better, but this feature is going into my list of must-haves for future car purchases.
Cruise Control is a feature that I absolutely love on cars and make fairly heavy use of, so it is important for me to have an accessible cruise control system on a car. Having said that, although the cruise system on the Focus works almost as expected, it is quite a ways from being perfect. All of the standard controls are there (set cruise speed, resume and cancel, and raise and lower speed) in a 3 way rocker + flap at the 7 o’clock position on the steering wheel, which is where the problems start. The 7 o’clock position is out of reach when holding the wheel at 10 and 2 or 9 and 3 which makes every adjustment to the cruising speed a chore by requiring you to lift your hands off the wheel. The 9 o’clock position makes more sense for a feature that is presumably used more often the the driver’s HUD controls which currently occupy that position. An oddity is that set cruise speed is always treated as raise or lower speed even if the system has not been activated yet. This means that you get up to a speed that you want to cruise at, press the rocker, and your speed is now increased by one mile an hour (even in the Canadian version of the car, the system uses miles as the underlying unit of measurement). A small complaint to be sure, but for us OCD types, it is just plain annoying. In addition, the system needs to be turned on after every time the car is started. Why the system is not always on standby is beyond me. Requiring that extra first step is just asinine. Overall, although the actual cruise control works very well, the controls for the system are out of place and more complex than they really need to be, which is a disappointing result especially when the 12 year old car you used to drive does better in the category of refined user interface.
Reader Vincent made the argument over e-mail that driving schools are treating 7 and 5 as the preferred rest positions of the hands these days (attempting to verify Vincent’s claim is walking into an on-line flamewar that knows few equals). If it is indeed the case, then the positioning of the cruise control flaps and buttons makes perfect sense. I tried experimenting with my hands at 7 and 5 for a little while and there is definitely weight to this argument and it is certainly the best explanation that I have heard for why the controls are positioned where they are.
I have had the opportunity to pack the Focus with 4 and 5 people on multiple occasions. The passengers were all of relatively standard height (min 5'2", max 6'2"). Whilst 5 made for uncomfortable extended rides, 4 was quite comfortable and spacious. The rear leg room was adequete if not great, but the passengers stated that they were quite comfortable with 4 riders. With 5, the passengers were cramped. Overall, this was a better result than I expected after reading about the lack of leg room in the professional reviews.
Now that I have driven the car a bit more, I have a better handle on the performance characteristics of the car in terms of acceleration. From low speeds to highway common speed (i.e. 40 km/h to 105 km/h) is a little sluggish and feels a bit underpowered as the car shifts through all of the gears. However, accelerating for overtakes (i.e. 80 km/h to 120-130 km/h) on the open road feels fantastically powerful and shows that the car definitely has some pep if necessary. To be honest, I was expecting a sluggish result on both of these acceleration curves and the overtake performance is a pleasant surprise to me and definitely makes driving a little more fun.
The sound system on this car borders on dysmal in terms of quality. The main complaint that I have with the system is that it has been tuned for loudness more than dynamic range. Although the volume controls on the car go all the way up to 30, anything past 8 is deafeningly loud for the inputs that I have tried (radio, MP3, Phone Calls, and Bluetooth Audio passthrough). At a setting of 4, most of the songs in my collection are of good volume, and 8 is only rarely required for the quietest tracks. Therefore, the range is realistically restricted to four steps as opposed to the theoretical 30 which means that I have to constantly shift the volume based on the tracks playing.
If the volume was the only complaint maybe things would not be so bad, but the interface for the Sync USB Media player is basically useless. The navigation system to find a artist/band/song only ever shows one row in the visible list even though the LCD screen can comfortably contain 4-5, so finding a particular item using the buttons on the center console is a major chore. The font on the LCD is just simply too large. Ford could have put a fair bit more information in the center LCD by choosing their layout and font sizes better. Luckily the voice activated selection method is proving to be very accurate with only a few comically bad interpretations of my input. The combination of bad button based UI and good voice activated UI means that the passengers cannot be easily placed “in charge” of music choice.
To add insult to injury, the system is just plain buggy. Crazy bugs such as intermittently picking a random input source when turning on the car, or forgetting which track was playing last when turning on the car, or just plain forgetting that there is a USB input source, makes a finicky system just plain atrocious. The whole audio system is just a failure, plain and simple. This is one of those situations where a company can learn big lessons from Apple in terms of UI design and refinement.
When you put the transmission for the car into “S”, the car allows you to select gears manually. If you are even remotely interested in manual gear switching you should just go through the month long trouble of learning to drive stick because the manual mode is more novelty than anything (this is actually how I feel about all of the new “tiptronic” systems). The system is only really useful for limiting the transmission to the first or second gear such as for winter driving, ascents, or descents.
Sport Mode also changes the overall performance characteristics of the car to be more “sporty” (who saw that coming?). It truly makes the car more fun to drive by unleashing more of the engine’s power. I chaulk this up to an engineering feat since my knowledge on the matter is very limited, but basically the transmission keeps individual gears longer, so you end up getting more revs in a lot of acceleration situations. There are also times where the car down shifts to maintain a particular speed and responsiveness profile. Again, very hard for me to explain, but definitely fun to play with, especially when merging onto highways and gaining common speed as fast as possible. I suspect the sports mode eats more gas, but I’ve only used it on overtakes, dead starts, and onramp merges, so I cannot know for sure. Basically, it feels as if this feature was aimed at young males to help them feel like they own a sportier car than they really do. And in that regard, Ford has hit their target square on :P
The gas mileage for the car in the first 1200 km was a little disappointing. Now with a fair bit more mileage on the chassis, the mileage has stabilized towards 6.2 L/100 km, and that is fantastic in my opinion. The car basically performs exactly as advertised on the dealer sticker. Long stretches of highways right after a top up of the gas tank show the average mileage to be flirting with 5.4 L/100 km (0.1 above the dealer sticker), and pure city driving pushes the number to around 8.0 L/100 km (0.5 above the dealer sticker). Overall, I am very happy with the mileage. Getting roughly 700 km per 40 L gas tank is an awesome feeling. Below is the mileage chart for the car. Mileage numbers are bracketed. The current overall average mileage is 6.7 L/100 km.
Last year I made the mistake of driving home during a winter snow storm without winter tires. I got home safe, but the car was always slipping around and thinking back, I realize that it was probably one of the stupider things I have done. A hotel room for the night near work would have been a much smarter decision.
This year, I decided to equip my car with winter tires even though traction control system technology has progressed so much over the years. We have not had much of a winter this year in Ontario, but the few snow falls we have had should serve as a good proxy for the overall winter driving experience. The short of it is, the combination of winter tires plus a cutting edge traction control system (compared to the Pontiac I used to drive) makes for very safe winter driving. I have tried very hard to make this car slip whilst still maintaining some semblance of sane driving habits in parking lots and idle neighbourhoods, and it has proven to be more difficult than it is worth. Immediately after the slightest slip, the car magically makes the adjustments to the drivetrain differential, RPM, and ABS systems to compensate. A nice touch is that there is no aurual notification when the traction system is compensating for the slide, just a little flashing indicator in the instrumentation panel. Almost as if the car is saying “relax, I got it under control”. I am quite amazed by the technology (makes me interested to know how much better things could be with All Wheel Drive). Incredibly happy with the combination of the winter tires and the traction control system.
There are a couple of small things that I would change about the 2012 Ford Focus. The first is that I would add the instantanious gas usage as an instrumentation parameter that is displayed by the driver’s information panel. The second is that I would replace the classic hinge system in the trunk with a more modern space saving hydraulic one. The classic hinge is rather disappointing on such a modern car.
This is a list of oddities that I have observed with the car that have only happened a handful of times.
So there I was driving back from work one day, when the engine just cut off and the car started decelarating on the highway. I parked the car on the shoulder, but all attempts at coaxing it to start up proved to be in vain and a tow to the dealer was required. Upon inspection it turned out that the car had run out of gas, which was a surprising event since the fuel gauge still claimed a quarter tank of gas and the instrumentation panel claimed a 100+ kilometers of estimated remaining fuel. The mechanic said that the fuel pump needed to be replaced and a couple days later the car had a new fuel pump. The gauge seems to be working correctly now, but was this a one time issue, or a sign of the overall build quality?
My Focus was affected by Ford Recall 12S29. The dealer called me up, scheduled an appointment, fixed the problem in about an hour, and I was on my way. According to the circular that Ford mailed me, “A seal plug on the passenger side windshield wiper motor electrical connector may be missing, allowing water into the electrical connection of the motor and potentially resulting in an inoperative wiper motor”.
Ford mailed an information circular stating that “You may experience rough or jerky automatic transmission shifts. In addition, the vehicle may experience roll back when the driver is transitioning from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal while on a slight incline. Ford has developed calibration improvements to the Powertrain Control Module, Transmission Control Module, and the Anti-Lock Brake module to address these concerns”. My Ford is affected by all of these issues and I will probably get them to perform the update during my next scheduled maintenance.
Around the 33 000 km mark, my Focus started shuddering when transitioning from the second to the third gear. I did not think too much of it initially, but it got progressively worse over time. During my regular maintenance appointment, I brought up the issue and the “tranny expert” at the mechanic agreed that the shuddering was not supposed to happen and Ford opted to replace the clutch system under warranty. After the replacement, the car runs buttery smooth and even the slight rockiness at the first and second gears has gone away. A little worrisome that the clutch wore out so quickly, but it may have had something to do with the Powertrain update and the shuddering other users were experiencing when they initially bought the car.
Overall, I am very happy with my 2012 Focus. If it was not for the terrible implementation of the infotainment system and the minor technical issues it has exhibited so far, I would say that it is the perfect car. As it stands though, it is merely an excellent car with seemingly solid construction, sporty drive and ascthetics, excellent gas mileage, and very good technology implementation in everything minus the infotainment system. The other negatives highlighted in this review are somewhat easy to overlook when compared to the overwhelming positives of the car. I keep harping about the infotainment system, but it is hard to overlook something so highly touted by Ford. By definition the system works, and sometimes it even “Just Works”, but most of the time it falls flat on its face. Having said that, the problems I have encountered all seem to stem from software and may end up being fixed at some point (although I will not hold my breath). One year in, and I have absolutely no regrets with this purchase. Well worth the money in my opinion. I may regret the purchase in future years if the car starts falling apart faster than it should, but who knows what the future holds.
Do you want me to focus (ha!) on anything specific as this review unfolds? If so, please e-mail me at sahab DOT yazdani AT saliences DOT com.