What the Smurf is THAT? Review of 2014 Ford Focus SE Manual
While I am blessed to have so many vehicles, it became a reoccurring theme that none of my cars were capable of being a “daily driver.” I set out to rectify this situation by finding a budget-minded, fun, daily driver, that I would not tire of.
I tested so many freaking cars! Old cars, new cars, small cars, big cars, luxury cars, econo-boxes, and more! Finally, I decided on a well-rounded car, that would be fun to drive, get decent gas mileage, and be easy to care for.
- 2014 Ford Focus SE
- 2.0L direct injected 4 cylinder – 160 HP / 146 TQ
- 5-speed MT75 MANUAL transmission
- Candy Blue Metallic paint
- 17 inch nickel alloy Ford wheels
- SYNC, leather, SE Appearance Package with Handling Option
- TOTAL cost under $21K
Why I Love My Focus Smurf + Review
This car is very fun to drive, especially with the manual! It has the spirit of an early ’90’s Civic, albeit with far more refinement. The “new” Focus began with the 2012 Model Year.
It’s an extremely well thought out design, which also serves chassis duty for the Escape. Ford marketing “focused” on their World market share, and ponied up the development dollars for the platform design, and it has paid off. The direct injected, VVT, VCT, 160 HP engine gets the job done for daily duties. The car feels nimble, and weighs in around 2,950 pounds.
The gearbox is fantastic! The shifter has a delicate, yet decisive touch. The throwing action is crisp and responsive. It’s easy to see why the Focus is so popular in Europe. The manual Focus is a drivers’ car for its segment. I was able to double-clutch immediately, which is something I enjoy and have been working on. The car cannot be heel-toed as is, by me, but a Sparco pedal adapter fixed that.
The Cooper XEON RS3-A tires were an excellent choice by Ford. Would I prefer a softer tire? Yes! However I can’t argue with 33.8 MPG on a recent, week long, trip!
In appearance, the “Candy Blue” paint subtly changes with the light. It’s very cool, and I love the vibrancy. I’ve begun to notice more Focus Smurfs on the road. Maybe it’s a trend.
The car drives balanced and well. Its fully independent suspension feels planted, and is always happy to turn. I was surprised by how little understeer there is, when compared to testing the “new” Civic, Jetta, GTI, Mazda 3, etc.
That’s not to say there is “no” understeer, because there is; however, it’s easy to work with. The steering is electric, like almost all cars now. While it does lack the feel of a hydraulic system, steering is “connected” and natural, except at low speeds when the “variable assist” can feel artificial.
The steering wheel is an ideal size, with most buttons easy to reach. It also tilts and telescopes, something many cars still lack. Overall, I am very happy with my sexy blue Smurf.
Thoughts As An Owner
I have now owned Smurfette for a while, and have driven her across the East Coast. I have zero regrets in buying her over other cars I considered, like a Honda Civic Si, the Focus ST, a VW GTI or Jetta TDI.
Granted, I am blessed to own several cars, four of which range from quick to obscenely fast. If I was picking one car for a daily driver, it would probably be the 2015+ Subaru WRX. It’s a bit over-priced, but it is the best enthusiast’s car for the money, and it’s reliable in the worst weather.
I have a 4X4 F-150 that eats snow, and my STi on Winter tires is a beast. Yet, I LOVE driving my Focus.
A compact, “normal,” car should be bland and lifeless right? Apparently not, because I’ve driven Smurfette on a gravel road near Smokey Mountain National Park, and it was some of the most fun driving I’ve ever had on public roads!
My stint at “The FIRM” rally school paid huge dividends on the road I’ve baptized, the “Best F*&king Racer’s Road – Mid-South Division.” Sounds too dramatic, but this road snakes through a mostly downhill, narrow, passage created by the creek that runs along the driver’s left throughout its 15 MPH speed limit.
It leaves little margin for error, with its relentless onslaught of twists, predominantly blind turns, and generous amounts of camber provided by the heavenly road engineers. Engineers that MUST have been driving enthusiasts.
The road begins on tarmac, and quickly changes to loose dirt and gravel, which is freaking awesome. I was able to drive Smurfette confidently, in a “spirited manner,” with my wife riding shotgun. The memory is great. It’s a must for any racer or driving enthusiast.
The car is great, and the manual is must, in my opinion. Formerly boring cars are changing. At least for Ford.