With higher fuel prices and a marketing shift looming in the U.S. market, Ford decided to overhaul its entry-level Focus, in 2008. Among other things, it got a new exterior design, new interior layout, and a new relationship with Microsoft in the form of the Sync driver information/technology system. Unfortunately, the station wagon and hatchback versions were deep-sixed and it became available as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe only.
Power was still supplied by Ford’s tried-and-true 2.0 litre Duratec four cylinder that came in two levels of tune: 140-horsepower, and, in the U.S., a cleaner-running, cleaner-emission PZEV (Partial Zero emissions Vehicle) variant that developed about ten less horsepower. There were two transmissions: five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The five-speed manual/140 horsepower engine featured decent get up and go, an accessible price tag, and, on the highway, competitive fuel consumption. Ford also tweaked the suspension and chassis of this iteration of the Focus, with MacPherson struts up front, a rear multi-link set-up, and re-calibrated spring rates and new suspension bushings. This gave it handling at least as good as many of its competitors, and better than some. Brakes were front disc/rear drum and buyers could choose from 15 or 16-inch wheels and tires.
Other highlights were redesigned interior controls, redesigned lighting, and optional ambient lighting that allowed you to change the colour of the courtesy lights and cupholder. Standard equipment included air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seat, front and side curtain airbags, manual door locks, manual window winders, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The coupe version also came with a tire inflation kit, which included a battery-powered airpump and was meant to replace the mini-spare tire. This was utilized to save space, and the sedan retained the traditional mini-spare and jack/tire iron arrangement.
One note here. Microsoft contributed substantially to the interior ambience and ergonomics of this generation of the Focus, and buyers could order the then-new Sync system, which was - and is - a hands-free interface between the driver and his/her mobile phone, with vocal access to the car’s digital music player, and the entertainment system. Bluetooth-based, Sync is compatible with iPod, and most other digital players. Ford and Microsoft were also quick to point out that Sync was not connected to any of the car’s other computer systems. Already in place in some Lincoln models, Sync was an attempt by Ford to reach out to younger and more tech-savvy buyers.
Just one recall from Transport Canada to report, and it’s airbag-related. Apparently, some of the earlier production models had front bags that could malfunction and not activate in the event of a crash. Transport Canada does point out that all of the cars affected were in Ford’s inventory at the time of the recall and hadn’t made their way to dealer’s showrooms at this point. The U.S.-based National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration also has this recall, plus a minor one for aftermarket headlights supplied by the K2 Motor Corporation, but the number of vehicles affected is small.
Eleven technical service bulletins are also on file with NHTSA and they run from front-end alignment issues, to prematurely wearing front tires, to noisy/leaking power steering pumps, to minor transmission glitches, to an inadequate defroster. For what it’s worth, many of these bulletins concern early production models.
Consumer Reports has a better than average mark for the 2008 Focus, with top marks in most categories and no real problem areas. Says C.R. of the ’08 Focus: “The ride is firm yet supple but the car is still noisy and interior quality is lackluster.” Some owners comments: “Fit and finish not up to Japanese cars”, “Sync is not user friendly” and “small cupholders”. Surprisingly good handling and better than expected fuel economy are common praises, as are complaints about the lack of back seat head/elbow room.
Marketing researcher, J.D. Power gives this genereation of the Focus an average rating for predicted reliability. Aside from powertrain quality and interior quality design, there are no real issues here, but no standouts, either.
From a base price of just under $16,000 new, a three-year-old Focus seems to be going for anywhere from $9500 for the base Coupe, to $12,000-and-change for a loaded SES. The Coupe model is slightly less expensive than the sedan. By way of comparison, a bare-bones, 2011 Focus sedan starts at less than $14,000.
2008 Ford Focus
Original base Price: $15,999; Black Book: $9600 - $12,375; Red Book: $10,000 - $11,300
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp@ 6000 rpm/ 136 foot-pounds @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual/four-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 8.5 city / 5.7 hwy, regular gas (Manual trans.)
Alternatives: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Kia Spectra, Nissan Sentra