Among the more recent industry predictions arising from the on-going instability in gas prices is that compact cars will replace mid-size cars as a volume leader. One reason that prediction might come true is the 2012 Ford Focus. The all-new Focus is a terrific example of utilization of space and practical technology. With its wheels spread to the corners, the interior feels as roomy as some mid-size cars of less than a decade ago.

The Focus is Ford’s global C-segment car. While that term relates to “compact” here, elsewhere in the world it is the designation for the size class that is most ideal for all around family transportation. For that reason, the Focus chassis is being used by Ford for a variety of other vehicles including the new C-Max Mini-Minivan.

The 2012 Ford Focus was developed in Europe, but it will be built here in the U.S. as both a 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback. One look and you know this is an all-new car. The look is sportier than before, along the lines of the Fiesta, with a face that’s definitely “in your face.”  Sleek lines and bulging fenders give Focus an athletic stance, although it all works a lot better on the hatchback than it does on the more staid sedan. 

The interior sees even bigger improvements.  Material quality is better than most in the segment, with upscale features like MyFord Touch and digital information screens.  While we’re still not crazy about all the distracting, touch sensitive controls, our testers are getting use to MyFord Touch and all of its personalized capabilities.

An all-new 2.0-liter, direct injection 4-cylinder engine provides Focus power with a choice of either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. A Super Fuel Economy option buys a Government Highway rating of 40 MPG, with the automatic.

Handling is also vastly improved, reflecting the European design of the new Focus, with sharp, crisp steering and minimal body roll. Torque Vectoring Control reduces understeer by acting like a limited slip differential and dividing power between the front wheels.

Ford has a lot riding on the success of the 2012 Ford Focus and all of its offspring. So far it appears that the reality of the new Ford Focus is clear and sharp.

For more on the details of our time with the 2011 Ford Focus, be sure to catch MotorWeek’s in-depth Road Test on episode #3036 which begins airing on public television stations May 13, 2011. MotorWeek is broadcast on PBS television stations nationwide, and on HD Theater where high definition cable and satellite service is available.