This car is representative of the new era of automobiles, without the added quirks.
It has only been a few weeks since the reservations for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 went viral. Since then, it hasn’t just been car people asking for our advice – we’ve received countless e-mails asking about the legitimacy behind electric vehicles. Ford has been at this for a while, though this particular entry has been less than popular, disappearing into the realms of anonymity. We actually tested an example back in the winter of 2013, but it has received a mild refresh since then. I was sent a 2016 Ford Focus Electric, factory fresh with just 190km on it, for a week’s worth of testing in beautiful spring weather.
The Focus was last redesigned for the 2011 model year, and has been a world car since. Ford gave it a mid-cycle refresh for the 2015 model year (reviewed here), and we have tested various examples over the last few years. The best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) part of the Focus Electric is that it looks identical to the conventional gasoline model. There’s a regular grille up front, used for cooling, and some minor differentiators that will be overlooked by the typical bystander. The most obvious clue that this is the greenest version is the charge port located just ahead of the driver’s door.
Ford’s discrete representation of the Focus Electric’s existence is a bit ironic when compared with major competitors. The Chevrolet Volt (reviewed here) and the Nissan Leaf are nowhere near as understated as the Focus, almost bragging about their green nature. Meanwhile inside the cockpit, the Focus Electric is equally reflective of its gasoline brethren, as there are only minute differences there as well. All of the switchgear is exactly the same as the regular model, with the exception of some EV-specific instrumentation indicating green levels and such. Within the instrument cluster, there’s also a neat little display with graphics of butterflies, reminding you yet again that you’re doing your part to save the planet.
Inside though, the Focus is a very pleasant place to be. The 2016 model adds SYNC3 infotainment (reviewed here), which is a welcomed change from the dated and clunky MyFordTouch system it replaces. Quality of materials is excellent, and the overall layout is typical Ford and also very, very good. The Electric uses eco-friendly recycled materials for the interior and they all feel strong and durable. The digital instrument cluster provides plenty of customization and gives all of the necessary readings for trip computer, audio, and vehicle settings.
The most important part of any EV (except for the pricing) is the powertrain. Ford builds the Focus Electric with a 107kW electric motor, which draws its energy from a 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack, liquid-cooled. The transmission is not an electronic CVT, but a one-speed automatic transmission. Power numbers are the electric equivalent of 143 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. As with any other electric vehicle, the torque is available instantaneously at as little as zero RPM, which means straight-line pull is seriously impressive.
Considering the electric Focus weighs 300kg (660 lbs.) more than the conventional gasoline model, it feels noticeably porkier in the corners. Despite this, it still feels sharper in high-speed handling thanks to the sublime chassis that the Focus is on. Steering is electrically assisted, but basically point-and-shoot. Pushing the little hatchback around corners at higher speeds will result in plenty of understeer, and eager to light the tires up at the slightest tap of the accelerator. Regardless, this is a compelling city car, and it handles the urban commute very well. The Focus makes the typical obstacles downtown (cyclists, oblivious taxi drivers, streetcars) seem nonexistent and tackles the commute leaving the driver feeling refreshed.
Despite its sophisticated powertrain, the Ford Focus Electric can only muster a drive range of about 130 kilometers at a time. My home only has a regular 120V outlet in the garage, which takes about 17 hours to fully charge the Focus. Access to a 240V will chop this number down to 6-7 hours. It’s important to remember that this vehicle is a full EV, and does not have the option of a range extender. As such, it’s perfect for those who have short commutes or regular errands to run, with full access to a charger at home and/or the office. Toronto has a decent infrastructure of EV chargers, but this should improve even further once the Tesla Model 3 hits the market.
The pricing structure for the 2016 Ford Focus Electric starts at $31,999 for the base car. At this price the vehicle includes SYNC3 with integrated navigation, 17” alloy wheels, a rear deck-lid spoiler, reverse park assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, Sony audio with nine speakers, Our tester was painted in White Platinum, which costs an extra $550. This brings the total to just $32,549 before PDI and delivery. In Ontario, the current rebate (at the time of this writing) for this vehicle is $9,600, which brings the Focus Electric’s total cost down to just below $23,000. Considering this is for a fully loaded vehicle backed by Ford’s warranty, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the latest iteration of Ford’s green Focus. It’s representative of the new era of automobiles, without the added quirks and stigma of autonomous driving features. The 2016 Ford Focus Electric is an electric car that looks, behaves, and feels mostly like a regular car. The biggest advantage is not having to stop to refuel and not having to check fluctuating fuel prices. For me, the only downside is the intrusive dash shape of the Focus, which digs significantly into usable legroom and makes for an awkward driving position. Those who can get past that will find themselves in a fantastic little city car for an absurdly good price.