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Get ‘em while they’re hot: 2017 RS fitting end to successful Focus run

2017 Ford Focus

2017 Ford Focus

What changes will make 2017 Ford Focus different?

Expect a quiet 2017 model year as Ford gears up for a ground-up redesign of the 2018 model, along with a production shift to Mexico from Michigan. The compact four-door sedans and hatchbacks in showrooms today launched as a 2012 model and received a styling refresh for 2015. The ’17 lineup will be notable as the first full model year the ultra-high-performance RS model will be available in the U.S. (Technically, it debuted as a 2016 model.) This is the first RS to be offered globally. Read on to learn more about this very special Focus hatchback and why enthusiasts in the States have been longing for it to be sold here.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

Honestly, the only compelling reason is if you’re excited about the RS and are unable to snap up one of the limited number of ‘16s imported from Germany. Reports suggest this inaugural American-market RS will be limited to just two model years. So plan accordingly and act quickly. Otherwise, the balance of the ‘17 lineup should pretty much carry over from 2016. Hatchbacks and sedans would return in volume SE and top-line Titanium trim levels, with sedans also coming in a base S guise. The previous performance champion of the Focus lineup, the ST hatchback, should also return. The RS would continue as a hatchback only, too. Ford should also continue to offer the battery-powered Focus electric as well. All this said, if you’re truly not in a hurry to buy a new car, you might even want to sit tight until the expected 2018 redesign so you can have the latest and (hopefully) greatest version of this compact car.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if for no other reason than to avoid the inevitable price increases that come with each new model year. On top of the new RS model, the rest of the 2016 Focus lineup sees a few notable changes. The oft-maligned MyFordTouch infotainment system has been replaced with a brand-new interface called SYNC 3. It promises smoother, quicker, and more intuitive operation with fewer bugs. The available 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, part of Ford’s EcoBoost family of powertrains, is now available with a six-speed automatic transmission; previously you could only get it with a manual. The three-cylinder is surprisingly peppy in around-town driving and should be far more popular with buyers now that you don’t have to change gears yourself.

Will the styling be different?

With a redesigned model waiting in the wings, almost certainly not. Focus’ model-year 2015 update brought a restyled hood, grille, and trunk lid, along with LED head and taillights. The interior received revised materials, new seat trims, switchgear, and a larger center console. For 2017, Ford will continue to build the Focus as you see it now until the parts run out at the factory.

Any mechanical changes?

Again, don’t count on it. Standard on most models will be a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with a five-speed manual transmission on the S and SE. A six-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission that operates like a conventional automatic would return as an option for about $1,100 on those models and standard on the Titanium. For about $500, the SE can be equipped with the aforementioned 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, which produces 123 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard here as well. The automatic, similarly priced at $1,100, is a conventional unit with a torque converter, which should provide a smoother driving experience than the dual-clutch gearbox in the other models. Focus ST would return with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The Focus Electric hatchback uses a 107-kilowatt electric motor and a 23-kilowatt-hour battery paired with a single-speed transmission. The RS has a drool-worthy 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque that gets to the pavement through a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive (AWD). All other Focus models are front-wheel drive.

Will fuel economy improve?

With drivetrains carrying over from 2016, estimated fuel economy should do the same. The 2016 Ford Focus rates 26/36/30 city/highway/combined with the manual transmission, according to the EPA. Automatic models with this engine score 27/40/31. ST versions score 22/31/25. The Focus Electric earns a rating of 110/99/105 MPGe, or miles-per-gallon equivalent, and is good for 76 miles of range per charge. Fuel-economy ratings for the Focus RS were not available at time of writing. The 2.0-liter engine uses regular-grade 87-octane gasoline, with some versions capable of running E85 ethanol-blended fuel. Ford recommends premium-grade 91 octane for the ST and RS. The Electric can be charged through a standard household outlet in about 20 hours or through a dedicated charging station in less than four.

Will it have new features?

Most assuredly not. With this car entering the swan-song year of its current design, Ford is going not going to want to make many revisions. The company doesn’t break down sales by trim level, but we expect the mid-line SE sedan and hatchback to make up the bulk of units moved. They should continue to be equipped as most other compact cars in their price range, with standard power windows and locks, rearview camera, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and more. Unless your budget is extremely tight, we would avoid the S model all together due to its lack of cruise control and inability to be upgraded with other safety and convenience features. Among the options likely to continue on the SE are LED accent lighting, rear-obstacle detection, satellite radio, 17-inch wheels with “gloss black” finish, fog lamps, power sunroof, a rear spoiler, navigation system, power front seats, and even a heated steering wheel. Titanium models would include leather upholstery with heated front seats, keyless entry with pushbutton engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an uprated Sony-brand audio system. An optional Technology Package would add blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Focus Electric would include the navigation system as standard, but leather upholstery would be optional. The ST has unique styling cues and a sport suspension, but is largely similar to the SE in terms of standard and optional content. These models can be equipped with body-hugging Recaro-brand sport bucket front seats in either cloth or leather. The RS is similar but has its own unique look and an even tauter suspension. Recaro seats are standard, while a sunroof and navigation system are the only major options of note.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They will certainly go up, but probably only slightly. Sedans will likely check in around $18,500 for the S, $20,000 for the SE, and $24,500 for the Titanium. Among hatchbacks, put the SE at around $20,500, Titanium at $25,000, ST at $26,00, and the RS at $37,000. The Focus Electric will likely have a sticker price of about $30,000 before government tax credits and other incentives. Note that all our estimated prices include the mandatory destination fee, which was $900 for 2016. SE shoppers may want to pony up about $2,000 for the “201A” equipment package, which includes 17-inch wheels, ambient lighting, fog lights, an overhead storage console, leather upholstery and steering wheel, rear-obstacle detection, and more. The 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine would be about $500 on its own and $1,600 when ordered with the automatic transmission. The sunroof would be about $900 on all models, including the RS, and the navigation system about $1,000. One other thing to note is that the RS will almost certainly be in high demand but with very limited supply, which will result in dealers adding on their own markup to the sticker price. This could add a couple thousand dollars or even more to what you’d have to pay to get one.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2016 release for the 2017 Focus.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza/WRX, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf and Jetta

What change would make it better?

Frankly, anything we suggest will largely be rendered moot with the projected 2018 redesign. One of the things we’re not crazy about is the dual-clutch automatic transmission in the standard sedan and hatchback. We would prefer a conventional automatic, which is likely what will happen when the redesigned model hits showrooms. It would be nice to see blind-spot alert and lane-keep assist come to the volume SE model, too. Other than that, we’ll take a wait-and-see approach as we await the new 2018 Ford Focus.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]