New Focus offers Euro driving fun
I hear it all the time, drivers moaning that compact sedans these days are nothing more than dull appliances – Whirlpools on wheels, or four-door Frigidaires. I admit there are one or two models – no names mentioned – that I have lost in a parking lot. Especially if they've been painted a bleak shade of fridge-freezer white. But all that is changing. Take the latest 2012 Ford Focus I've been driving. This thing is bolder than Lady Gaga in Saran Wrap, more fun to drive than a turbocharged Zamboni. Unlike previous-generation Foci, which offered all the visual excitement of a week-old cheese sandwich, this latest European-designed version really jumps out from the crowd.My favorite is the five-door hatchback version with its ski-slope rear and funky-looking tail-lamps, though the four-door sedan will still rotate heads outside Starbucks. But it's the way this new Focus drives that makes it so salivatingly appealing. Imagine a four-door Mazda Miata and you'll get the picture. Power comes from a spunky 2.0-liter direct-injection four-banger cranking out 160 horsepower coupled to either a five-speed stick or six-speed automatic. Want your full quota of Focus fun? Then go for the five-speed that shifts gears as easily as a hot knife slicing through a stick of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Add to these the surgically precise electric-assist steering and the sporty Euro-tuned suspension and the result is the best-driving compact sedan in its class. I loved every second I drove it. Did I mention that it'll average 36 to the gallon on the highway? Inside, there's space for five adults in a cabin that's high on quality and cool on design. Take your pick from no fewer than seven new Focus models, starting with the S Sedan at $16,995 and topping out with the lavishly-equipped 5-door Titanium at $23,490. My favorite? The $18,790 5-door SE. An appliance? Never. Tampa-based autowriter Howard Walker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.