The electric Ford Focus has the same handsome appearance as the gas-powered version of the car, which received refreshed styling in 2015. For 2016, little about the Focus Electric has changed, absent a few new color options and added standard features. Auto critics have nearly unanimously rated the Focus as one of the most refined and best looking small cars on the road.
Unlike some competing electric car models, when you sit in the low-slung comfortable seats of the battery-powered Focus, you feel completely normal. From the outside, and inside the cabin, there are no EV motifs, sci-fi start-up sounds, Prius-like shifter knobs or special Eco modes. The driver chooses among standard gear selections: park, reverse, neutral, drive and low.
A small “Electric” badge is the only indication that this vehicle doesn't have a gasoline engine on board, but is purely powered by an electric motor. You will also see a charge port, with a circle of lights that illuminate when the car is plugged in. (It's a great feature: showing charging progress at a glance from a distance by lighting up successive sections of what serves as glowing state-of-charge pie chart.)
Standard features on the 2016 Ford Focus Electric now include Xenon headlights and LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rear view camera, push-button start, and a perimeter alarm system. Also standard is a nine-speaker Sony stereo system, satellite HD radio, navigation and the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which allows you to connect your smartphone via USB or Bluetooth and control it using voice commands, as well as add WiFi connectivity.
All electric cars earn points for high torque at zero rpm. In our week with the Focus Electric, the powertrain felt as if it had been configured for highway driving, offering rapid bursts of acceleration from 30 to 50 mph, and from 55 to 75, with oomph left in reserve. The Focus employs a 107-kilowatt (143 horsepower) motor, compared to the LEAF’s 80-kilowatt (107 horsepower) motor. Top speed for the Focus electric is governed to 84 mph.
Ford engineers managed to deliver its wallop of power while keeping the cabin extremely quiet by using extra insulation and sound damping. The single-speed transmission produces direct linear velocity. In city driving, the Focus is well planted, and controlled by taut steering. With its 650-pound battery pack, the car is relatively heavy, at 3,642 pounds. Engineers compensated by adjusting springs and shocks to handle the extra weight in the rear. The car feels substantial.
In April 2016, Kevin Layden, Ford's director of electrification programs and engineering, said the 2017 Ford Focus Electric will provide 100 miles of range—a big jump from the outgoing model’s 76 miles. Layden, speaking at the SAE World Congress, said that the relatively minor increase to 100 miles would allow the company to maintain a modest cost and weight to its electric cars. “The Focus Electric at 100 miles is going to satisfy a big chunk of the population," said Layden. "It's going to be really affordable and a step up from where we are now."
The Focus Electric uses a 6.6-kilowatt on board charger capable of adding about 20 to 25 miles of driving range in an hour, when pulling 240 volts. Essentially, this is the state-of-the art in terms of charging speed, and most drivers will find this rate quite adequate (especially considering that the vast majority of charging takes place overnight).
In terms of higher speed Quick Charging, Ford executives were among the leaders of the development of the SAE combo cord protocol. This move was somewhat controversial, but if given the benefit of the doubt, Ford and other American and German automakers were intending to improve upon the CHAdeMO quick-charge standard used by Japanese automakers.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the Focus Electric, it's a moot point. The 2016 Focus Electric does not offer any type of QC port. For the 2017 edition, Ford says it will add optional quick-charging that can bring the battery from empty to about 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. The lack of a QC port in the 2016 Focus, in our estimation, is not a deal killer. In real world driving, it is seldom used except by those making frequent long-distance commutes.
The five-seat 2016 Ford Focus Electric is well regarded for its nicely designed interior—with materials of a higher quality than found in many affordable small cars. The EV's front seats—which come heated as a standard feature—are comfortable, with decent head- and legroom. Leather upholstery is optional. Seating in the back is adequate, although not as spacious as some of its competitors.
The big drawback with the Ford Focus Electric is the cargo space, or lack thereof. By converting an existing model to an electric car, rather then building an EV from the ground up, Ford had to get creative with the packaging of batteries, using spaces originally designed for the gas-powered version of the car. As a result, some of the batteries are placed where the regular Focus’s gas tank would be, but the main battery pack is under the liftgate, reducing hatch cargo space by 39 percent, to just 14.5 cubic feet. Don’t expect to fit more than few bags of groceries.
The Focus Electric performed well in safety and crash tests from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That means “Good” and “5-star” ratings—the highest possible scores—across the board except for Small Overlap Front test, which is a relatively new measure. Carmakers have thus far struggled to achieve top marks in this test, but the Focus’s “Acceptable” rating means it still earns the IHA’s “Top Safety Pick” designation.
Safety features on the vehicle include the full array of airbags, as well as 4-wheel ABS, 4-wheel disc brakes, brake assist, electronic stability control, integrated turn signal mirrors, and traction control.
The MSRP starting price for the 2016 Ford Focus Electric is $29,170, before federal and state incentives are considered. (Destination fee is $825.) For 2015, Ford announced that the Focus Electric's base price would be reduced by $6,000, placing it squarely in the price range of its closest competitor, the Nissan LEAF, which retails for $29,010.
These offers make the Focus Electric an enticing proposition: a net purchase price after incentives of less than $22,000; or a monthly lease of about $200 per month. Better lease exist depending on your timing and location. As the 2017 model draws closer, expect the value proposition for buying or leasing a 2016 to significantly improve.
Comparisons of Similar Cars
There are now dozens of plug-in electric vehicles already available or soon to hit the market in the US, but only two of them neatly compare with the Ford Focus Electric in terms of price, capability, and positioning as an all-electric small sedan: the Nissan LEAF and the VW E-Golf.
(We excluded the set of smaller more compact EVs, like the Chevrolet Spark Electric and the Mitsubishi i-MIEV—and a couple of luxury-brand electric cars, with higher price tags, have also emerged from BMW and Mercedes.)
The E-Golf debuted last year, and like the Focus Electric, it’s considered a low-run compliance car produced mostly in an effort to satisfy regulators in states like California and Oregon. However, the e-Golf is now available in all 50 states and has been surprisingly popular of late. Volkswagen cut the E-Golf’s price to $29,815 for the 2016 model, so the vehicles are pretty neck and neck from a cost standpoint.
On the surface, the biggest difference between the LEAF and battery-powered Focus is outward design. The Focus has a sleek European small car appeal, while the LEAF gives off a high-tech vibe. In terms of looks, our top preference is the VW E-Golf.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, the LEAF also gives you the option of a bigger battery that nets 107 miles of range, and quick-charging capability. Neither are available in the 2016 Focus Electric, but Ford says the 2017 edition will have both quick-charge and, coincidentally enough, 107 miles of range.
Another important distinction is the enthusiasm of Nissan Motors for electric cars, whereas Ford seems barely interested. Nissan sells its electric car throughout the United States, while Ford dealerships are sparse, less trained, and according to multiple reports, not eager to sell or support the Focus Electric. Nissan is far more invested in the success of its EV than Ford, and this shows from beginning of the purchase process.
According to company press releases, more than 900 Ford dealers have been certified to sell electric cars. But we've heard stories about sales staff having no information about the vehicle—and in fact, discouraging people from buying one. In Los Angeles—a red hot hotspot for EV adoption—one shopper told us that he couldn’t get any information from the dealership about buying a Ford Focus Electric, despite making it crystal clear that he was a customer with cash in hand and ready to buy.
The official 19 markets for the Focus Electric are: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tucson and Washington, D.C.
Click on links for searching local inventory or requesting a price quote, on Ford's webpage dedicated to the Focus Electric: