01 October 2010

Ford says 40 mpg Focus Coming in 2011

USA Today

Ford Motor, masterful at milking its models for multiple media mentions, rolled out the whole line of next-generation, 2012 Focus compacts -- not just the hot-rod ST it had hyped and that we told you about in this earlier Drive On post -- at the Paris auto show Wednesday.

Of particular interest: A U.S. version that's supposed to get a 40 mpg highway rating. Sounds good, but is 40 mpg highway so high, really?

Hyundai Sonata, a bigger car, is rated a commendable 35 mpg on the highway. Volkswagen Golf and Jetta diesels are rated 42 mpg highway -- no need to wait if 40's your bogey.

The fuel-efficiency version of the Focus will come with an automatic transmission. Ford doesn't specify, but if it's the so-called DSG manu-matic, we'll need some convincing. That gearbox in the smaller Fiesta was unpleasant to drive, as we detailed in this Test Drive column.

Manu-matics are actual manual transmissions, equipped with clutches, but no clutch pedals. The transmission does the shifting; you don't. The solid connection between engine and transmission provided by a true manual gives better fuel economy than does the fluid coupling of a conventional automatic. But without the fluid-filled torque converter of a typical automatic, a manu-matic car can be a slug off the line.

Automatics are so sophisticated nowadays that they can get better mileage than manuals -- regardless of the the slippage in their torque converters -- if the vehicle-control computer babysits their shift patterns. No yee-hah revving or slam-bam passing gear downshifts.

Apply that same nanny-ish computer control to a manu-matic, and the fuel economy number gets even better, which is why Ford likes that gearbox.

U.S. cars all get a new-design, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine with twin variable-timing overhead camshafts and direct injection. Big words that should mean bigger power than you'd otherwise get from an engine that size. But Ford gives no power ratings.

U..S.-market, 2012 Focuses (Focii?) go into production late this year in Michigan and should be in showrooms early next year. The high-performance ST is due in 2012. Pricing and features won't be specified until next month, Ford says. (What did we say about Ford being able to milk its model rollouts?)

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