Single Speed Automatic
by Roger Biermann
Every brand has an EV under their umbrella these days. But whereas BMW built an electric car from scratch in the i3, and Chevrolet in the Bolt, Ford is one of the many manufacturers who saw fit to convert an existing gasoline-powered model into an electrically-propelled one. The Ford Focus Electric looks like a Focus, but doesn't sound like a Focus – it's heavier than one too. So if it looks like a Focus, but doesn't sound like or drink fuel like a Focus, can it still possess the enjoyable qualities of the combustion model's driver focused package?
The interior of the Focus Electric is bang on identical as its combustion-powered sibling. That means inside you'll get the familiar SYNC 3 infotainment system with its 8-inch touch screen, along with dual zone climate control to keep things comfortable. You'll be able to seat 5 in the Focus Electric, though legroom may be a bit cramped for taller passengers and require front occupants to relinquish some of their own leg room.
But the one major concession, and the one that belies the Focus Electric's origins as a combustion-powered vehicle, is the trunk space. Where rivals like the Nissan Leaf have a regular cargo hold with a sunken floor and built-in battery, Ford's 35kWh lithium-ion battery sits in the trunk and eats up 9.1 cubic feet to drop the overall figure to 14.2 cu ft. That's still more than the combustion sedan offers though, it just arrives in hatch format here.
Once a Focus, always a Focus, right? Except the Focus Electric actually has some benefits over and above the regular Focus when it comes to ride quality; the added 700 lbs from the battery significantly improves the ride quality. It wasn't bad before, but the weight settles the ride and makes it feel more composed. Of course the weight penalty does have a negative influence on the handling – one of the combustion Focus's strongest points, and it doesn't quite engage the same through quick changes of direction or under hard cornering. The regenerative braking is impressive too, doing its thing without really alerting the driver as to what it's doing. To that end, for what the average EV commuter will do with it, the Focus Electric offers an exemplary ride and handling, trading in driver focus for composure and a natural feel.
For 2017, the Focus Electric got a bump in battery capacity to 35kWh. The battery pairs with an electric motor good for 143 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Driven wheels are the front pair, through a single-speed transmission. As for range, the EPA figure is 115 miles from the new battery, equating to a 118 MPGe figure for city driving. 2017 also saw a DC fast-charging feature added to the mix that can give you 75 miles range in just 30 minutes. Standard 120-volt charging takes 30 hours for a full charge, and 240V charging takes 5.5 hours.
The Focus Electric doesn't really have much left to option. The SYNC 3 infotainment and climate control is standard, as are heated seats. For a fee, you can have the cloth upholstery upgraded to leather, and power seat adjustment is also available. Other than that, it's all standard. As for safety, there are rear park distance sensors, a rear view camera, stability control, and ABS brakes. The Focus scored 5 stars out of 5 in NHTSA crash testing, and achieved best possible Good ratings from the IIHS.
The extended range for the 2017 Focus Electric is welcome, but it still falls well shy of the Chevrolet Bolt's 200 mile range. The compromise of less trunk space is also pesky. However, the Focus Electric offers a decent driving experience that feels as normal as a regular Focus does.