Ford Focus Sedan & Hatch & Electric 3rd Generation (Mk3) 2012-2018 Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used Focus Mk3

Read in this article:

3rd Generation Ford Focus & Focus Electric: What Owners Say

  • The Focus' ride and handling are outstanding, offering the best of both worlds
  • Owners love the technology and features on offer, but you have to shop around carefully for a car with the right options fitted, in which case you can land a great spec
  • The interior is comfortable and very well built
  • Owners are unanimous in their dislike for the hesitant, overheating, shudder-prone, and unreliable PowerShift automatic transmission
  • Interior space and cargo capacity are by no means class-leading
  • Besides the ST (which we review separately), buyers have no decent performance option and the default 2.0-liter engine is adequate rather than exciting

Ford Focus Sedan Third Generation Facelift

The third-generation Ford Focus sedan and hatch received a comprehensive facelift for the 2015 model year and looks very different, compared to the old model.

2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Front Changes

The entire front bumper1 and grille are new2, with the big lower three-slot grille with its triangular outer sections and round foglight alongside disappearing in favor of a far smaller lower air intake, with rectangular foglights set into small outer vents3. The upper grille is now a much larger Aston Martin-like item, with thinner slats and the Ford logo above it - not in it. The restyled headlights are slightly thinner, with a revised lens design, and wrap around the front corners more4.

2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Rear Changes

At the rear, the same outline is retained for the taillights, but the clusters themselves are redesigned; they are now mostly red, with the backup and indicator strips far thinner than before1. The lower trunk lid gets a smaller license-plate holder2 and the bumper is redesigned with pronounced horizontal creasing3.

2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Side Changes

Not much changes in profile, except for new wheel designs, although the changes to the front1 and rear lights2 are clearly visible.

2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2015-2018 Focus Mk3 3rd Gen Facelift Interior Changes

Inside, a new sporty three-spoke steering wheel1 replaces the old four-spoke item and the center stack is revised, the MyFord Touch infotainment setup is improved, and there are modified HVAC controls2. The center console is all-new3, with a revised shifter and the parking brake moved well forward4.

Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain

The 2012 3rd-gen Ford Focus sedan hit the market with a single gas engine option - a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder with 160 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque - connected to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission in the S and SE and a six-speed dual-clutch PowerShift automatic in the SEL and Titanium. The Titanium gains a five-speed manual option for the 2013-2016 model years. The hatchback is similarly specced. For 2017, all 2.0-liter hatchbacks with manual transmissions are dropped altogether, as well as all 1.0-liter hatchbacks.

The 3rd-gen Ford Focus hatch was the only body style used for the all-electric Focus Electric, powered by a 141-hp (107-kW) electric motor, also motivating the front wheels. Unfortunately, it has a tiny 23-kWh battery, so its 76-mile range keeps it city-bound. The 2017 Electric's larger 33.5-kWh battery improves on this with a 115-mile range.

1.0L Turbocharged Inline-3 Gas DOHC EcoBoost Fox (2015-2018)
123 hp | 125 lb-ft
Horsepower
123 hp
Torque
125 lb-ft
Transmission
Six-speed manual/six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

The turbocharged Fox 1.0-liter inline three-cylinder engine became the base engine for the 2015 model year, mated exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission, and effectively replaces the SE Super Fuel Economy (SFE) model. Therefore, this engine is an option on the SE trim only. Its torque output is available low down in the rev range, but with only 123 hp and 125 lb-ft in total available, performance suffers, and the engine feels out of its depth in the Focus body. The off-beat three-pot thrum is interesting to listen to, and general about-town economy is excellent. Acceleration is lacking, though - in independent testing, the manual took 9.7 seconds to reach 60 mph. The engine uses a novel long-life wet belt that runs in engine oil to drive its dual overhead camshafts, which has since been adopted by more manufacturers. A six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic becomes available for this engine option for the 2016 model year - but only as part of the SE EcoBoost Appearance package. Like its 2.0-liter sibling, it is also prone to carbon buildup on the intake valves at higher mileages.

2.0L Inline-4 Gas Naturally Aspirated DOHC Duratec HE/Mazda L
160 hp | 146 lb-ft
Horsepower
160 hp
Torque
146 lb-ft
Transmission
Five-speed manual/six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

Ford may call the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four engine Duratec, but it's the trusty and tough Mazda L engine underneath, with features such as a maintenance-free cam chain, aluminum construction, iron cylinder liners, and a plastic intake manifold. Ford added its own direct fuel-injection system to the engine. Performance was decent at the time, but cannot hold a candle to modern turbocharged and downsized engines in terms of low-end torque and fuel economy. Nevertheless, with the PowerShift transmission, it could launch to 60 mph in around 8.6 - 9 seconds in independent testing, which was about par for the course in this class at the time. The manual's time is better at around 8.3 seconds. Lacking forced induction, it needs to be revved to deliver its best.

The normal MTX-75 five-speed manual transmission is simple enough but, unfortunately, the six-speed dry-clutch DPS6 PowerShift automatic co-developed by Ford, Getrag, and LuK would become a huge headache for Ford, with lots of complaints lodged and a class-action lawsuit following its reliability woes. Being direct-injected, the Duratec engine is prone to a few issues with age, notably carbon buildup on the backs of the intake valves.

One Electric Motor
141 hp | 181 lb-ft
Horsepower
141 hp / 107 kW
Torque
181 lb-ft / 245 N.m181 lb-ft / 245 N.m
Transmission
Single-speed direct drive
Drivetrain
FWD

The third-generation Ford Focus Electric was only available in 19 metropolitan areas in the US for the 2012 model year due to limited initial availability with initial deliveries to fleet customers only, followed by delivery to retail customers in May 2012. Google's GFleet carsharing scheme received the first one. It has a strong 107-kW electric motor, significantly more powerful than the 80-kW motor in the contemporary Nissan Leaf. However, starting at nearly $40,000, it was expensive, with the gas-powered Focus starting at $16,500. To add insult to injury, the tiny 23-kWh LG Chem lithium-ion battery gives an EPA-estimated range of only 76 miles.

Due to a curb weight of over 3,600 pounds and only 141 hp, it accelerates to 60 mph in around 9.6 seconds and is limited to 84 mph. Using the car's supplied 6.6-kW charger, it can take up to four hours to fill the battery from empty. The battery was increased in size to 33.5 kWh for the 2017 model year, boosting range to 115 miles and, with a new SAE J1772-2009 charging station plugged into a 240-V socket, charging time is reduced to around 5.5 hours. Fast charging at 50 kW was offered as an option for the 2017+ models with the larger battery. Cumulative sales of the Focus Electric in the US were 9,226 for all model years.

2012-2018 Ford Focus Mk3 Real MPG

The inline-three is the thriftiest gas engine in the lineup, but with people and luggage loaded up, you'll find your foot flat on the floor to extract meaningful progress from it - and fuel economy will suffer. The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine is a better all-rounder. In real-world use, owners recorded much the same economy with it than the smaller engine can manage, but with quite a bit more power on tap should they need to overtake swiftly or lug a full complement of passengers and luggage up a mountain pass. With a gas-tank size of 12.4 gallons, a Focus can travel between 320 and 420 miles on a tank on the combined cycle, depending on the model.

EPA mpg (city/highway/combined)Real-world combined mpg*
2.0 four-cylinder naturally aspirated FWD five-speed manual (2012-2018)25/34/2834.1-37.8
2.0 four-cylinder naturally aspirated FWD six-speed PowerShift automatic (2012-2018)26/38/3130.7-39.1
2.0 four-cylinder turbocharged FWD six-speed manual (2013-2018)23/31/2623.9-26.9
1.0 three-cylinder turbocharged FWD six-speed manual (2015-2018)30/40/3436.3-38.9
1.0 three-cylinder turbocharged FWD six-speed PowerShift automatic (2016-2018)27/38/3135.8
Focus Electric with 23-kWh battery (2012-2016)110/99/105 MPGe81-153.2 MPGe
Focus Electric with 33.5-kWh battery (2017-2018)118/96/107 MPGeN/A

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.

Safety

Standard safety equipment at launch on the 2012 Focus lineup includes ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, stability control, six airbags, and emergency crash notification. Automatic headlights and the Ford MyKey function that restricts certain vehicle parameters such as speed and radio volume for teen drivers is standard from the SE trim. Rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, and an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror were optional on the SEL and Titanium only via the Premium package, so you'll have to check whether these boxes have been ticked. SEL and Titanium could also have been specified with the Parking Technology package, which also adds front parking sensors, an automatic parallel-parking system, and a backup camera. From 2013, the rear parking sensors and backup camera are standard on the Titanium. For the 2015 facelift, the Titanium gains hill-start assist, and the optional Titanium Technology package gains automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 2017 S finally gets standard automatic headlights.

The 2012 Focus was subjected to the stricter post-2011 NHTSA crash tests and scored a decent four stars for all tests except the side crash, for which it scored the full five stars. The 2013 model's safety is better, with five stars for the overall rating. This was the first year the Focus Electric was tested, and it scored a full five stars in all tests. The gas-powered models gained an extra star for the frontal crash in 2015.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

Sedan and Hatcback (2012)

Overall Rating:
(4/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
(4/5)
Side Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Rollover Rating:
(4/5)

Sedan and Hatcback (2013-2014)

Overall Rating:
(5/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
(4/5)
Side Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Rollover Rating:
(4/5)

Sedan and Hatcback (2015-2018)

Overall Rating:
(5/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Side Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Rollover Rating:
(5/5)

Focus Electric

Overall Rating:
(5/5)
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Side Crash Rating:
(5/5)
Rollover Rating:
(5/5)

3rd Generation Ford Focus Trims

The trim lineup of the 2012 third-generation Ford Focus hatch and sedan comprises S, SE, SEL, and Titanium trims, all fitted with the 160-hp 2.0-liter engine. The base S and the Focus Electric are available in sedan only and the other trims in both sedan and hatchback body styles. The Electric is based on the Titanium trim and is fully equipped. Trims come and go over the years, with the SE trim dropped for 2013.

In terms of annual changes, here are a few of the highlights:

2013:

  • SEL trim is dropped

2015:

  • Exterior facelift
  • Upgraded equipment levels
  • Backup camera is added as standard to all trims
  • Packages' contents bolstered and reshuffled
  • Suspension is retuned for better ride and handling
  • Lots of new optional safety features are made available, such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic high beams
  • Ford MyTouch infotainment system is improved
  • New 1.0-liter turbocharged inline-three base engine replaces SE SFE model as efficiency leader

2016:

  • New Sync 3 infotainment interface debuts
  • Six-speed automatic option is added to 1.0-liter turbocharged engine

2017:

  • Bigger battery and longer range introduced for Focus Electric
  • SEL trim is re-introduced
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become optionally available

Here is the full trim breakdown:

S
2012 - 2018
Engine
2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four
Transmission
Five-speed manual/six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

The base 2012 S has 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, black door handles and side mirrors, halogen headlights, rear drum brakes, keyless entry, power door locks and mirrors, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver's seat, manual air-conditioning, a manually tilting/telescoping steering column, power front widows (with one-touch down for the driver), manual rear windows, a 12-volt power outlet, and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and an auxiliary jack. The S doesn't get access to any of the optional packages.

The facelifted 2015 S gains Ford MyKey parental controls, a backup camera linked to a 4.2-inch display, Ford Sync voice commands, a USB port, and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. In 2017, automatic headlights finally become standard and the infotainment system gains an additional USB port.

SE
2012 - 2018
Engine
2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four
Transmission
Five-speed manual/six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

The 2012 SE gets everything the 2012 S has, but is upgraded with 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, body-color door handles and side mirrors, automatic headlights, foglights with chrome bezels, rear power windows, steering-mounted audio controls, a trip computer, and Ford MyKey parental controls. Features exclusive to the hatchback include a rear spoiler and a 60/40-split and folding rear seat. The Convenience and Sport packages are optional on the SE, adding various features, such as upgraded wheels, audio systems, and trim. The SE sedan is also the only model that might have been fitted with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package, which has rear disc brakes, aero wheel covers, and low-rolling-resistance tires. Cruise control is added to the 2013 SE, the optional SE Sport package is dropped, and the optional SE Appearance package is added. For 2014, the SE Sport package is re-introduced and the normal SE gains standard 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio capabilities, Sync voice commands, and the six-speaker audio system.

The facelifted 2015 SE gains rear-seat ventilation outlets and a backup camera and the SFE version of the SE is replaced with a model powered by the new turbocharged 1.0-liter Fox inline-three engine, exclusively mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A new SE Luxury package for 2016 adds a host of exterior and interior features and the EcoBoost Appearance package bundles the 1.0-liter turbocharged engine with the automatic transmission, and other exterior features. The 2017 SE gains a front center armrest.

SEL
2012, 2017-2018
Engine
2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four
Transmission
Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

The 2012 SEL steps things up further with the addition of rear disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, multicolor ambient interior lighting, cruise control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, one-touch up and down for all windows, and a six-speaker audio system with MyFord driver-connect tech and Sync voice commands. The SEL trim was available for 2012 only, disappeared for four model years, and was re-introduced as a 2017 model.

The 2017 SEL follows in the footsteps of the 2017 SE but additionally adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED daytime running lights, rear disc brakes, rear parking sensors, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Sync 3 infotainment system with the eight-inch touchscreen, the ambient lighting, and the ten-speaker Sony audio system.

Titanium
2012 - 2018
Engine
2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four
Transmission
Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drivetrain
FWD

The 2012 Titanium builds on the SEL's spec but adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler on the sedan, sport-tuned suspension, black headlight surrounds and fog-light bezels, keyless ignition, sport seats, and a MyFord Touch infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi capability, satellite radio, HD Radio, and a ten-speaker Sony audio system. For 2013, the Titanium gains leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, a six-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, a rear center armrest, remote start, rear parking sensors, a backup camera, and the option of a five-speed manual transmission.

For the 2015 facelift, the Titanium gains hill-start assist, and for 2016, the driver's seat becomes an eight-way powered item, the side mirrors gain puddle lights, and a keyless-entry keypad and dual-zone climate control are fitted. From 2017, the Titanium gets LED daytime running lights and a heated steering wheel.

Electric
2012 - 2018
Engine
Electric
Transmission
Single-speed
Drivetrain
FWD

The Focus Electric is based on the Titanium trim and is only available with the hatchback body. It does, of course, feature the electric powertrain outlined earlier, but the Electric retains cloth seats when the Titanium upgrades to leather, as well as manual adjustment for the driver's seat. However, the Electric is the only Focus to get standard xenon headlights and LED taillights.

Third Generation Ford Focus & Focus Electric Features

SSESELTitaniumElectric
ABSSOSSS
A/CSOSSS
Automatic ParkingN/AN/AOON/A
Auxiliary Audio InputOOSSS
Back-Up CameraSSOOS
Blind Spot MonitorN/AN/AN/AON/A
Bluetooth ConnectionOOSSS
Brake AssistSSSSS
Climate ControlN/AOSSS
Cross-Traffic AlertN/AN/AN/AON/A
Cruise ControlN/ASSSS
Driver Air BagSSSSS
Front Head Air BagSSSSS
Front Side Air BagSSSSS
HD RadioN/AOSSS
Heated Front Seat(s)N/AOOOS
Heated Steering WheelN/AOOON/A
Keyless EntryOOOOS
Keyless StartN/AN/AN/ASS
Knee Air BagSSSSS
Lane Departure WarningN/AN/AN/AON/A
Lane Keeping AssistN/AN/AN/AON/A
MP3 PlayerOOSSS
Multi-Zone A/CN/AOSSS
Navigation from TelematicsN/AN/ASSS
Navigation SystemN/AOOOS
Passenger Air BagSSSSS
Power Driver SeatN/AON/ASN/A
Power Mirror(s)SSSSS
Premium Sound SystemN/AOSSS
Rear Head Air BagSSSSS
Rear Parking AidN/AOOOS
Rear Side Air BagSSSSN/A
Remote Engine StartOOOOS
Satellite RadioN/AOOOS
Smart Device IntegrationSOSSS
Stability ControlSSSSS
Steering Wheel Audio ControlsOOSSS
Sun/MoonroofN/AOOON/A
TelematicsOSSSS
Tire Pressure MonitorSSSSS
Traction ControlSSSSS
Universal Garage Door OpenerN/AN/ASSS
WiFi HotspotN/AN/AN/ASN/A

Interior, Trim And Practicality

Focus Mk3 Interior Overview Ford
Focus Mk3 Interior Overview

The Ford Focus Mk3's interior is a vast improvement over what came before, and this is true both in terms of design and the materials used. However, the MyFord Touch infotainment system is difficult to fathom, and the Sync 3 system in later models is far superior and easier to use. Cargo space on the sedan is an acceptable 13.2 cubic feet, but the hatchback is far better with 23.3 cubic feet of space and its split/folding rear seat and rear hatch, extending luggage capacity to a generous 43.9 cu.ft.

By 2017, more modern rivals did better; the 10th-gen 2017 Civic boasts a trunk capacity of 15.1 cubes in sedan guise and 25.7 cubes in hatchback format. There is enough space for front-seat occupants, but it's rather confined in the rear, where its legroom of 33.2 inches is comprehensively outgunned by the Civic's figure of 37.4 inches. Due to its rear-mounted battery pack, the Focus Electric hatchback's trunk capacity with all seats in use is cut right down to 14.5 cubes, almost as small as the sedan's trunk. At least its rear seat still folds, liberating 33.2 cubes.

SSESELTitaniumElectric
Bucket SeatsSOSSS
Cloth SeatsSOSSS
Leather SeatsN/AOOON/A
Leather Steering WheelN/AOOOS
Charcoal Black, Cloth seat trim w/warm steel surroundSSN/AN/AN/A
Medium Light Stone, Cloth seat trim w/medium dark stone surroundN/ASN/AN/AN/A
Charcoal Black, Leather seat trim w/charcoal black surroundN/ASSSN/A
Charcoal Black, Leather seat trim w/Tuscany red surroundN/AON/AON/A
Arctic White, Leather seat trim w/charcoal black surroundN/AOOON/A
Light Stone, Cloth seat trim w/medium stone surroundN/ASN/AN/AN/A
Charcoal Black, Cloth seat trim w/metal grey surroundN/AON/AN/AN/A
Charcoal Black, Leather seat trim w/red surroundN/AOOON/A
Light Stone, Leather seat trimN/AN/AN/AN/AO
Medium Light Stone, Cloth seat trimN/AN/AN/AN/AS
Charcoal Black, Cloth seat trim w/charcoal black surroundN/AN/ASSN/A
Medium Light Stone, Cloth seat trim w/medium light stone surroundN/AN/ASN/AN/A
Medium Light Stone, Leather seat trim w/medium light stone surroundN/AN/ASN/AN/A

2012-2018 Ford Focus Hatch & Sedan Maintenance and Cost

The Focus' minor services happen every 10,000 miles, and these are little more than an oil and filter replacement and a series of checks. At 20,000-mile intervals, the cabin air filter ($32) must be replaced, and every 30,000 miles, the engine's air filter ($24). A typical 60,000-mile service where all these items would require attention costs in the region of $550 at Ford and $385 at an independent shop on the 1.0-liter turbocharged engine and around $620 and $450, respectively, on the 2.0-liter engine. If you use your Focus in severe conditions, such as sub-zero temperatures or in dusty conditions, or if it idles for prolonged periods, reduce the oil-change interval to 5,000 miles and halve the replacement intervals of the filters too. The cooling system should be drained, flushed, and refilled at least every 100,000 miles. The PowerShift automatic transmission does not require frequent oil changes like dual-clutch automatics usually do, because its dry clutches do not sit in the transmission oil and cannot contaminate it.

The timing chain in the 2.0-liter engine should be maintenance-free for a long time as long as the engine receives clean oil frequently. The 1.0-liter three-cylinder uses a wet timing belt that runs in engine oil, and this is said to be good for 120,000 miles or ten years, whichever comes first, depending on the vehicle the engine is fitted to. However, lax maintenance, deferred oil changes, and contaminated oil may all have an effect on the belt and we'd rather not leave it for longer than 100,000 miles, just to be safe. Neither engine has hydraulic valve lifters, so periodic adjustment of the valve clearances will be necessary, typically at around 75,000 miles. For information about the correct wiper blades, tire size, or battery rating, just consult the owner's manual or ask your dealer. The only gas type these high-compression direct-injection engines want is premium.

3rd Gen Ford Focus Sedan Basic Service

The basic lube service is likely to set you back around $240 at a Ford dealer or around $130 at an independent workshop on either engine. If you're going to do the oil change yourself, you'd pay around $63 for the 4.9 quarts of 5W-20 synthetic oil with an oil filter on the 1.0-liter engine. Spark plugs last around 100,000 miles. The price is the same for the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, despite it having a lower oil capacity - 4.5 quarts - since you have to buy five quarts anyway. It uses the same oil type as the three-cylinder. A set of spark plugs costs $55 for a set of three on the 1.0-liter engine or $34 on the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which uses cheaper spark plugs.

3rd Gen Ford Focus Hatch Tires

SE
Tire Size::
P215/55HR16
Wheel Size::
16" x 6"
Spare Tire::
Compact
SEL
Tire Size::
P215/50HR17
Wheel Size::
17" x 7"
Spare Tire::
Compact
Titanium
Tire Size::
P215/50HR17
Wheel Size::
17" x 7"
Spare Tire::
Compact
Electric
Tire Size::
P225/50R17
Wheel Size::
17" x TBD
S
Tire Size::
P195/65HR15
Wheel Size::
15" x 5.5"
Spare Tire::
Compact

Check Before You Buy

The third-generation Focus does not have a stellar reliability rating, and there were quite a number of 2012-2018 Ford Focus sedan and hatch safety recalls:

  • The Focus had various issues with its door locks and latches. 2012-2015 Focuses were recalled to replace faulty door latches. 2013-2017 models with the manual transmission were recalled to reprogram the body control module (BCM), which may allow the rear hatch's latch release to be triggered by a single press of the latch-release button.
  • There were a few engine stall recalls too. 2012-2018 Focus models with the 2.0-liter engine were recalled to reprogram the powertrain control module (PCM) and/or replace the canister purge valve (CPV) as necessary because this item may become stuck and the excessive vacuum this causes may lead to an engine stall. 2013 and 2014 Focus models were recalled to repair manifold absolute pressure (MAP) wiring that may send incorrect signals to the PCM, possibly causing an engine stall. 2014 models were recalled to replace a fuel pump that may malfunction and cause a stall and a fuel-delivery module that may crack and not only cause a stall but possibly a fire.
  • There were quite a few 2012-2018 Ford Focus Electric problems that led to recalls. 2012-2015 models were recalled to replace a charging cord that may overheat and potentially cause a fire. Around a quarter of all Electric models manufactured were recalled to reprogram the PCM to prevent an unexpected loss of power while driving. The recall affects 2012, 2013, and 2014 models. 2012 and 2013 models were subject to another two recalls. The one was to update the cars' software so a chime will sound if the car is still operational and the driver opens the door, else the vehicle may be susceptible to being stolen when the driver leaves. The other was to fix inoperative side-marker lights. 2015 and 2016 models were recalled to replace a transmission differential assembly due to a pinion gear shaft that may overheat, fracture, and cause both a loss of drive and of the Park function.
  • 2012 and 2013 Focuses with aftermarket Yakima rooftop racks that may detach from the vehicle when loaded were recalled to replace these parts.
  • 2012 models were recalled to clean and properly seal a passenger-side wiper-motor connector that may admit water and cause the wiper to stop working.
  • The 2014 Focus was recalled to replace steering gears that may have ball bearings missing, leading to the loss of steering control.
  • 2015-2018 Focus SEs with the 1.0-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission were recalled to replace a clutch that may fracture and to update their software to prevent prolonged periods of clutch slip.
  • 2015 models were recalled to update the BCM software because it may allow the engine to keep running even after the Start/Stop button was pressed to switch it off.
  • Some model years were recalled for improper welding. A few 2016 models were recalled because their front-end structural apron joints may have been improperly welded, reducing the body's integrity. The 2017 Focus was recalled to inspect and replace, if necessary, a left-side rear seatback that may have insufficient welding, reducing its strength.

2012-2018 Ford Focus 3rd Generation Common Problems

EcoBoost/Fox Turbocharged 1.0-liter Engine Problems

The one-liter Fox engine developed by Ford of the UK is a thoroughly modern engine with turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and a wet timing belt running in the engine oil, promising a far longer service life than other timing belts (Ford promises 120,000 miles). The tough bottom end uses a traditional cast-iron engine block. Like all gas engines with direct fuel injection, there are no manifold injectors to keep the backs of the intake valves clean and with age, carbon builds up on the intake valves, leading to impaired performance and economy, as well as misfiring. The Fox is a highly strung and intricately engineered European design and, while it can see mileages exceeding 200,000 if meticulously cared for and given clean oil frequently, it may have a limited service life if these conditions are not adhered to. A full service history is, therefore, critical. Failing this, a high-mileage Fox may give up the ghost and start burning its oil, at which point you'd have to rebuild or replace it.

Remember that this is not an engine for prolonged full-throttle running or towing, and you'd be better off with something more powerful if you are a hard driver. The hard-working high-pressure fuel pump of the direct-injection system must supply fuel at several thousand psi of pressure and can also pack up due to the cam bucket and lobe driving the pump piston wearing out. Cooling-system issues were quite common in the early years up to 2014 - one of the most common 2012, 2013, and 2014 Ford Focus sedan engine problems was an underspecified bottom coolant hose between the expansion tank and the engine that can fail and leak coolant, leading to overheating. Make sure the updated pipe has been fitted on these older cars. Last of all, oil leaks become a problem with age, as is the case with many engines, not just the Fox. Many of the gaskets and seals start to leak with age - like the valve cover. Luckily, most of the parts are cheap, and engine access is usually quite easy too.

Mileage: Issues rarely crop up before 80,000-100,000 miles, even in hard-working engines, but most have developed some of the above-mentioned problems by 130,000 miles. Few make it to 200,000 without problems. Carbon buildup becomes a problem from around 100,000-130,000 miles.

Cost: The high-pressure fuel pump costs around $455 and at least $600 with labor. Walnut-shell blasting the intake valves to clean the carbon buildup off them will probably run to around $400-$600 in labor. In case of an engine failure, you might be able to find a remanufactured engine for $2,000, but Ford will probably charge you $4,000 to replace it with a new one.

How to spot: Carbon buildup on the intake valves will cause rough running, poor idling, reduced power, worse fuel economy, and misfiring. A tired injection pump will cause a loss of power and economy, long cranking, hesitation, stuttering, and probably a Check Engine Light (CEL) and OBD-II fault codes.

Duratec Naturally Aspirated 2.0-liter Engine Problems

The trusty old 2.0-liter Mazda L engine received Ford's direct fuel-injection system and lives on in the 3rd-generation Ford Focus under the Duratec HE moniker. A modern aluminum-block engine with iron cylinder sleeves, double overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder, it is found in its most powerful naturally aspirated form in this Focus, producing 160 hp. The engine is durable, with a long-life cam chain, but a new layer of maintenance complexity was introduced when Ford fitted direct injection. Like its 1.0-liter turbocharged three-pot stablemate, this engine can also suffer from carbon buildup on the backs of the intake valves. Similar high-pressure fuel pump problems may also occur as it ages.

Some other issues include failed thermostats, oil leaks from the camshaft seals and rear main seal, failure of the valve in the intake manifold, and ignition-coil failures. Make sure the canister purge valve was replaced as per the recall. A service life of 200,000 to 300,000 miles is achievable with meticulous maintenance and a constant supply of clean oil, and some have been reported to exceed 350,000 miles.

Mileage: Carbon buildup on the intake valves should not become a problem before 80,000-100,000 miles. The odd thermostat can fail at around 60,000 miles. Fuel pumps can start to fail from around 65,000-75,000 miles. The ignition coil can fail before 60,000 miles. The EVAP and purge-canister issues can start before 30,000 miles but should have been sorted out under recall.

Cost: Walnut-shell blasting the intake valves to clean them will probably cost at least $600 in labor. A new fuel pump costs around $495 before installation; with labor included, the bill can exceed $1,000. A new thermostat is around $80. There is only one ignition coil for all the spark plugs and it costs around $90. Invasive fuel-system work involving the EVAP system, purge valve, and fuel tank may include a fuel-tank replacement and can approach or exceed $2,000.

How to spot: Carbon buildup causes reduced performance and economy, misfiring, hesitation, poor idling, error codes, and the CEL. A failed thermostat may either cause the engine to run too cool or too hot, and the latter is a potential engine wrecker, so never ignore an inconsistent temperature gauge. If the intake-manifold valve fails, the engine will be reluctant to rev past 3,000 rpm.

Transmission Problems

Any search for problems on the 3rd-generation Focus is bound to be dominated by results for the troublesome PowerShift DPS6 dual-clutch automatic transmission; in fact, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Ford Focus sedan transmission problems overshadow all other 3rd-gen Focus problems and make them seem quite insignificant by comparison. While the transmission complaints decreased from 2015, it remained the most-complained-about Focus issue of all and never went away. Co-developed with Getrag and LuK, Ford opted for a cheaper, lightweight dual-clutch design using dry clutches instead of oil-bathed wet clutches favored by many rivals. The advantages of dry clutches are that they are more efficient and do not contaminate the transmission oil as wet-clutch DCTs do, but Ford struggled with the clutches from the beginning. The dry clutches do not engage as smoothly as wet clutches and in the PowerShift transmission, owners have complained about jerking, shuddering, slipping, hesitating, bucking, and harsh engagement. Initially, Ford blamed the input shaft and throwout bearing, as well as rear main seals that may leak and spill oil on the dry clutches, causing the shudders.

But even after all those problems were addressed, the issues persisted and there were problems with shifter motors, the TCM's connector pins, and faulty control modules. Complete transmission failures before 40,000 miles and multiple transmission replacements are not uncommon. All the issues led to investigations and/or lawsuits, extended warranties, and even buy-backs in some countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Thailand. Ford tried to fix the problems, and there have been multiple revisions of both the clutches and control modules, extending the transmission warranty to up to seven years or 100,000 miles in the US. Ford compensated 1.9 million owners in a $35-million settlement in 2017, following a class-action lawsuit. The first three model years from 2012-2014 were the worst.

Even a perfectly functional PowerShift transmission is still prone to clutch overheating in slow-moving traffic, especially up hills. If you must have an automatic, test drive the vehicle extensively and make sure it is impeccably behaved and has the latest clutch packs and control modules installed, with Ford-dealership proof of this. Even then, an extended warranty or insurance coverage may be in order. But read the fine print, because not all policies may cover wear-and-tear items such as clutches. And be warned, despite the PowerShift clearly being a lemon among gearboxes, there were never any 2012-2018 Ford Focus sedan or hatch transmission recalls issued for it.

Mileage: Dual-clutch automatic transmission problems start from around 13,000-64,000 miles on average.

Cost: The average cost of repairs to the PowerShift DPS6 transmission is between $920 and $2,300. Replacing the clutches will come to at least $2,500 and replacing the transmission will probably cost between $3,500 and $4,000.

How to spot: Slipping, bucking, shuddering, hesitating, jerking, and harsh engagement.

Electrical Problems

Many 2012-2018 Ford Focus electrical problems are caused by a faulty wiring-harness seal that allows moisture and dirt to penetrate some of the vehicle's electronic system, causing all manner of random electrical problems with the windows, lights, and display screens. Some owners have had electrical equipment replaced, not knowing the actual culprit is the wiring, so make sure that any electrical faults are properly diagnosed first. Radio head units do fail from time to time.

Other electrical problems do crop up and some owners reported troubles with BCMs causing their engines to refuse to start. Some persistent problems with the BCM led to a 2015 recall not because the engine wouldn't start, but rather because now it refused to shut down! BCM programming bugs and problems plagued most model years.

Mileage: 60,000 miles on average for wiring problems and 75,000 miles on average for starting problems. Radios fail at an average of 54,000-83,000 miles.

Cost: Repairs to the wiring can cost as little as $100 but it depends on the extent of the problem and replacing the entire wiring harness can exceed $1,500. Radio head units cost on average around $360-$650 to replace. A BCM replacement can cost upward of $800.

How to spot: Random unexplained electrical problems. Radio stops working or gives problems.

Steering Problems

While there was a recall for steering failure on 2014 Focus models, there were a lot of other 2012, 2013, and 2014 Ford Focus electric and mechanical power-steering problems reported, some quite serious and not covered by the recall. The worst year was 2012 for steering failures and owners have had to replace steering racks or gears and various other parts at an average repair cost approaching $2,000, with 2013 following close behind. Make sure the power steering is light, smooth, and consistent when test-driving a Focus - and that the recall work on a 2014 model has been done.

Mileage: 20,000-82,000 miles on average.

Cost: The average price of steering repairs came to $1,800-$2,800.

How to spot: Inconsistent steering response or power-steering failure.

Less Common Problems And Problem-Free Areas

Some less common problems include power-window motors and regulators failing after 50,000 miles at an average repair cost of around $260. Doors that won't latch properly should have been repaired under recall, but if your car isn't covered, problems may start at around 60,000-72,000 miles, and replacing the latches will likely cost $450-$540 or more. A few water leaks have also been reported. A blocked fuel tank breather can ruin the entire fuel tank, leading to a $2,000 repair. A few AC compressors failed and had to be replaced at a cost of around $700. Quite a few owners complained that their fuel gauges are not accurate.

Which One To Avoid

We wouldn't touch a Focus with a PowerShift automatic transmission. The last two model years seem relatively trouble-free, but the transmission is not smooth or nice to use and if you drive in stop-start traffic a lot, you're more than likely going to overheat the clutches. Sadly, this takes the 3rd-generation Ford Focus off many people's shopping lists. In terms of problems, the first three model years are by far the worst. The S trim with its small rims, plastic hubcaps, and lack of features is also a bit rental car for us and there aren't any nicely specced ones, because this trim did not have access to most options. We'd avoid the 1.0-liter engine too, because it is underpowered and needs to be looked after more carefully.

Which One To Buy

For us, the choice would be easy - a 2016 Titanium with the manual transmission. It was the last year the Titanium was sold with a manual transmission and it is the freshly upgraded facelifted model. It looks smart, drives well, handles superbly, and has a high specification level and many safety features. What's more, you have none of the transmission issues and the general number of complaints on 2016 models is vastly lower than those of the first three years of production.

3rd Gen Ford Focus Sedan Verdict

It is fair to say that the reputation of the third-generation Focus was completely ruined by a bad automatic transmission that was unpleasant to use and proved very unreliable. This problem detracts from an excellent car that is great to drive. Thankfully, a manual transmission gels better with the fun-to-drive Focus than many rivals, and if you don't mind rowing the gears yourself, there is a lot of value to be had here. If you do mind, the 3rd-gen Focus is off your shopping list.

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