2013 Ford Focus Electric rises above its class

Unlike most electric vehicles, the 2013 Ford Focus

Unlike most electric vehicles, the 2013 Ford Focus Electric measures up to its price. (Credit: Ford Motor Company)

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THE CAR AND ITS OWNER 1954 Chevrolet 210 In the Garage

If you have your heart set on rolling into the future with an all-electric car, figure on spending anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000. That's the price range of anything decent out there.

There are no bargains, except for the available $7,500 federal tax rebate. But there are differences, and not only in power trains and styling, but also in perceived quality. Not many of the electrics measure up to their prices. That's mainly because the electric-only technology is expensive, which doesn't leave much left for frills.

The 2013 Ford Focus Electric is an exception. So far, it has operated like an undercover agent in the marketplace, keeping its counsel and attracting little attention.

But from the standpoint of fit, finish and quality materials, it is the James Bond of the current crop of electrics -- efficient, well dressed and nicely groomed.

Sure, the test car didn't have leather upholstery, or a power driver's seat, or lumbar support. But the surroundings bordered on stylish and luxurious. Even the comfortable so-called eco-friendly cloth seats looked and felt tough and plush at the same time.

Viewed from the outside, the Focus Electric is indistinguishable, except for the Electric badge, from the gasoline-engine Focus four-door hatchback. Its styling bears a faint resemblance to the famed British Aston-Martins, several of which were Bond's favored conveyances. Ford briefly owned Aston-Martin, which likely is where the styling originated.

Given that this is Ford's first all-electric car -- though the company has a lot of experience with gasoline-electric hybrids -- the engineers and designers got the formula right for this stage of electric-car development. As the science advances rapidly, all of the current cadre of electrics could be obsolete in just a few years.

For now, however, the Focus Electric is as good or better than anything available. The test car performed flawlessly in day and night driving, exhibiting more than adequate acceleration and passing power. It also had a solid steering feel and competent handling.

As with any electric motor, maximum torque is available from the get-go. On the Focus, it surges smoothly and noiselessly to the front wheels through the single-speed automatic transmission. Power comes from a 107-kilowatt motor that delivers the equivalent of 143 horsepower. Top speed, according to Ford's specifications, is 84 miles an hour.

The certified range is 76 miles, although in the real world it can be considerably less, depending on such things as usage of accessories, lights, and heating and air conditioning. Regenerative braking mitigates the discharge somewhat.

Yet Ford says it has minimized so-called range anxiety because its new charging system for the lithium ion battery pack can deliver a full charge from a 240-volt outlet in three to four hours, which would enable topping up the charge between daily runs in the car.

However, a full charge from a standard 110-volt household outlet takes considerably longer, 20 hours or more. With either the 110 or 240 volt charging, a convenient long-distance trip would be problematical unless time was not a factor.

The Fusion Electric comes with a 110-volt charging cord, stored in a box in the cargo area. It plugs into an outlet on the left-front fender, which is hidden behind a flimsy cover that looks as if it could be snapped off by a 3-year-old. A 240-volt charging installation costs extra.

Because the battery pack also is housed in the cargo area, there's just 15 cubic feet of space under the hatch. However, the rear seatbacks fold down for additional cargo carrying capability.

Fuel economy, as certified by the EPA, is the equivalent of 105 miles to the gallon of gasoline in combined city/highway driving. That's less than the Honda Fit Hybrid, which is a smaller, four-passenger hatchback. The Focus seats five, though the center-rear passenger gets squished and must deal with a floor hump.

The city/highway/combined rating for the Focus is 110/99/105 miles to the gallon; for the Fit it is 132/105/118 miles to the gallon.

The tested Focus Electric came with full safety equipment, along with an abundance of standard equipment, including pushbutton starting, dual-zone climate control, power windows, heated front seats and outside mirrors, alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, remote power locking, Sirius satellite radio, voice-activated navigation, a rear-view camera and Ford's entertainment and communications systems: Sync and MyFord Touch.

A few minor shortcomings included sun visors that did not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the sides.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2013 Ford Focus Electric four-door hatchback.

Motor: Permanent magnetic electric traction, 143 horsepower/107 kW.

Transmission: Single-speed automatic.

Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.

EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/15 cubic feet.

Weight: 3,624 pounds.

EPA city/highway/combined equivalent fuel consumption: 110/99/105 mpg.

Base price, including destination charge: $39,995.

Price as tested: $39,995.

Contact Frank Aukofer at driveways6(at)gmail.com.

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