The Inside

The Focus received a new interior for the 2008 model year, and the design looks contemporary. The most distinctive element of the dash is its large swaths of silver trim, which is specific to SES models. I usually don't find silver trim that appealing, but it looks nice in the Focus and is well integrated into the overall cabin design. However, there's still too much shiny black plastic, especially on the doors. The plastic trim on the driver's-side door grab was loose, too. I know this is an affordable compact car, but when you have models like the new Forte Ч which has lots of low-gloss, upscale-looking plastic in its cabin Ч it raises the bar for competitors like the Focus.

Ford paid particular attention to lighting; you'll have to experience it when it's dark to fully appreciate it. At night, the buttons for the audio and air-conditioning systems on the center control panel cut through the darkness with vibrant blue backlighting that's also found on the gauges. Optional ambient lighting lets you switch among seven colors to illuminate the cupholders and footwells. This is one of those things that distinguish the Focus from its competition, but there are a few problems with the implementation of it.

The gauges are legible enough at night when the backlighting is on, but during the day the wide hash marks on the dials blend together, making it hard to know your exact speed at times. Also, as Cars.com Senior Editor Joe Wiesenfelder pointed out in his review of the 2010 Ford Fusion, the ambient lighting casts its glow from visible pencil-sized portholes located around the cabin. They're not well concealed, so you don't get the same soft glow in the Focus as you do in other, more expensive cars.

The Focus comes standard with cloth seats, but my test car had optional heated leather seats in black with white stitching. The seats are comfortable, but they don't offer a lot of bolstering to keep you in place during hard cornering, and the seat heaters only have an on/off switch rather than the preferred low/high or graduated settings. My SES coupe had a height-adjustable driver's seat; the overall driving position was decent, though it would have been better if there was a telescoping steering column (the Focus only has a tilt feature, which is odd because the previous generation offered a tilt/telescoping wheel). With the seat far enough back to comfortably work the pedals, I had to reach forward more than I like to hold the steering wheel.

Visibility in the coupe is good when looking over your left or right shoulder before changing lanes, but I wasn't as impressed with the view out the rear window when backing up. The rear window is large enough, but the driver's-side C-pillar limits your visibility on that side of the car.

The coupe has a three-person backseat, just like the sedan. Judging from the outside, you might think the coupe's backseat would hardly be usable, but that's far from the case. I was surprised by the relatively comfortable seating position and the impressive amount of headroom. With a large fixed quarter window to peer out of, it's not claustrophobic, either. However, there's probably not enough legroom to go around for two tall people to sit behind each other.

The coupe's trunk measures 13.8 cubic feet Ч the same as the Focus sedan. That's more room than you'll find in a Civic coupe (11.5 cubic feet) and approximately the size of a Chevrolet Cobalt coupe's trunk. The trunk opening looks a little bit like a slot Ч not ideal Ч and part of our test car's cargo area was occupied by a subwoofer. It's included with the $795 Moon & Tune Value Package, which also adds a six-CD changer and a power moonroof.

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