Going & Stopping

One place the Focus won't win accolades is in the performance department. The 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine isn't peppy and doesn't induce much confidence off the line. It manages to pass at highway speeds only with a harsh downshift and limited power afterward. When cruising, though, the Focus is steady. The four-speed automatic shifts upward smoothly enough ... when you're not lead-footing it. The benefit of less oomph is better mileage: EPA figures are rated at a very respectable 24/35 mpg city/highway. In comparison, the 2008 Honda Civic gets 26/36 mpg.

The brakes, too, offer little reassurance. The pedal needs a thorough push to bring a response, making you feel as if you're trying to slow a full-size SUV rather than a small economy car.

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