My week with Gloria. AKA the 2012 Ford Focus.

A few weeks ago I got to hang out with a new friend for a week. It was a good week, we didn't go anywhere too fantastic, just toodled around town with each other, getting groceries, taking the kids to and from school and hitting up a yoga class or two. Gloria was a good companion to have around. She was smooth, easy-going, and handled herself very well everywhere I took her.

And to top it all off, she has one heck of a snappy style to her.

Check her out!

Yes, Gloria is a car.

She is in fact the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback.

When I was first asked if I wanted to drive the Focus, I thought now why would I want to drive such a small car. I have 2 kids. We need WAY more room than that. But then I started to think about it, had a look at some of the specs and features that the Focus has to offer and changed my mind.

I am after all the Natural Urban Mama and I live my life trying to find ways to lower my carbon footprint on our beautiful Mother Earth. What better way than to see how small and fuel-efficient a family of four can go when it comes to a vehicle.

Enter Gloria.

Now in case you are wondering about the naming... well, I name my cars. All of them. Don't you?

In my life I have driven not one, not two, but three Ford vehicles. Blackie, the Ford Taurus that saved my life in a highway roll over in November of 2000, Belle, the Ford Windstar van that moved us into our first house and Blaze, the Ford Escape that brought home my firstborn child from the hospital. Needless to say, Ford has had my back a few times in my life and of all the car companies out there, I have much respect that they weathered the recession far better than the others.

This was not my first time in the new Ford Focus. Back in October of 2011 I attended the Blissdom Canada conference in Toronto, and Ford was one of the main sponsors. While there I was able to check out quite a few of the new technologies and innovations that Ford is incorporating into their line-up of vehicles and I was duly impressed.

Having the opportunity to get to see these technologies and designs up close and personal is definitely a treat and that is kind of how I would describe driving the Ford Focus.

I picked up Gloria at the end of the coldest week of winter. The first thing that hit me was her styling and interior look (and hence her name as I was reminded of the girl penguin from Happy Feet). You can't help but feel like you are stepping in to a sexy little speedster! The contrast stitching and sleek design really do up the cool mom factor don't you think?

The second thing I noticed, that day especially, was the 5-position heated seat! My whole backside was toasty warm within minutes of being in the car. Trust me this is something that comes in very handy on days when it is -32 degrees Celsius outside.

Further notes on the interior of the Focus. Like all new Ford vehicles, the Focus keeps everything you need quite simple and right in front of you. It features the SYNC with MyFordTouch system and voice activated control of the climate controls, audio system and hands-free calling paired with your blue tooth smart phone. While I do like that the SYNC system recognizes my iPhone and uploads my contact list directly, I found it a little fumbly when trying to call someone. There seemed to be a lot of questions that I had to answer before getting to the actual call. I found that I ended up using the touch screen more often to quickly get to the number or contact that I wanted to call. But of course, never when I was actually driving!

For me, the true parental test of Gloria's interior, was the car-seat one. We were unable to fit our Radian XT car seats into the Focus in the rear-facing position and still be able to have people sit comfortably in the front seats. Technically the Focus is outfitted for three car seats in the back seat, but realistically it would be a stretch to do so. Two car seats forward facing with the middle seat-back folded down to reveal the two cup-holders made my two little backseat drivers very happy (it's the simple things people). And I have to say that driving a car, versus a minivan or an SUV, is kind of nice in that they kids are able to easily get in and out of the car all by themselves. You may think this is no big deal, until you are wrangling a toddler and a preschooler in the parking lot at the mall and you have your hands full of bags too. Some independence on their part is a good thing and Gloria provided them with this beautifully!

And while we are talking about shopping, I am sure you are wondering how Gloria stacks up in regards to cargo space. I did do one big grocery shopping trip during our week together and managed to get all the bags packed into the hatch quite nicely. I did not take her to Costco though and I am not sure I could manage to get all of the big items packed into the car, especially if I had the kids with me. This is the reality of a small car and really not that big of one when you really think about it. Just think of the money you'll save because you can't get your multi pack of two-bite brownies and 74 rolls of toilet paper in the car!

In terms of performance and fuel economy, I am not sure there is much out there at this point that competes with the Ford Focus. With a 7.8 L/100km city and 5.5 L/100 km highway fuel economy rating, the Focus can get up to 977 on one tank of gas on the highway! I had Gloria for 6 days, drove her all over the city, used just over half a tank of gas and got 325 kilometers out of her. I was duly impressed.

All her good looks aside, Gloria drives quite nicely too. Natural Urban Dad drives a small car and I like driving it because if feels all zippy and fun. Gloria was a different story. Still a lot of fun, but with way more substance to her! For this minivan driving Mama, driving Gloria felt like I was getting a teeny tiny taste of rally racing. She handled the icy, snowy streets of Edmonton with ease (and thanks to the winter tires that Ford outfitted her with), and I never felt like she was going to lose it on any surface. And the one time I did really push her to show me what she's got, Gloria did not disappoint. She revved her engine, shifted smoothly and gave me one sweet ride!

Ford has incorporated a whole lot of fancy schmancy new technology in the Focus, a lot of which you just don't see in the entry-level car market. Things like electronic power assist steering (EPAS), that helps reduce vehicle pulling/drifting and torque vectoring control, which essentially means "providing stabilizing braking force to an individual drive wheel in a similar way that a skier or board-rider would shift weight to carving edge when turning...". The Focus comes with Ford's coolest new feature, the Active Park Assist. This is an option on most models, but one I highly recommend. It's a bit odd the first time you try it, but time after time, Gloria parallel parked herself perfectly!

Gloria has one final bit of technology that I think is a parent's dream. It is the MyKey feature. This is standard on all Ford vehicles now and allows for parents to set speed and audio limits in the car. I know, I know, this sounds like a HUGE buzz kill for most 17 year olds out there, but as a parent of not one but two future 17 year olds who will want to borrow the car, I am ALL for this feature. With a MyKey programmed key fob, the vehicle's audio system will be muted until seat-belts are fastened, it provides an earlier low-fuel warning and you can also set the upper volume of the audio system. All of it combines to provide a safer driving experience for new drivers and also enhances fuel economy as well.

All in all, my week with the Ford Focus was really quite nice. It lived up to my expectations of what a small car can do and then some. The Focus pricing is very reasonable, starting at $15, 999.00 for the base S model and tops out at just over $30,000.00 for one just like Gloria (Titanium Hatchback with ALL available options).

As for my opinion of it as a family car... If you have one child it is perfect and you really don't need anything bigger. You can easily fit a stroller in the hatch and have plenty of room for 2 other passengers. If you have two children you can still get away with it, but you will be sacrificing room for that fifth passenger. That being said, Natural Urban Dad really liked Gloria as well, and I think if we were in the market for a vehicle to replace his current one, the Ford Focus would be at the top of the list.

Ford as a company continues to impress me on many levels, from their innovative design, commitment to improving fuel economy in all their lines and their use of sustainable materials in their production as well. And in the Spring of 2012 they will start selling the Focus Electric... Seriously folks, it's things like this that get this Natural Urban Mama pretty darn excited and I can't wait to give that one a spin!!

Happy Driving,


**Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford.**