Reviews

Ford Focus Reliability

Ford’s expected pedestrian wunderkind wasn’t so wonderful.

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BY The Drive Staff / LAST UPDATED ON March 16, 2021

Kevin Necessary—Necessary Productions/Ford

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After years of lagging sales,and an overall public shift away from cars, Ford killed the Focus in 2018. Its death, however, also precedes a period where the Focus’ reliability wasn’t exactly up to par for the Blue Oval. 

In the span of a few short model years, the Focus racked up a couple class-action lawsuits, recall after recall, and a buy-back plan that cost Ford millions. The result is that there are millions of Focus’ on the road, in Ford’s parking lot, or junk yards that are definitely not reliable. 

To better insulate you from the Focus’ maintenance nightmare saga, The Drive put together this guide to help you in your future purchases. Time to find out why the Focus isn’t the right car for you. 

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What Makes a Reliable Brand?

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda and Toyota’s cultures of reliability-over-all embody that ethic and have thus kept each’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint, for goodness’ sake. Add longer-than-normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

What Impacts a Car’s Reliability

Short answer: you. The longer answer is a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance like regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel system cleaners, along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean, will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun, as well as away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter, will also extend its life.

And lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis under-stressed and happy for far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

Ford Focus Specs

Vehicle Type: Compact Car

Doors: 4

Engine options: 1.0 L Three-cylinder, 2.3 L EcoBoost I4-T

Total internal combustion range: 384 miles

Is The Ford Focus Reliable?

As detailed above, reliability is generally something that depends on the person, the car, and the situation, so we can’t make a definitive statement that the Ford Focus is reliable or unreliable. 

To better assess its reliability, however, we’ve assembled several data points from numerous sources to present you with as much information as possible. Let’s start with common problems, as told by comments listed in the Focus’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) archives.

The Focus’ NHTSA History

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Focus’ issues throughout the years.

2018

Recall: Transmission Clutch Slip and Fluid Leak, Stuck Canister Purge Valve may Cause Stall

Complaints: 150

2017

Recall: Stuck Canister Purge Valve may Cause Stall, Transmission Clutch Slip and Fluid Leak, Insufficient Seat Frame Weld/FMVSS 207, 210, Hatchback can be Unlatched with One Button Press

Complaints: 296

2016

Recall: Loss of Motive Power from Pinion Gear Wear,  Stuck Canister Purge Valve may Cause Stall, Transmission Clutch Slip and Fluid Leak, Insufficient Seat Frame Weld/FMVSS 207, 210, Hatchback can be Unlatched with One Button Press

Complaints: 500

2015

Recall: Doors May Open While Driving, Charge Cord May Overheat Causing Fire, Engine may Continue to Run/FMVSS 114,  Loss of Motive Power from Pinion Gear Wear,  Stuck Canister Purge Valve may Cause Stall, Transmission Clutch Slip and Fluid Leak, Hatchback can be Unlatched with One Button Press

Complaints: 569

2014

Recall: Doors May Open While Driving, Charge Cord May Overheat Causing Fire, Engine may Continue to Run/FMVSS 114,  Loss of Motive Power from Pinion Gear Wear,  Stuck Canister Purge Valve may Cause Stall, Transmission Clutch Slip and Fluid Leak, Hatchback can be Unlatched with One Button Press, Engine Wiring Splices may cause Stall, Improper Plating on Fuel Pump may Result in Stall, Fuel Delivery Module may Crack, Steering Gears Missing Ball Bearings

Complaints: 1,959

Focus Powershift Transmission Buyback/Class-Action

According to The Drive’s own reporting, “Ford has been hammered by Fiesta and Focus owners, as well as multiple law firms, due to its troublesome Powershift transmission. The six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox has forced customers into hefty repair bills and extended periods of downtime, which led several thousand to initiate legal action against the Blue Oval. This process came to a head on Thursday, when a federal judge approved a class-action settlement that will result in Ford repurchasing defective vehicles for as much as $22,000 apiece, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Vehicles equipped with the faulty Powershift transmission include 2011-2016 Fiestas and 2012-2016 Focuses—those fitted with manual gearboxes, of course, are excluded from the list. Owners of these cars reported "shuddering, slipping, bucking, jerking, hesitation while changing gears, premature internal wear, delays in downshifting and, in some cases, sudden or delayed acceleration." These problems have allegedly persisted long after Ford's powertrain warranty expires, with some supposedly replacing as many as four transmissions in their Fiesta or Focus.”

Common Ford Focus Problems and Repair Costs

As with other car brands, not all Focus models are built to the same exacting standards. Here’s a quick rundown of problematic Focus offerings, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

2014 Model Year: Jerks, Hesitating

Repair Costs: $1,500, according to CarComplaints.

Customer Complaint:

“When I purchased the car in August 2016, it was doing it from day 1, but I googled this problem and was convinced that that's how the transmission was supposed to be, and as long as I didn't take off too fast, it would be ok. I purchased the car for my 18 YO daughter who was leaving for college. She drove the car for two years until December 2018, when she returned it me after purchasing her first car. The taking off from a stop is horrible. It's very jerky and almost feels like the car wants to stall out on me.” 

2013 Model Year: Hesitates, Stalls

Repair Costs: $1,060, according to CarComplaints.

Customer Complaint:

“For the first 10 minutes of driving, the car acts completely normal. After that, the car shutters shifting into first or second gear. Once its in motion though, the higher gears work fine. Previous two transmissions in this car died, this is the third. Last Ford I'm ever buying.”

2013 Model Year: Power Steering Failure

Repair Costs: $1,800, according to CarComplaints.

Customer Complaint:

“My complaint at 91000 is my power steering assist light comes on and I cannot drive the car. So I had it towed down to Ford in Sumner. I was told the for just the part to repair the steering gear it will cost $1441.00 and the labor will be $784.00.

I have bought 3 Focuses over the years and I will say that Ford is taking everyone money and not caring. How many people is it going to take for the Ford Motor Company to take responsibility for the piece of garbage car they they created or should hundreds die or seriously get injured before something is done.”

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

According to JD Power, this score, “Measures the level of defects, malfunctions and design flaws experienced by vehicle owners. Covers the entire vehicle from engine to infotainment system. A higher rating means fewer problems.” 

2018: 77/100

2017: NA/100

2016: NA/100

2015: 79/100

2014: 70/100

2013: 71/100

2012: 68/100

2011: NA/100

FAQs About the Ford Focus

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q: Is The Focus Expensive To Maintain?

A: Not really. Ford’s Focus was designed to be an affordable pedestrian vehicle and parts and labor are fairly cheap. That said, it can be, depending on how you treat it, how the previous owner treated it, and if you’ve followed the Focus’ regularly scheduled maintenance. 

Q: Is a Focus High Maintenance?

A: That depends on the generation and, more importantly, if you or the previous owner followed its regularly scheduled maintenance.

Q: How Many Miles Does a Focus Last?

A: According to Consumer Reports, new cars are all designed to exceed 8 years or about 200,000 miles. However, individual mileage may vary based on, as stated above, how you treat your car. 

Q: Are Repairs Expensive on the Focus?

A: As with all repairs, it depends on the part affected. If it’s deep within the engine, it could be quite expensive. If it’s a loose body panel, likely not.  

Video

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Save $350 on an Endurance warranty plan with coupon code: DRIVE350

Going with a factory extended warranty is a good option for basic protection, but you can get more and save more with Endurance, ranked the top extended warranty provider by Consumer Advocates, Consumer Affairs, and Retirement Living.

Get a Free Quote

Save $350 with coupon code: DRIVE350

<br>

CarShield

CarShield — USA’s #1 Auto Protection Provider

CarShield pays claims directly to a US or Canadian ASE-Certified® repair facility of your choice. Our contracts have low or no deductibles to prevent stress to your wallet at a critical time. Never worry about being stranded somewhere after a breakdown. All of our vehicle repair contracts include towing services to transport you and your vehicle to a safe repair facility.

Get a Free Quote

<br>

Carchex

Nationwide coverage for cars new and old

CARCHEX has something for everyone. Have an old car? No problem. Live in California? Not an issue. CARCHEX 's plethora of warranty plans includes options for cars up to twenty years old with up to 250,000 miles, regardless of any existing or expired warranties. Click below or call 1-877-207-3304 for a free quote.

Get a Free Quote