2013 Ford Focus Electric: First Drive

Ford's built the most mainstream EV yet.


First Drive

Think of an electric car, and you'll probably picture a purpose-built creation like the tiny Mitsubishi i or the EV-only Nissan Leaf.

Ford took a slightly different track. They remade the world's most popular car into an EV, giving the Focus hatchback a 105 kW electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. The result is an electric car with few visible compromises — except for a higher price, a 50 to 90 mile range depending on weather and driving style, and a cargo space that's slightly smaller due to two batteries in the rear of the car.

We drove the Focus EV on a 30-mile round-trip commute for a week, charging it fully overnight on a 120v outlet. It was an impressive performer, and never once did we feel like we were making a sacrifice by giving up gas.

Yes, the EPA rates its range at 76 miles, and that will fall if the weather is particularly cold or hot—and even more if you put on the heater or air conditioning. But for a driver with a commute that's routine and not tremendously long—say, a teacher who works a few towns over, a person with a nine-to-five desk job, or someone who drives to a commuter rail lot daily—it's a perfect gas-free second car.

Even after our daily commute, we always had enough range that we could join a friend for dinner or stop at a store without worrying about making it back home. A long distance drive would be out of the question, but that's what your spouse's car — or a rental car — is meant for.

Compared to other EVs on the market, the Focus EV feels the most substantial, but it's also the least unique, mostly because its interior is virtually unchanged from the gasoline version. The gauge cluster and MyFord Touch have both been updated with some EV-specific functions such as a prominent range meter and a map of nearby charging stations, but otherwise it'd be virtually indistinguishable from a gas Focus from the driver's perspective.

On the road, the Focus EV clearly displays the benefits of an electric motor: Instant power delivery. Punch the gas — er, the accelerator — and you'll get pushed back into your seat. There's no problem with merging or passing, aside from reducing your range. If it's raining out, or if you're accelerating flat-out from a stop, you'll likely experience torque steer — when a car pulls to one side. We think Ford should have limited the amount of torque sent to those front wheels at lower speeds, but it is fun to have that much power on demand.

Though the Focus EV is one of the best EVs on the market, it doesn't come cheap. Starting MSRP for purchase is $39,200 — nearly twice the base price of the gas-powered Focus hatch. But lease deals are quite attractive, especially since mileage limits don't really matter for a car that you'll never take on a road trip. In Your Inbox

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