2018 Ford Focus Cheap Adventure Review: 2,000 miles on $200

The Focus was a great companion - it's a shame Ford killed it

This is the 2018 Ford Focus hatchback. It was an excellent long distance ride, and didn’t break the bank either. [Photo: TFLcar]

Unfortunately, not all adventures are planned, nor are they always affordable. I had the opportunity to embark on one driving the 2018 Ford Focus – with very little money to make it over 2,000 miles in just five days.

The problem

Caught in between paychecks with a car in the shop and summer camps to pay for – I had to go on this 2,000 mile trip. There were no affordable flights. Denver to Springfield, Illinois last minute was about $400 — each way. Even with my discounts, flights hotels and rental cars would have cost well over $1,000. I had about $250 to work with.

The warranty work on my car meant that I had a rental with unlimited mileage covered. I asked the rental company for the most frugal vehicle they had. I was presented with 2018 Ford Focus SEL hatchback. Sure, it’s not as frugal as my Mazda3, it was pretty close.

The Car

My 2018 Ford Focus SEL came with a 160 hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 146 lb-ft of torque. It’s fairly lively and passing power is pretty good for a car that weighs about 3,000 pounds. It came with Ford’s updated 6-speed PowerShift dual-clutch transmission. Yes, that transmission.

Despite its checkered history, it does manage pretty good gas mileage. The 2018 Ford Focus is rated at 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The 12.4 gallon tank was enough to give me a 400+ mile range with each fill-up. Low octane (85 and 87) prices fluctuated. I calculated the average price to be $2.65 between Denver and Springfield, Illinois.

This was my first fill up. Notice the excellent 37.4 mpg. I was not driving slow.

At $2.65 per gallon, I spent a total of $159.00 for the entire 2,167-mile round trip.

I encountered a lot of flooding in Missouri and Illinois which forced me to use alternative routes. Fording a few sections of road that had several inches of water, the little Ford took it with ease.

It’s a little tight, but I was able to fit a tent, two coolers, a folding chair, sleeping bag, pillows and two duffle bags. There was still room for a front passenger.

The Verdict

With all expenses included, I kept my budget well under $210. It was a long drive and I can’t pretend that the trek through Kansas was enjoyable. I was fortunate as I had a book downloaded (Celtic Empire by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler) and the miles simply melted away.

I’m not a fan of the somewhat jerky transmission. It worked well on the highway. I like this car’s handling. Steering feel and grip, even on cheap rental-car tires, was outstanding.

My final fillup before returning the car.

It’s a shame Ford will no longer sell the Focus in the United States. I think with a few improvements, even the entry-level version (like my rental) would be top notch.

I’m just grateful it is as easy to drive and efficient as it was. Who knows? Under better circumstances, I may try another long-distance trip on a super tight budget. I like the challenge and the solitary driving can help clear the head.