The revamped Focus represents something of a radical styling departure from its predecessors. Out go the hatchback and wagon body styles of the previous generation, replaced with a more bulbous and curvaceous design that's reminiscent of a squished Ford Mondeo.

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The 2008 Ford Focus comes with a single choice of power in the shape of a 2.0-liter, Duratec, four-cylinder engine producing 140 horsepower.

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The Focus SES comes standard with 16-inch six-spoke alloy wheels. Antilock brakes and traction control is available for an extra $385.

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Chrome fender decorations give the Focus SES some dashing accents.

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The Focus SES comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission or--as was the case with our tester--a four-speed automatic for an extra $815.

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Designed by Microsoft, and exclusive to Ford Motor Co. products, Sync represents a quantum leap forward for Ford (and the auto industry in general) in terms of controlling in-car media and communications. The 2008 Ford Focus SES gets Sync as standard.

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Another advanced feature of Sync is its ability to read and send text messages from compatible cell phones. The feature requires a paired cell to have the correct Bluetooth profile. With an appropriate phone connected, Sync enables drivers to read incoming messages and to send out a list of predetermined list of responses.

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Sync managed to understand our requests the first time. On the occasion that it did struggle (calling Andrea instead of Andreas), we enunciated more deliberately the second time, and the system dialed the correct contact.

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For our test of the voice-dialing feature, we decided to enter into our cell phone six names with similar spellings and pronunciations to try to catch the system out. Our test names were: Andrew, Andrea, Andreas, Andre, Andy, and Anthony. For each one, we attempted to call the contact by voice command.

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In addition to the ability to call out songs by name, Sync has a feature called "play similar music," whereby the system searches metatags of tracks on the connected player to find tracks with similar attributes to the one currently playing.

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According to Ford's marketing bump, the Focus SES has "Enhanced European-inspired suspension." We're not exactly sure what is so European about the springs and dampers, but the car does manage to dampen out road imperfections well, leading to a comfortable ride.

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