DETROIT – Every now and then we get the chance to test drive a basic car, although these days basic is relative. Such was the case with the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback SE. The test car had a key that actually opened the door, however, there was remote lock and unlock, and that key started the car. There was no push button start or stop. There wasn’t a navigation system, either.

Still, the car had voice controls, auxiliary and USB jacks, Bluetooth, satellite radio (the subscription had expired), cruise control and a single disc CD player with MP3 capability and power windows. There was a time when most of that stuff was exclusive to premium and luxury cars. Today, it is pretty run of the mill.

What made the Ford Focus SE special was its pragmatism. With no navigation screen, the interior was pretty straightforward. There was a small information screen at the top of the dash board, a digital keypad for manually dialing phone numbers beneath it and a three-dial climate control beneath that.

This Ford Focus Hatchback was comfortable and it was meant for everyday mundane and not-so- mundane driving. It had a sizable glove compartment. The front seats were comfortable and the back seats were just as comfortable. They were not hard or thinner and built as though someone would use them.

Depending on the articulation of the front seats, rear seat leg room ranged from cramped to comfortable. There was a good bit of head room for anybody up to six feet tall. Although the car is listed as a five passenger vehicle, forget it. Yes, a fifth person can squeeze into the back seat but the operative word is squeeze.

Although the Focus Hatchback is shorter than the Sedan version, it has far more cargo space. While the sedan has a 13.2 cu. ft. trunk, the hatchback had 23.8 ft. of cargo space with the second row seats deployed. Fold them flat and that opened up to a cavernous 44.8 cu. ft. of storage space.

The car was powered by a 2.0 liter flexible fuel four cylinder engine that made 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Two six speed automatics are available but the five-speed did just fine, once you got used to five gears and not a lot of torque. That meant the driver had to be adept at downshifting to build torque and thus speed but it was no big deal. The 2014 had the relatively normal MacPherson strut front suspension and a multilink setup in the rear.

With a wheelbase of 104.3 inches, the front-wheel-drive Ford Focus handled the ruts of the road left in the wake of winter fine. The electric power assisted steering was responsive. Handling was precise and cornering wasn’t bad either. By the numbers the overall length of the Ford Focus Hatchback was 171.6 inches long; it was 71.8 inches wide and 57.7 inches tall. The front track was 61.2 inches wide while the rear was 60.4 inches.

The best number of all was the price: $22,550 as tested.

Frank S. Washington is editor of

Frank S. Washington

NNPA Columnist