DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. promises its new ’08 midsize Ford Focus will deliver car buyers B-segment fuel economy.

Debuting at this week’s North American International Auto Show here, the redesigned Focus is expected to achieve a miserly 37 mpg (6 L/100 km), helping Ford tap into the growing U.S. small-car market, which the company predicts is poised to grow 5% annually through 2008.

The car will be available in both a 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe, which Ford says will help it reach a broad spectrum of buyers. It will ride on the same C-segment platform as the previous-generation Focus.

The ’08 Focus will be powered by a 2.0L Duratec 20 DOHC inline 4-cyl. engine mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

In “green” states with strict emission regulations, the Focus will offer a super-clean, 130-hp Duratec 20E engine, which qualifies the car as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle.

The exterior of the new Focus undergoes radical change for ’08 for what Ford calls a “sportier vehicle.”

“By raising the beltline, we created a sleeker profile,” Lon Zaback, Focus chief designer, says. “The overall look is solid and more substantial.”

New headlights feature horizontal bars with a matte surface running through the reflection area, which visually connects them with a sweeping line running through the chrome grille. Ford says the idea is so innovative it has a patent request for the design.

Designers also went to work on the interior of the ’08 Focus, which Ford describes as “a modern, contemporary cabin with a sense of openness.”

To reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, the cabin is outfitted with an acoustic windshield, thicker side glass in the front doors and additional sound-deadening materials.

Instrumentation also has been rearranged, with an eye-level “top-of-dash” display in the center stack. The unit features a message center that shows radio function readouts, making it easier and quicker to read while driving.

For ’08, Ford replaces the Focus’ traditional green instrumentation lighting with its new Ice Blue lighting, which is making its way across the entire Ford lineup.

Ford says Ice Blue provides a “cool, crisp light that enhances the overall feel of the interior,” which also is easier on the eyes when driving at night.

Additional lighting enhancements will be available via an optional interior ambient lighting system for inside the cupholders and in the front and rear foot wells. Seven different colors can be selected.

Ford also tweaks the suspension with new spring rates; shock absorbers; stabilizer bars; spring damping and bushings, providing enhanced driving characteristics.

The ’08 Focus will have more standard safety features than the current ’06 model, including thorax side airbags, side air curtains and Ford’s Personal Safety System.

bpope@wardsauto.com