Ford has big plans for the Focus, a new small car that invades the United States this year. Already a hit in Europe, where it was designed, Ford expects Focus to replace the Escort as its high-volume small car. The Escort sold in the United States was jointly engineered with Mazda, while a different Escort was sold in Europe and other markets. The same Focus design will be used worldwide, and Ford will build more than 1 million annually at full production, with about 300,000 for the United States. Focus comes in three body styles four-door sedan, two-door hatchback and station wagon wrapped in edgy styling that gives these new models a unique appearance.
Focus has a tall, long interior designed to accommodate a population that is getting taller and older. The seats are higher in the Focus than in the Escort, and the doorways are larger to make it easier to get in and out. The higher seats give Focus drivers a hint of the command seating position that help make sport utility vehicles popular. Though Focus is aimed at young buyers, Ford expects one-third to be middle-aged and older. Ford tried to address this with larger, clearly labeled interior controls that are easier to see and positioned for an easier reach. The trunk release, for example, is on the dashboard instead of the floor. Ford claims Focus is roomier than key rivals such as the Chevrolet Cavalier, Dodge Neon, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and it can seat five comfortably. The rear seat folds on all models to expand cargo capacity.
The Focus sedan is 175 inches long, about the same as the Escort sedan, but at 56.3 inches tall it is 3 inches taller. This makes the Focus look much larger on the road. Styling follows Ford's new-edge theme like that of the Mercury Cougar marked by prominent creases and dramatically designed headlamps that sweep back into the hood and fenders. The Focus hatchback, which is nearly 7 inches shorter than the sedan, is expected to appeal to younger buyers.
Under the Hood
The base engine for the Focus is the 110-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder used in the Escort. The optional engine is the 130-horsepower 2.0-liter used in the Escort ZX2 coupe. Both engines are available with manual or automatic transmissions.
Ford is making dramatic changes to give its small car lineup more utility, attention-getting looks and sporty handling. The European roots of the Focus show in its crisp, athletic cornering ability and firm ride. The upright design and roomy, ergonomic interior make this car suitable for either younger or older drivers.
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