The Focus arrived last year and quickly displaced the Escort as Fords best-selling small car. The front-drive, compact-size Focus was designed in Europe and comes in four-door sedan, three-door hatchback and four-door station wagon body styles. The Focus Wagon is featured in our 2001 Station Wagon Buying Guide.
This years big news is the addition of an optional electronic stability system an unusual feature for a car in this size and price range. Called AdvanceTrac, the system reduces engine power and applies the brakes to individual wheels to prevent skids. AdvanceTrac works with the antilock brakes and traction control systems and is available on the ZTS sedan and ZX3 hatchback.
Later in the model year, look for Ford to offer special editions of the Focus such as the 2000 Sony sedan with a window-rattling sound system and the Kona hatchback aimed at mountain bikers.
The Focus Sedan is 175 inches long about the same as the Escort sedan but is 3 inches taller at 56.3 inches. This makes the Focus look much larger on the road. The hatchback is nearly 7 inches shorter than the sedan but wears the same front styling.
Ford calls the distinctive styling New Edge, and it is marked by prominent creases and dramatically designed headlamps that sweep back into the hood and fenders.
The 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 those 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 the 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.
Ford says the 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.
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-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder used in the ZX2 coupe. Both engines are available with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.
The European roots of the Focus show in its crisp, athletic cornering ability and firm ride. The 130-hp engine delivers much livelier acceleration, though the optional automatic transmission saps a lot of its vigor.
The upright design and roomy, ergonomic interior make this car suitable for either younger or older drivers, and the rear seat has space for two 6-footers. Both the sedan and hatchback provide ample cargo space; however, the split rear seatbacks dont lay close to flat unless the one-piece cushion is folded first. In other words, you have to give up the entire rear seat for one side of the seatback to lay flat.
Prices are reasonable on the Focus, which stacks up as good value against rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf/Jetta and Honda Civic.
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