Introduced for 2001, the European-designed Focus quickly displaced the Escort as Fords top-selling small car. The front-drive compact comes as a four-door sedan, a two-door hatchback, a four-door wagon and a new four-door hatchback. Sedans are offered in LX, SE and ZTS trims, while the two-door hatchback is a ZX3 and the four-door hatchback is the ZX5.
Performance is the word for 2002. Fords Special Vehicle Team, which has been turning out performance-oriented offshoots of regular production models for years, has focused its attention on the smaller end of the spectrum. A new entrant into what Ford has called the hot hatch segment, the 2002 SVT Focus aims to attract nontraditional buyers who might otherwise gravitate toward imports. Its principal rival is the Honda Civic Si, which is being reintroduced for 2002.
A Street Edition Focus with European-type suspension tuning joins the 2002 lineup, along with the new five-door hatchback body style. Both carry the same 130-horsepower, 2.0-liter Zetec four-cylinder engine as the ZX3 and ZTS. The five-door has been the top seller in Europe, and Ford hopes to sell about 20,000 units per year in the U.S. market. Another new model is the sporty ZTW wagon, which comes with the Zetec engine and is comparable to the ZX3 and ZTS. Each Z edition includes some special interior extras.
The Focus sedan is nearly 175 inches long about the same as the Honda Civic and slightly longer than the Toyota Corolla. And at 56.3 inches in height, the Focus sedan is 2.6 inches taller than the Corolla. This makes the Focus look much larger on the road than its actual dimensions might suggest. The hatchback is nearly 7 inches shorter than the sedan, but it displays the same front styling. Ford calls the distinctive styling New Edge. Its marked by prominent creases and dramatically designed headlamps that sweep back into the hood and fenders.
Seats are higher in the Focus than in the nearly departed Escort. The seats are part of a tall, long interior designed to accommodate a population that is getting taller and older, despite the cars emphasis on youth. Doorways are larger, which makes it easier to get in and out. Bigger-than-usual, clearly labeled interior controls are easier to see and positioned for an easier reach. Ford claims the Focus not only is capable of comfortably seating five but is roomier than key rivals, including the Chevrolet Cavalier, Dodge Neon, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The backseat folds down on all models to expand cargo capacity.
Under the Hood
The base engine is a 110-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. ZX3, ZX5 and ZTS models get a 130-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder thats also used in Fords Escort-derived ZX2 coupe. Each is available with a five-speed-manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. The new SVT Focus uses a 170-hp engine and a six-speed-manual gearbox.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are optional. An optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability system reduces engine power and applies brakes to individual wheels to help prevent skidding. Available on Z models, AdvanceTrac works with the antilock braking and traction control systems.
European heritage reveals itself mainly in the Focus crisp cornering ability, as well as in its roomy, ergonomically oriented interior in an upright design. The hatchbacks look sharper than the sedans and are practical for carrying cargo.
Frisky on the road with manual shift, the ZX3 accelerates eagerly from a standstill and is quite spirited for passing and merging. Highly maneuverable, the hatchback also is fun to drive, helped by smooth clutch action and a gearbox that works fairly easily. Ride comfort also is above par, if firm, as the suspension deals competently with urban bumps. Long side glass helps visibility in the hatchback, despite the presence of thick pillars. Front headroom ranks as huge.
Though it is capable enough, the ZTS sedan with the automatic transmission comes across as uninspiring next to the hatchback. All Focus models represent good value when compared to such rivals as the Honda Civic and Volkswagens Golf and Jetta.