Car Reviews: 2002 Ford Focus ZX5


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SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS


    If it seems that hatchbacks are making a comeback, think
globally. They never left in Europe and Asia, where narrow,
crowded roads and expensive fuel put a premium on small cars with
good space utilization and fuel efficiency. European hatchbacks, in
particular, are not necessarily the low-budget, entry-level vehicles
that gave the genre a bad name in the U.S. There are some that are
serious sports cars, some that provide upscale luxury, and even a
few that combine luxury and performance.
    The 2002 Ford Focus ZX5 isn't quite a luxury-performance car,
but it is a cut or two above entry level in appointment, feel, and fun
factor without being expensive. Although it's one of the newest
additions to the Focus family in the U.S., joining the four-door
sedans and wagons and three-door ZX3 hatchback, it has been sold
in Europe since the Focus's introduction there in 1999. As you
might expect from its ZX5 name, it is a five-door hatchback - the
doors being four passenger doors and the rear hatch. The ZX5 is
aimed at a slightly older and more affluent market than the ZX3,
including young families with small children and people who need a
practical commute car but don't want to totally abandon the driving
experience. So it's placed slightly upscale of the ZX3, with a higher
appointment level. It features the same 130-horsepower 2.0-liter
twin-cam ``Zetec'' engine as the ZX3, ZTS sedan, and new ZTW
sport wagon, and the same European-tinged suspension tuning.
    I've just spent a week with a new Focus ZX5. It feels very
similar to the sporty ZX3, with nimble handling response and a
compliant ride. The four doors improve access, and the large, well-
balanced rear hatch makes for great usefulness - large items that
won't easily fit into a sedan trunk slide right in. Even in standard
form, the ZX5 is well-equipped, and this one was fully-loaded, with
leather seats and a host of other options. If you need cargo and
passenger versatility in a small (but not too small) package, the
ZX5 is a good alternative to many of the small SUVs and
crossovers on the market.

APPEARANCE: It takes more than a glance to tell the ZX5 Focus
from a ZX3. Both hatchback models share the same ``New Edge''
styling, with a curved two-box profile detailed by angular character
lines. All Focus models share bodywork from the windshield
forward, with a rounded hood sloping forward to a small grille
flanked by large triangular headlights, and a flat ``air dam'' front
fascia. The two hatchback models also share a very distinctive rear
treatment, with taillights mounted high on the rather triangular C-
pillar. For the detail-minded, the ZX5 has a chrome deck lid handle,
while the ZX3's is black. The ZX3 and ZX5 rooflines are similar,
so look closely to see that the ZX5 has four shorter doors and,
consequently, different side windows.

COMFORT: As is the case with the other Focus models, the ZX5's
interior is as New Edge as its exterior. It combines straight lines,
angles, and curves in an interesting manner, but not at the expense
of easy-to-read instrumentation and easy-to-use controls. The ZX5
is very well-equipped, with power windows, mirrors, and door
locks with remote entry, excellent air conditioning with five
dashboard vents, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, and a tilt-and-
telescope adjustable steering wheel all standard. My test car had the
optional leather low-back front bucket seats. They were supportive
and comfortable. Adjustment is manual, but, in addition to the usual
parameters, the driver's seat is adjustable for cushion height. Ford's
official measurements show that the ZX5 is the same size as the
ZX3 inside, but four doors sure make access easier for rear
passengers. It's also easier to deal with large, unwieldy cargo items
when the rear seat is folded. And, with a  60/40 rear seat split and
flip-and-fold cushions, the ZX5 is an excellent alternative to any
micro-SUV in versatility, with very efficient use of interior space
for its modest size.

SAFETY: The 2002 Focus includes Ford's ``Personal Safety
System,'' which includes an electronic crash severity detector tied
to dual-stage airbags and safety harnesses with pretensioners and
energy management retractors. Safety-cell chassis construction
offers controlled deformation in a collision. The available
``AdvanceTrac'' vehicle dynamics control system uses electronic
control of the brakes to help maintain control in extreme situations.

ROADABILITY: The Focus's European heritage shows the most in
its suspension, a fully-independent design with front MacPherson
struts and the ``Control Blade'' multilink system in the rear. As is
common in European cars, it has relative long travel, and is tuned
with soft spring rates and well-matched shock damping for a
comfortable, compliant ride over poor road surfaces and good
handling as well. The ZX5 is as much fun as the ZX3 on a twisty
road, and, again like the ZX3, is more comfortable than you might
expect of a small car on the highway and around town.

PERFORMANCE: Like the other sporty Focus models, the ZX5 has
the 2.0-liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve ``Zetec'' engine. It makes
130 horsepower at 5300 rpm. Although maximum torque is 135 lb-ft
at 4500 rpm, there is plenty at lower engine speeds for good
performance around town and when passing, merging, or enjoying a
favorite back road. A five-speed manual transmission is standard,
and recommended for best performance. My test car had the
optional four-speed automatic, which worked very well around town
but was slower to downshift when accelerating at highway speeds.
Still, it should fit the needs of people looking for utility more than
sport just fine, and the four-door ZX5 body style is inherently
utilitarian.

CONCLUSIONS: The Ford Focus ZX5 combines sporty handling
and utility as can only be had with a five-door hatchback.

SPECIFICATIONS
2002 Ford Focus ZX5

Base Price			$ 15,645
Price As Tested		        $ 19,620
Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 16-valve inline 4-
cylinder
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 121 cu. in.
Horsepower			130 @ 5300 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			135 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission			4-speed automatic (opt)
Wheelbase / Length		103.0 in. / 168.1 in.
Curb Weight			2600 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        20
Fuel Capacity			13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P205/50 R16
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / disc,
 rear discs and antilock std. with AdvanceTrac system
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
                                 independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		n/a
0 to 60 mph				est. 12  sec with automatic

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Automatic transaxle				$    815
AdvanceTrac system				$ 1,625
Side-impact air bags				$    350
Leather low-back bucket seats		        $    695
Destination and delivery			$    490

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