SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 15,260 Price As Tested $ 17,300 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 121 cid/1988 cc Horsepower 130 @ 5300 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 135 @ 4500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 103.0"/66.9"/174.9" Transmission Five-speed automatic Curb Weight 2739 pounds Fuel Capacity 13.2 gallons Tires (F/R) 205/50R16 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 75 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 25/33/28 0-60 MPH 9.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 17.0 seconds @ 81.0 mph Top-speed 105 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
The small car market, considered all but dead just a few years ago, is heating up again and gasoline costs are to blame. Ford, always on the move to build cars of substance at affordable prices, has done just that with its new Focus family of subcompacts. The Focus is the replacement for the Ford Escort and is available in three body styles: the three-door ZX3 hatchback, a wagon and a sedan in either LX or SE trim, or as our tester this week, the top-line ZTS four-door.
OUTSIDE - The Focus is three inches taller than the Escort, and just a bit longer, though its higher roof Line gives it an awkward appearance. The car uses what Ford calls its "New Edge" styling theme with crisp lines mixed with flat planes, moderately flared wheel arches and jeweled headlamps that give it a distinctive look to help it stand out from other subcompacts in its class. Black trim surrounds the windows and covers the C and D-pillars, while the door handles are black as well. Its curved, arcing shape, along with special undercarriage shielding and aerodynamic mirrors, all contribute to a wind-cheating 0.32 coefficient of drag. Our ZTS test vehicle wore handsome six-spoke alloy wheels and performance tires.
INSIDE - Focus's tall body and raised roof delivers a large, airy feel to the cockpit. This also allows a commanding view of the outside world, while large front door openings make it easy to climb inside. Bucket seats are the only choice up front, though they're firm and supportive and can be adjustable up and down as well as fore and aft. Add this feature to the ZTS model's standard tilt and telescoping steering column, and drivers of virtually any size will be able to find a perfect driving position. The rear seats are roomy and comfortable for two, three in a pinch, and they're raised theater-style for a better view. The seat cushion also folds up and the backrest folds down, which dramatically increasing cargo space from the trunk. The swooping dashboard features unique cut lines and organic shapes, and the controls and switches all fall easily into place. Standard ZTS features include speed control, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD player, remote keyless entry, power windows, mirrors and door locks, fog lights, rear window defroster and variable-speed intermittent wipers.
ON THE ROAD - While entry-level Focus models have a 110-horse four cylinder engine under their hoods, Focus ZTS is powered by a 2.0-liter four that uses dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder to produce 130 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. It delivers ample performance and around 28 mpg in mixed city/highway driving. It pulls strongly and quietly into its higher rpm ranges, and there's no sense of strain at the limit. Expect to see a plethora of aftermarket add-ons available to boost the cosmetic demands of younger buyers, the target market of this car. A smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission is standard while a four-speed automatic is optional as is traction control.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Focus platform, a unit-steel design, is stiff and feels substantial. At first glance, the suspension doesn't seem too sophisticated, with MacPherson struts, coil springs, tube shocks and an anti roll bar. But the rear suspension, called "control blade" by Ford, uses a special multilink layout and together, they make for a great-handling small car that is truly fun to drive. It remains controlled and predictable during quick maneuvers, and stays stable, forgiving and well-balanced. Steering feel from the power rack and pinion system is crisp and linear, and Ford was able to reduce friction in the system by stiffening the rack's mounting points and optimizing tolerances from the entire steering system. Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS), though we'd like to see discs offered on the rear, even if it means adding another optional package.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard; side-impact airbags and traction control are optional.
OPTIONS - Traction control, $1225; side-impact airbags, $350.