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New Car/Review


Ford Focus SE Sedan (2000)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 13,565
     Price As Tested                                    $ 16,040
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SEFI*
     Engine Size                                 121 cid/1988 cc
     Horsepower                                   130 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               127 @ 4250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.0"/66.9"/174.9"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2572 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      195/60R15
     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.)                              0.32


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            25/33/30          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds +
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.0 seconds @ 79.5 mph
     Top speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential electronic fuel injection

(The Ford Motor Company has a long history of building small cars for the European market and Bob Hagin has owned several British Fords built in the '50s. After evaluating the company's new Focus, his son Matt says that they've gotten much better in half a century.)

BOB - The Ford Focus was introduced in Europe first in '99, so the inevitable new model "bugs" have been worked out. It was designed by the Ford branch over there, which explains its "euro" look. It may look unusual to what buyers are used to in the somewhat bland Asian styling genre of little sedans. Ford was overdue for a new little commuter, so the Focus is the replacement for the long-running Ford Escort sedan. Being a five-seater, the Focus is a little bigger inside and out than the car it replaces and costs more to build, too. For this reason, Ford is keeping the smaller, less-expensive Escort coupe around as its entry- level vehicle for a while. The new Focus comes in four trim levels, ZX3 in the three-door coupe only, LX, SE and the sporty ZTS sedans. There are three body styles, a three-door hatchback coupe, a four-door sedan and a four-door station wagon which comes only in SE trim.

MATT - Those three adults in the back seat can be tall, Dad, but they'll have to be pretty slender. The driver's seat height is adjustable with a crank, but it's awkward to get your hand on it. It was hard to operate and it's almost impossible to do it without getting out of the car, but after finding the right position, the tilt and telescopic steering column gave the perfect fit. Its doors and interior head room is taller than its predecessor and has an unusually tall exterior profile. The dash design was very strange - almost surrealistic - but that seems to be a common feature these days. A nice safety feature on the Focus is not only its two standard dash-mounted air bags, but optional side ones as well. Another item I like is the auto on/off head lights. I play it safe and just leave the lights on all the time.

BOB - As with all small cars, the Focus comes standard with a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission but the wagon only has the automatic. The bottom-line Focus models come with the same 2.0-liter SOHC four-cylinder, eight valve engine that's standard in the Escort, but our SE tester came with an optional 2.0- liter inline four with twin-cams and 16-valves, and it's the same version found in the hot Escort ZX2. It puts out 130 horses and zips to 60 from a stop in around nine seconds. Not sparkling, but it's enough to keep up with traffic.

MATT - Our SE sedan tester came with a standard five-speed manual gearbox, which is always my choice for sporty driving on country roads. The Focus has disc brakes in front and drums in back, and an anti-skid brake system is optional on all models. Maybe Ford will add disc brakes on future models. The new body structure is stiffer than the Escort and the wheelbase is longer, too. These factors really help the handling. The suspension is MacPherson struts up front with a sophisticated multi-link package in the rear. Both of them are supported by coil springs. The suspension has been designed to have lots of travel, which helps make for a smooth and supple ride, an aspect often lacking in smaller cars.

BOB - Our SE test car came with an optional Sport Package as well as bigger 15-inch wheels and tires, which is a plus for handling. The Focus has crisp lines and exaggerated over-fenders, so for an economy car, it has a muscular look. The front and rear overhangs are minimal, but trunk room is huge. The trunk hinges are telescopic, so they don't intrude into the trunk space. If more room is needed, the Focus has a flip-down rear seatback for longer items. Ford researchers say that most Focus buyers will be young in general and female in particular. It's obvious that Ford designed its advertising with a youthful "boppy" attitude and has put a lot of corporate effort into its launch.

MATT - Dad, I remember hearing that in the '60s, Henry Ford II once said "...small cars, small profits. We're not interested," but it looks like Ford has changed its corporate mind a great deal since then.