Driving Impressions

The European heritage of the Focus reveals itself mainly in the cars crisp cornering ability and its roomy, upright, ergonomically oriented interior. The hatchback models look sharper than the sedans and are practical for carrying cargo. The ZX3 equipped with the manual shift is frisky on the road. It accelerates eagerly from a standstill and is quite spirited for passing and merging. The hatchbacks are highly maneuverable and fun to drive. Smooth clutch action and a gearbox that works fairly easily contribute to driving enjoyment. Ride comfort is firm but above par, and the suspension deals competently with urban bumps. Despite the vehicles thick pillars, long side glass helps visibility in the hatchback. Front-seat headroom is huge. A ZTS sedan equipped with the automatic transmission comes across as uninspiring. All Focus models represent good value when compared to such rivals as the Civic and Volkswagens Golf and Jetta.

Related Model: Focus Wagon

At 178.2 inches long overall, the Focus Wagon is a foot longer than the other Focus body styles. The wagon has 73 cubic feet of cargo capacity when the seats are folded down and 35 cubic feet with rear seats up. The 130-hp four-cylinder engine is standard.

Related Model: SVT Focus

Developed by Fords Special Vehicle Team, the high-performance SVT Focus uses a 170-hp engine and a Getrag six-speed-manual gearbox. An entrant into the hot hatch segment, the SVT Focus is supposed to attract nontraditional buyers who may otherwise gravitate toward imports. Its main rival is the Honda Civic Si.

Two- and four-door hatchbacks are available in the SVT Focus lineup. Both body styles have unique front and rear fascias with honeycomb grilles, special rocker panel moldings and a small spoiler atop the hatch. Cobra R-inspired five-spoke wheels hold 17-inch tires. A handling package includes revised spring rates and larger anti-roll bars to improve stability.

The seats are trimmed in black leather with cloth inserts and offer extra bolster padding for increased lateral support. Many interior components, including the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift lever, are upgraded. Auxiliary radio controls sit in a pod to the left of the steering wheel, which follows the European style. The instrument panel features an electroluminescent gauge cluster. An optional Audiophile stereo system includes an 8-inch subwoofer and an in-dash six-CD changer. A power sunroof is also optional. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard.

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