2004 Ford Focus


2002 Ford Focus

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Expanded lineup and more equipment make Euro-style Focus more desirable.
  • Sporty 4-door hatchback and hot-rod models added
  • Fuel-stingy
  • Fun to drive
  • Lazy base engine
  • Wind noise at highway speeds
  • Notchy manual gear shifter

Ford is keeping up with market trends by adding a 4-door hatchback sedan and hot-rod coupe to the European-style Focus line.

Hatchbacks are making a comeback, partly because they're very utilitarian—like popular light trucks. And fast versions of small, mostly Japanese coupes have become trendy and popular among young drivers.

The front-drive Focus is from Ford's overseas operation and was named European Car of the Year in 1999. It's been popular since it arrived in America for the 2000 model year in two-door hatchback, sedan and station wagon form.

Wide Appeal
Ford has succeeded in attracting younger drivers with the affordable, fun-to-drive Focus, which has edgy styling but an ultra-practical design. The automaker also has captured a fair number of older drivers with the car because it makes a lot of sense.

There are no less than 14 Focus trims, with base prices ranging from $12,925 to $17,930. Most trims are under-$16,000 base price.

Late Arrival
The new hatchback sedan is the $15,840 ZX5, which has been offered in Europe since the Focus line was introduced. Ford finally is selling the ZX5 here because hatchbacks no longer have the low-rent image they had in the 1970s and 1980s, when American hatchbacks were especially marginal. Even Mercedes-Benz now offers a hatchback.

New Hot-Rod Model
Also new is the $17,480 hot rod SVT version of the Focus hatchback coupe. Developed by Ford's elite Special Vehicle Team, it's designed to compete with cars such as Honda's new Civic Si. The SVT has items such as a special suspension and bigger tires to handle the extra power.

There also is a sportier new ZTW version of the station wagon, which has such features as a tachometer, leather upholstery and wider tires. It's the most expensive Focus trim, with the $17,480 SVT not far behind.

Unusual Styling
Ford's unusual New Edge styling makes the Focus easy to pick out in parking lots. It stands tall, and large doors make it especially easy to get in and out of sedan models—a good selling point even on showroom floors. Occupants sit comfortably upright in good seats. Large stirrup-type outside door handles are easily grasped, but the smaller inside handles look cheap.

Fun to Drive
The appeal of the Focus goes far beyond its styling. The car has precise steering, confident handling despite some body sway in curves and a smooth ride from a nicely designed, all-independent suspension. The brake pedal is soft, but has a progressive action and stopping distances are okay.

Most recently, I tested the very well-equipped, rather sporty ZX5, which is one of the best Focus trims. It has a big windshield, prominent ventilation ducts and an airy interior. The decent size cargo area becomes very large when the split rear seat is folded forward. But, as with all Focus trims, there is excessive wind noise above 60 mph in the otherwise quiet interior.

Focus gauges can be quickly read in the best European tradition and large, well-placed controls work smoothly. There are large dual front cupholders and front door storage pockets are fairly deep.

The higher-line 130-horsepower 4-cylinder engine provides lively performance—at least to 65 mph. And the 170-horsepower 4-cylinder SVT engine makes that trim a pistol, although it's not an especially refined motor.

The base 110-horsepower 4-cylinder provides only lazy acceleration, especially when hooked to the automatic transmission. While quiet during cruising, the 2-liter Focus engines get noisy when pushed because they're small and work especially hard when the accelerator pedal is floored.

Other Focus drawbacks include tight legroom for a tall person behind a driver who moves his seat all the way back and power door locks that make a cheap clunking sound. Also, it's hard to climb in and out of the coupe's rear seat in tight spots. And all trims could use a larger fuel tank.

Shifting Required
Many young motorists never learned how to shift gears, but that's what they'll have to do with the SVT, which comes only with a slick Getrag 6-speed manual transmission. Other Focus trims come with either a 5-speed manual that is generally OK except for a rather notchy shifter or a decent 4-speed automatic transmission.

Good Fuel Economy
As for estimated mpg figures, all Focus trims are thrifty, delivering in the mid- to high 20s in the city and in the low to mid-30s on the highway.

A power moonroof is offered for the first time for all body styles, and improved cupholders can handle larger beverage containers. There also is a new, optional 6-disc, in-dash CD changer,

Worthy New Option
Newly available on higher-line trims is a $1,625 Advance Trac anti-skid system, which comes with anti-lock brakes and traction control. It's well worth the money.

Also new for the 2002 Focus is Ford's Personal Safety System. It adjusts deployment of airbags to enhance protection for front occupants (depending on a number of factors) with the help of components, such as an electronic crash severity sensor. Head and chest side-impact airbags are optional.

The Focus is solidly built, although not as refined as some foreign rivals. But it offers a lot for the money and there are enough body styles and trim levels to satisfy practically everyone.


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BB04 - 9/16/2014 8:44:17 AM