Introduced for 2000, the European-designed Focus quickly became Ford's top-selling passenger car. Reworked for 2005, the front-wheel-drive compact comes in four body styles. They include the ZX3 three-door hatchback, ZX5 five-door hatchback, ZX4 sedan and ZXW wagon. Trim levels include the entry-level S, midrange SE and upscale SES.
Another selection, the ZX4 ST sedan, rides on a performance-oriented suspension that borrowed components from the old SVT Focus. The ST's 151-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder exceeds the standard for Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles.
Regular Focus models use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 136 hp. In states with strict emissions requirements, a 130-hp version is installed.
For 2006, a Street Appearance Package can give the ZX4 a custom look. Later in the model year, that package will also be offered on the ZX3 and ZX5. All Focus models now have a CD/MP3 player, and the optional six-CD changer adds steering-wheel controls.
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At 168.5 inches long overall, Focus hatchbacks are nearly 7 inches shorter than the Honda Civic sedan and 10 inches shorter than Toyota's Corolla. Focus sedans measure 175.2 inches from stem to stern.
The front end of the Focus echoes the look of Ford's larger Five Hundred sedan. The headlamps have clear lenses, and the grille displays a diamond pattern. Round fog lamps are installed, and the fascia has a wide, low air intake. S and SE models get 15-inch tires, while the SES holds 16-inch alloy wheels. The ST gets unique 16-inch machined-alloy wheels and all-disc brakes.
The Focus' seats are relatively high — part of a long, tall interior that's designed to accommodate taller and older people, despite Ford's emphasis on the youth market. Large doorways ease entry and exit. Big, clearly labeled controls are convenient to reach.
A symmetrical instrument panel greets the driver. The ZX4 ST has optional suede seating surfaces.
Ford says the Focus not only seats five comfortably, but it's also roomier than key rivals. The backseat folds down to expand cargo capacity. Focus sedans have a 14.8-cubic-foot trunk; hatchbacks promise 17.6 cubic feet of space when the seats are up and nearly 40 cubic feet with the seats folded.
Under the Hood
Ford's 136-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder teams with a four-speed automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. A 151-hp 2.3-liter engine that issues 154 pounds-feet of torque goes into the ZX4 ST sedan, which comes only with a manual gearbox and has a performance-tuned exhaust system.
Antilock brakes are optional on all models except the ZX4 ST, which includes them as standard equipment. Side-impact airbags are optional.
The European heritage of the Focus reveals itself mainly in the car's crisp cornering ability and its roomy, upright, ergonomically oriented interior. Hatchback models look sharper than the sedans.
The manual-shift ZX3 is frisky. It accelerates eagerly from a standstill and is quite spirited for passing and merging. Focus 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 thick pillars, the long side glass helps visibility in the hatchback. Front-seat headroom is huge.�
At 178.4 inches long overall, the Focus Wagon is nearly a foot longer than Focus hatchbacks. Wagon models have 73.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity when the seats are folded down and 35.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 136-hp four-cylinder is standard. Back to top