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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Ford Focus Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Ford Focus Overview

The Hottest Hatch on Market

The SVT Focus is no flash and mirrors car; it's a genuine SVT success story that marries performance, handling and style with affordability and fuel efficiency. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the base Focus ZX3 platform on which the SVT Focus is based is already a road-hugging machine with all the performance attributes of a VW GTI or Honda Civic. For 2003, the SVT lineup expands to include a new 5-door model, affording all the performance and fun of the coupe with the convenience of two extra doors.

The SVT Focus was launched last year to much fanfare. Its introduction marked the first time in a long time that an American car manufacturer had built a product that could go toe-to-toe with the high-performance hatchbacks from Japan and Europe. Overseas, Ford cars look very different than what we see here in the states and it was those designs that partially motivated the SVT team. European Fords have always had a more racy, performance-oriented image than their American counterparts. That's because for a long time, the big three labored under the misguided concept that Americans would not accept a car with European styling, firm seats and stiff suspension. In the early 80s, the Ford Taurus was the first car to break this myth and would go on to become a number one best seller for the company. The Focus' introduction a few years back once again proved that American driver's do appreciate all the same performance attributes as their European counterparts. The SVT takes all that's right with the European design philosophy and tacks on a hefty dose of American racing know-how.

For the lover of small, nimble cars, the SVT has much to offer. From its 170-horsepower 2.0-liter Zetec engine to its Getrag 6-speed manual transmission (no automatic is offered) the SVT Focus means business. If the hardware list doesn't convince you of that, maybe the base price of $19,100 will; and that's not stripped mind you. The SVT comes standard with 17-inch wheels and tires, front fog lights, sport seats with driver and passenger manual lumbar adjustment, air conditioning, an AM/FM MP3 CD audio system, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, upgraded sport suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, larger four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, traction control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, heated outside mirrors and side-impact airbags.

But the SVT Focus is so much more than just flashy good looks, bells and whistles; it's a driving machine that loves to play as much as you do. One of the first things you'll notice about the SVT Focus is how high up it sits. The tall design allows drivers to sit up high where they are better able to see over the cars directly ahead. The Focus' height also helps it to do better in its crash testing because the bumpers and side-door beams are higher up, in line with the bumpers of many full-size SUVs.

Climb inside and a set of well-bolstered sport seats await you; finding a comfortable driving position is easy thanks to their power height adjustment, tilt wheel and dial-in lumbar control. Check out the cool titanium finish on the instrument faces and notice the two extra gauges residing in the space normally reserved for the digital clock; the gauges monitor oil pressure and volts, a must for any performance car enthusiast. Now fasten your seatbelt, adjust your mirrors and turn the ignition key. Listen to the low rumble of the SVT 2.0-liter, its large exhaust emitting a throaty growl that grows louder as you push on the throttle.

As you head out onto the open road you can feel the torque kick in around 2500 rpm and continue to pull strongly right up to 6000 rpm when you shift and start the process all over. The Getrag shifter feels good in your hand and moves with a fluidity previously unknown to the Focus platform. The thickly-padded steering wheel fits perfectly in your hands and as you turn it, you are impressed by its weight. Even more impressive than the steering is the way the way the suspension interprets the road beneath you. You'll wonder if you read the brochure correctly as you turn onto the windy two-lane roads that every SVT driver dreams of; is this smooth ride really coming from a set of 17-inch wheels and tires? The SVT's ride is at odds with the teeth-rattling ride usually equated with low-profile performance tires. It seems the only time you are reminded of tire's lack of sidewall is when you're crossing a pothole or passing over a poorly maintained road. The engineers have scored an A plus for this brilliant suspension setup.

The SVT Focus' brakes stop on a dime, its steering is spot on and the clutch engages so smoothly you'll be convinced that anyone could learn to drive this manual. This car LOVES curves; it loves to dive into them, pull out of them and hug them. The Focus SVT is such a great driver's car that it not only makes you want to drive more often, it makes you want to find the longest, most challenging way home.

If there is one area the SVT Focus could improve its in the area of power. Don't get us wrong, the Zetec engine is a great piece of engineering, but in a world of 225-horsepower turbocharged WRX's and EVO II's, the Focus has to run hard to keep up. Rumor has that a supercharged Focus SVT may be in the works for 2004. If true, the SVT Focus may very well become the next American Sweetheart machine from Ford.

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