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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Ford Focus Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Ford Focus Overview

The Economy Car with European Flair

Economy cars are so named because they are just that, economical. They usually are inexpensive, frugal at the pump and about as much fun to drive as a horse and buggy on a bumpy back road. But one economy car flies defiantly in the face of this stereotype, offering instead an amended definition of economy that is inexpensive, frugal at the pump, loaded with standard and optional equipment and an absolute blast to drive. Welcome to the world of the Ford Focus.

The Focus is available in four basic forms: 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, 4-door sedan and 5-door wagon. All of these models offer exceptionally large cargo areas, though the hatchbacks and wagon take the top honors for most usable cargo space. The Focus may be officially listed as a compact car, but its spacious interior volume and tall, upright seating position make it feel much more substantial than most of the small cars we've driven. Adding to this feeling is the sturdy structure, thick plastic trim pieces and the nicely textured fabrics that adorn the seats and door panels. For 2003, Ford has placed the Focus on a strict noise diet, adding a spray-on deadener to the car's underside and thicker carpet underpadding resulting in a 2 decibel drop at highway speeds.

On base trim levels (LX and SE sedan), power comes from a 2.0-liter engine that makes 110 horsepower. This engine is geared more for fuel economy than power and is best teamed to the 5-speed manual transmission. Though not a slow poke, the base 2.0-liter has to work hard to move the Focus with any urgency, a situation that is further complicated by the addition of the 4-speed automatic. The ZX3, ZX5, ZTS, SE wagon and ZTW wagon all get the more potent 16-valve Zetec engine, which bumps horsepower up to 130 and greatly increases the Focus' fun factor. The little Zetec engine loves to rev high, with lots of torque in the low rpm band that allows the car to move quickly, whether from both a dead stop or when passing at high speeds. Due to more stringent emission rules, cars in CA, MA and NY get an even more powerful 2.3-liter PZEV engine that makes 148 horsepower.

The Focus is a car that loves to be driven. You'll find that even the base model offers outstanding cornering ability, with almost no body roll and dead-on precision steering. The ZX3, ZX5, ZTS and ZTW all get stiffer suspensions and larger wheel and tire packages that move the Focus' road handling performance into the realm of more expensive sport sedans and coupes. And the Focus can do something that many sports cars can't; deliver a smooth, quiet ride—even over rough and uneven surfaces.

Inside the Focus, you'll find an eye catching dash design, with sweeping curves that cascade into each other to form the various pods for heating, audio and instrumentation. Large oval vents are placed at the outer edges and center of the dash for maximum airflow (and with the fan set to high, you definitely get maximum air flow.) High line trims get new silver faced instruments and include an MP3 player as part of the standard AM/FM CD system—a feature you won't find on most $40K luxury cars, let alone the competition. The Focus' tall roofline affords ample head and legroom and even lets tall rear-seat passengers dare to sit up straight without bumping their heads on the roof liner above. The front bucket seats are comfortable, with better padding on the seat bottom—a common complaint on previous models; high-end models feature a height-adjustable driver's seat.

The base Focus has a long list of standard equipment including rear defroster, full wheel covers, 5-speed manual transmission, dual remote mirrors, AM/FM stereo with cassette, split-folding rear seats and power steering. The ZX models offer the most value for the money, adding the more powerful ZTEC engine, air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry with illuminated entry feature, the MP3 CD player, leather-wrapped steering wheel and tachometer. Options this year include heated seats, heated outside mirrors, traction control and a series of packages designed to bundle together the most popular options for one low price.

If you're in the market for a high mileage compact car, you'll be hard pressed to find one with more options or as much fun to drive as Ford's Focus.

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