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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Ford Focus Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Ford Focus Overview

Keeping the Future in Focus

The Focus is one of the shining stars of Ford's lineup; it is a practical, sporty and efficient machine that is big on value and style yet manages to maintain a rather modest window sticker; the Focus also exhibits tremendous flexibility in its many variations. In addition to our four-door SE sedan test vehicle, the Focus family includes a two-door hatchback, a four-door hatchback, a station wagon and an SVT (Special Vehicle Team) performance-tuned model. In an ever-expanding world of trucks, SUVs and crossover vehicles, the Focus is a refreshing reminder of just how much fun you can have while still being economical.

The Focus SE is the middle child, slotted between the entry-level LX and the top-of-the-line ZTS. We think it represents a nice balance, as it is fairly well equipped yet remains well within the boundaries of what most people would consider affordable. The impressive standard equipment list includes power windows, power locks, manual driver's seat height adjustment, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, 15-inch steel wheels, AM/FM stereo with CD and MP3 playback capability, intermittent wipers and keyless entry. Add in an automatic transmission and cruise control and you have a car that meets almost every need a driver can imagine.

The Focus is a tall car, with upright doors that make it easy to get in and out. The seating position also sits up high, and you'll feel more like you're sitting in a tall chair at home than in a seat designed for an economy car. We think you'll like this tall seat setup; not only does it provide the driver with a comfortable driving position, rear-seat passengers will not be forced to sit with their knees forced up into their chest—a reality that is all-to-common in many small cars with low rear seat cushions. If you travel a great deal, you'll appreciate the Focus' large flat-floored trunk; it's one of the biggest cargo holds in its class and with the folding rear seats, even long items such as skis and lumber can be safely loaded onboard.

From the driver's seat, you'll find you have an excellent view of the road, with good side and rear visibility and an effective set of large side-view mirrors. The controls for the power windows and door locks are mounted on the door and are angled with the buttons facing toward you for ease of use; they are even backlit for night driving. The dashboard is filled with arcing lines and oval shapes creating a fun and effective design. The instrument cluster is easily viewed through tilt/telescoping steering wheel and features large round faces for the tachometer and speedometer as well as smaller gauges for fuel and temperature. The heating and ventilation controls employ three rotary knobs for temperature, fan speed and air direction; again they are placed well within the driver's view and are easy to reach. In the center of the dash is a large square audio unit with a proper volume knob and large, legible LED display.

Power for the Focus gets a nice boost with the addition of an optional 2.3-liter engine. Originally designed for low-emission markets like California, this engine is now available in all 50 states. We think if you can swing the extra cash, you should opt for the 2.3-liter over the somewhat lethargic 2.0-liter base engine. With 145 horsepower on tap, the 2.3-liter is much better qualified to pull the Focus and its cargo, especially when outfitted with the optional automatic transmission, as so many Focus sedans are. For those of you who actually enjoy shifting your own gears, Ford provides the Focus with a really fine 5-speed manual transmission that makes for a much more sporty drive.

No matter how much you try to learn about a car by reading reviews, you can never really get a feeling for it until you actually take it on a test drive; in the case of the Focus, you may find that words alone cannot do this car justice. Inside this little economy car you'll find the heart of a European sport sedan. The steering feel is marvelously accurate, tight and sensitive to even the slightest steering input. You'll love the way this car tackles turns, keeping its rear end firmly planted as you zip back and forth through twisting roads that would have most cars spinning in circles. And so long as you don't have a full load onboard, the Focus with the 2.3-liter engine provides very respectable acceleration times with enough mid-range torque as not to have you downshifting every time you need a little extra power. The SE features disc brakes up front and drums in the rear and offers the option of anti-lock brakes (ABS), which we again would recommend ordering.

In all, it's hard to find a car as roomy, affordable and fun to drive as the Focus. It's a winning combination all the way around.

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