2003 Ford Focus Reviews

2003 Focus New Car Test Drive


The Ford Focus continues to be one of the most enjoyable compacts in its price range. It's fun to drive, with brisk acceleration performance and agile handling. It's versatile, with hatchback models with flip-down seats that quickly prepare it for large amounts of cargo. It's comfortable on long trips and stable at high speeds. 

When it was introduced, the Focus won safety kudos from the federal government and product awards from automotive journalists. The Focus was named North American Car of the Year for 2000 by a group of 50 independent automotive journalists. The 2003 Ford Focus offers improved engine response and reduced interior noise over last year's model. 

Ford's New Edge styling has helped the Focus stand out from the crowd. It comes in a wide variety of body styles to meet many different needs and lifestyles. 

Road noise has been reduced for 2003. Additional refinement comes in the form of new interior fabrics along with changes to interior and exterior trim. New options include heated seats, a new traction control and anti-lock brake system (ABS) package. The ZX5 five-door hatchback is now available in three trim levels. 

The 170-horsepower SVT versions offer thrilling acceleration performance, sporty handling, and excellent brakes, yet give up nothing in terms of practicality. For 2003, SVT versions are available in three-door and five-door hatchback styles. 


Ford Focus comes in four distinct body styles: three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon. All ride on the same 103-inch wheelbase and offer similar driving characteristics. 

Sedans are the most popular of the Focus models. The four-door sedan is available in three trim levels: entry-level LX ($12,990), an upgraded SE ($15,005), and the 130-horsepower ZTS ($15,580). 

Three-door hatchback models are available in ZX3 trim or the high-performance SVT model. The ZX3 ($12,680) is a sport compact, and comes with all the requisite hardware: the 130-horsepower twin-cam engine, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, and a CD/MP3 player. The ZX3 Power Premium Package 120A ($2285) includes air conditioning, six-disc in-dash CD changer, dual power mirrors, power windows (with one-touch driver's side down), power door locks, front center armrest, front map/reading lamp, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry, cruise control, and low-profile P205/50R16 tires on 16-inch alloy wheels. 

Five-door hatchback models are available in sporty ZX5 trim or SVT. The five-door hatchback is a cross between a four-door wagon and a coupe, with four doors and a tapered rear roofline leading to a rear hatch. The ZX5 ($15,385) comes standard with the 130-horsepower Zetec engine, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps. Also standard is a CD/MP3 player. ZX5 Premium package ($1000) adds P205/50R16 tires on 16-inch wheels, six-disc in-dash CD changer, map lights, moon roof, body-color trim, speed control, and tilt/telescoping steering wheel. 

Wagons are available in SE and ZTW trim. The SE wagon ($17,010) comes standard with the 130-horsepower dohc Zetec engine and a choice of manual or automatic transmission. The ZTW wagon is an enthusiast's sport wagon with 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seating, and a six-disc in-dash CD changer. A four-speed automatic is standard, with a five-speed manual optional. 

SVT versions are available in three-door hatchback ($18,380) and five-door hatchback models. Both feature the Ford Special Vehicle Team's 170-j[ version of the 2.0-liter engine. Focus SVT models boast a Getrag six-speed manual transmission, SVT-tuned suspension, special trim, including a rear spoiler. 

Three engines are available. All are 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. The 110-hp 2.0-liter engine with a single overhead-cam and two valves per cylinder is standard on Focus LX and SE models. It's mated to a five-speed manual transaxle. 

The 130-hp Zetec engine with double overhead-cams and four valves per cylinder is standard on Focus ZX3, ZX5, ZTS, and wagon models and optional on the Focus SE sedan. It comes with a choice of a more sophisticated five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. 

New options for 2003 include heated seats, heated mirrors, an MP3 audio system, a perimeter alarm system, and traction control. 

Side-impact air bags ($350) are optional and we recommend them. 

AdvanceTrac is an optional system for the Focus that can help you keep the car on the road in an emergency handling situation. The system monitors the car's behavior while cornering, checking the steering angle, lateral acceleration and yaw rate. If it senses you're in trouble it reduces power and selectively applies to brakes to individual wheels to keep the vehicle on course. AdvanceTrac uses the ABS and traction control system to help it accomplish this. The system intervenes progressively so that the drier is hardly aware that it has been activated. AdvanceTrac may be turned off by pressing a button on the instrument panel, but comes back on whenever the vehicle is started. AdvanceTrac with ABS is not cheap at $1625, but it could help you avoid an accident. Available as a standalone option for 2003 is traction control ($115), which improves stability in wintry conditions but does not offer the sophisticated accident-avoidance enhancements of AdvanceTrac. ABS, which helps the driver maintain control in a panic brak. 

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