- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

MODEL: Ford Focus SE

VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan


MILEAGE: 25 city, 32 highway

This report focuses in on Ford's latest creation for the year 2000. The little car is a sharp-looking, roomy vehicle called Focus.

It didn't take long for me to become the focus of attention as I drove. The distinctive appearance makes it obvious to anyone that this car is new and different. Within the design of each body panel seems to be the addition of another design or panel. Yet it all seems to harmonize, and the overall result is eye-catching.

The Focus is available in three body styles: a three-door, four-door sedan, and a wagon. All styles are available with the choice of four series (ZX3, LX, SE and ZTS). The Focus of this report is the SE sedan. It has a base price of $13,565. With a few options, plus shipping and handling, the total mounted to $15,825.

One option is the automatic transmission ($815) featuring an overdrive top and lockup torque converter. This transmission is sealed for life and requires no maintenance. It is linked to a modest 110-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that did surprisingly well with quick acceleration. The mileage is 25 city and 32 highway with a 13-gallon fuel tank. Incidentally, for those who prefer more power, a-130 horsepower Zetec engine is available.

The Focus has a high roof line plus a high rear end. The high trunk deck allows for more storage, and the high roof line allows bigger people to sit more upright. Even the backrests of the seats are more upright, which is the way I prefer to drive. It allows me to drive a greater distance without becoming seat-weary. Upright seats are better for attentive driving, too.

Not only does the high roof line allow taller people to sit in comfort, but the entire interior is roomy. Getting in and out is easy, and the mechanical seats have enough movement to find the right comfort and steering zone.

The instrument and door panels carry over the outside design with curved lines built within each panel. I doubt the designers know the meaning of the words "smooth" and "straight." Even the radio reflects this unusual taste.

Speaking of the radio, that, too, had a $140 option of a single CD player. The radio sounds good, but some of my best driving music is on cassettes and this sound system didn't accommodate them.

Another option ($400) on my tester was anti-lock brakes. I wasn't aware I had ABS until I had to jam on the brakes in an emergency, and as I came to a safe stop, I could feel the chatter of the ABS on the brake pedal. Had they not been on the car, I'm certain I would have caused more than $400 in damage.

Steering and maneuverability of the Focus are great. Steering is very responsive and the size of this car makes it easy to park. The Ford people told me of how the engineers fine-tuned the springs, dampers and stabilizing bar to achieve a sense of stability, as well as vehicle solidity and structural integrity. Those words sound good, but I'm not sure what they all mean. The Focus is simply a fun car to drive.

In the area of safety, the Focus has a rigid energy-absorbing crash zone for maximum passenger protection. The company says it has been tested in 100 different "real world" crash tests. Additional equipment includes the enhanced Isofix child safety seats. My Focus provided standard dual air bags. Side-impact air bags are a $350 option. If ever needed, this option might also be a bargain.

If you haven't already seen a Ford Focus, you will in the near future. Count on it.

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