I have driven a lot of compact cars, and this month I'm focusing on the Ford Focus.
Named the 1999 European Car of the Year, the Focus now comes to America as a new entry in the small car class for 2000.
Ford calls the design philosophy used in the Focus as "new edge," with its rounded shapes, crisp edges, sharp intersections and taut lines. The car has a low hood line, an aerodynamic design and crash protection.
The first thing I liked about the Focus was the interior room. With a roof line 3 inches higher than the Escort, it's similar to a small sport-utility vehicle.
The design isn't as radical as the Ford Taurus, but it's modern and attractive enough to turn heads. Both teens and adults should find the zippy three-door ZX3 model appealing with curving arcs created by the roof line and the high-mounted tail lamps.
The Focus comes in three body styles, the four-door sedan, three-door hatchback coupe and the five-door wagon. The four-door version is available in three models: LX, SE, and ZTS.
The ZTS I drove had a base price of $15,580. It included side air bags (a $350 add-on), floor mats, an ashtray and lighter, AM-FM/CD audio, power windows, power mirrors and key-less remote entry. The out-the-door price was $16,445.
The high-end ZTS sedan has the best engine, a 130-horsepower Zetec that makes 5300 RPMs.
The engine in the LX and SE sedans is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that has 110 horsepower.
The five-speed manual transmission is standard and a lot more fun than the optional four-speed automatic. The base engine with manual transmission gets 28 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway.
All in all, the Focus is a thoroughly competent car that's pleasant to drive and a good buy.