Machine Design

2003 SVT Focus five door

For 2003, Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) added the five-door hatchback Focus to its lineup. And, at first glance, it could be mistaken for its more benign ZX5 sibling.

But, turn the key in the ignition, unleash those 170 horses, and it all comes into focus (pun intended). The specially tuned, throaty exhaust and a 75-mm chromed exhaust tip clues you in as well. This pocket rocket is the answer for drivers who desire get-up-and-go as well as room for cargo or passengers.

I had a bit of fun with this vehicle. For example, on the highway next to some sporty foreign coupe, the snide look from its driver quickly disappeared as a simple push on the accelerator left him behind. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine churns out 170 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. A Getrag six-speed manual transmission adds to the fun. Shifting is relatively easy with a solid feeling, and the clutch is firm but not stiff. Power rack-and-pinion steering has a retuned boost curve, said to give drivers heightened feel and precise control. I agree. The SVT Focus hugged sharp corners tightly with no sloppy steering-wheel play.

Solid stabilizer bars front and rear, retuned shock absorbers, and grippy 17-in. performance tires contribute to its sporty ride and help keep it firmly planted on the road. Brakes feature 11.8-in. vented front rotors and 11-in. solid rear rotors with single-piston calipers. ABS is standard.

Taking a closer look at the SVT Focus reveals front and rear fascias with honeycomb grilles, rocker moldings, and a small spoiler on the rear hatch, all of which differentiate it from standard Foci. Inside, black leather-trimmed sport seats accented with red or blue cloth, titanium-faced tachometer and speedometer, and metallic accelerator, brake, and clutch pedals keep reminding you that this is no ordinary Focus. The SVT Focus has an array of standard equipment, including power windows, doors, locks, and mirrors, integrated fog lamps, and remote-keyless entry. Some added bells and whistles include a $675 audiophile package featuring a six-disc CD changer, 290-W radio, and an 8-in. subwoofer; a power moonroof (add on $595) and $450 HID headlights.

The SVT Focus requires 91 octane or higher fuel but, with a 13.2-gallon tank and mileage estimates of 25-mpg highway, 21 for city driving, it shouldn't empty your wallet at the gas station. Base price for the SVT Focus 5-door is a fair $19,085. Add on a $545 destination charge as well as options, and the bottom line is $21,350. If you're looking for a pocket rocket at a reasonable price, the SVT five-door Focus is the ticket.

-- Sherri L. Carmody

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