January 7, 2002
Two more doors makes sporty ZX5 more practical
When Ford replaced the subcompact Escort with the European-designed Focus in 1999, the Focus was offered in three bodystyles: a four-door sedan, four-door wagon, and a sporty two-door hatchback called the ZX3. Since then, four-door hatchbacks have become increasingly popular, so Ford decided to add a couple of doors to the ZX3, up the list of standard equipment and the base price, and call it the ZX5.
The terms ‘ZX3′ and ‘ZX5′ refer to ‘three-door’ and ‘five-door’ respectively (Ford treats the rear hatch as a ‘door’). In my mind, a rear hatch is not a door (I’ve never gotten into a car through the hatchback, have you?) so I’m going to call the ZX5 a four-door.
Certainly, the ZX5′s two rear doors make it much easier for rear passengers to get into and out of the back seat of the ZX5 hatchback � they also broaden the car’s appeal from young singles and couples to parents with young children and older, more practical buyers.
ZX5 is well-equipped
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With a base price of $20,780 the Focus ZX5 is about $3,400 more than a ZX3, but it comes with considerably more standard equipment such as air conditioning, ABS and power windows. There is no ‘base’ version of the ZX5. The ZX5 is comparably priced with most other four-door sporty hatchbacks on the market because most of them are well-equipped too.
Some of the standard features on the ZX5 include Ford’s 130 horsepower 2.0 litre ‘Zetec’ four cylinder engine, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, front sport seats, power windows and door locks, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, brushed metal trim, remote keyless entry, 16 inch tires, alloy wheels and fog lamps.
Like the ZX3, the ZX5 has Ford’s distinctive sharp-edged styling, triangular headlamp lenses, and large taillamps mounted high up near the roof. This edgy styling theme is continued on the inside, where the instruments and controls are bordered by sharp lines and angles � notably a diagonal character line crossing the centre dash area separating the centre console from the instruments. Possibly for contrast, four large oval-shaped vents stand out prominently in the dash. New polished metal trim in the centre control panel adds a contemporary look. The ZX5′s aggressive styling theme is certainly very bold, and is something you’ll likely either love or hate.
The ZX5′s standard front sport seats have a high hip point – the driver sits up high, much like in an office chair. A manually-operated ‘crank’ under the front of the seat can raise or lower the height by about an inch or two. I liked the large side and thigh bolsters which provide great support when cornering. The seats are covered in a soft cloth velour, and my test car had black seats with sporty grey/black patterned seat inserts in the seats and in the doors.
The standard leather-wrapped steering wheel is thick and grippy and the floor shifter is well-positioned right where your hand falls between the seats. I found the centre armrest useful for resting my right arm when cruising, and it can be tilted up out of the way to avoid contact when gear changing. However, I found this unnecessary – I could change gears without bumping into it.
From the driver’s view, outward visibility is good in all directions � the third side window is useful when changing lanes, and as with the Ford Windstar and Escape, the ZX5 has a rear window that is V-shaped at the bottom to provide better vision when backing up.
The standard 2.0 litre ‘Zetec’ four cylinder twin cam 16 valve engine is a willing, free-revving powerplant with a sporty sound and decent, though not really powerful performance. At idle, there is virtually no vibration from the engine � unusual for a four cylinder powerplant � and it’s quiet. It’s also comfortably quiet at freeway speeds doing about 2,600 rpm at 100 km/h and 3,100 rpm at 120 km/h. Equipped with a manual transmission, the ZX5 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.8 seconds according to independent AJAC ‘street’ tests. I found the ZX5 quick off the line, but it’s not overly quick when passing on the freeway. My only complaint is that the front tires feel a bit loose when accelerating quickly from a standing start.
If you want to enjoy the performance of this powertrain, I’d recommend you order the manual transmission � it’s the best way to extract the better part of its 130 horsepower.
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The ZX5′s manual transmission has a well-oiled, notchy feel with medium length throws. I liked the forgiving clutch which can be engaged smoothly with ease and makes city driving a little easier. I didn’t like the ‘upshift’ arrow, a light which illuminates when it’s time to shift for maximum fuel economy � I prefer to make my own decisions about when to shift.
Fuel consumption is thrifty: the ZX5 offers 9.3 l/100 km (30 mpg) in the city and 6.4 l/100 km (44 mpg) on the highway; and it uses Regular grade gasoline. One complaint: it doesn’t have a locking fuel filler door or gas cap.
The ZX5′s fully independent suspension (front independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar; rear independent multi-link design with coil springs, hock absorbers, and stabilizer bar) is one of the best parts of this car. Though it’s oriented towards handling, the ride is also surprisingly comfortable. The ZX5 can be driven quickly with confidence on twisty roads, exhibiting excellent control and minimal brake dive and body lean. Yet, it exhibits little of the chop and bounciness found in some sport hatchbacks. Steering is quick and lightweight and the turning circle is a tight 10.4 metres (34 ft.). My one criticism of its vehicle dynamics is the ZX5′s comparatively high ride height which makes it feel slightly ‘tippier’ than a typical sedan.
Braking chores are handled nicely with the optional four wheel disc brakes with ABS (ABS is also standard on the front disc/rear drum setup). AJAC’s braking tests show the ZX5 braking from 100 km/h to 0 in just 42 metres (139 ft.), a better-than-average braking distance.
From a purely functional point of view, the ZX5′s instrument panel design and ease of use is first-rate. The round black gauges have large white easy-to-see numerals (although I noticed the 7000 rpm tachometer doesn’t have a redline), the protruding centre console is easy to reach without stretching, and the buttons and dials are well-identified and easy to use. The centrally-positioned AM/FM/CD stereo includes a large LCD display, bass, treble, fader, and balance adjustments; Seek and Scan � but no Tune adjustment. The radio features a removeable ‘stick’ that disables the radio when removed � a feature similar to a removeable faceplate.
To the left of the radio is a 12 volt outlet/lighter and pull-out ashtray that is well-positioned as a cigarette lighter, but a bit too high to plug in a recharger for a phone. Just below the radio, the heater has three prominent dials for temperature fan speed, and ventilation functions, and a separate button for air conditioning and recirculation.
I liked the clever positioning of the (illuminated) power window buttons which face the driver on the forward armrests, and I liked the large interior door handles for their easy grip. Unlike import cars, the ZX5 has the headlight switch on the dash rather than on the stalk. Cruise control buttons can be found conveniently on the steering wheel hub. Curiously, an on/off button for the traction control system is awkwardly placed between the seats near the gear lever.
At the bottom of the centre console are two large cupholders which have removeable, washable inserts � a good idea. And there’s a handy pen holder between the seats beside the handbrake. There’s also a useful coin tray next to the speedometer.
There isn’t a lot of storage space in the ZX5 � the centre armrest is too small for CD’s, so they have to go in the glovebox (too far away) or the driver’s door pocket (gets exposed to rain). I think the ZX5 needs more storage compartments.
The rear seat has generous legroom and headroom � the front seats are raised to allow more footroom for rear passengers, and the roof above the rear passengers is hollowed out to allow more headroom. There are three rear 3-point seatbelts and two rear height-adjustable head restraints, but the rear seat is too narrow for three adults to sit comfortably. There is one rear cupholder at the back of the centre console, and map pockets in the back of the front seats.
Like other small hatchbacks, the ZX5 has a cargo area that is tall but rather short � unless you fold down the 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks. The rear seat cushions lift up, and the seatbacks fold down to form a flat loading surface from the cargo area to the front seats. With the rear seats up, a sliding privacy cover hides the contents from view. The cargo area has a soft felt-like material that covers the floor and walls of the cargo area to protect them from damage when items move around the trunk.
The rear hatch can be opened with a release button (located near the instruments) or with a key in the rear hatch door lock, but I found the best way to unlock it was to use the remote key fob button. The hatch is easy to lift up, and includes an interior handle to pull it down (so you don’t get your hands dirty holding onto the outside of the hatch). The rear window glass includes a defroster, wiper and washer to keep it free of ice and dirt � this is especially important with a hatchback as the rear window gets dirty often because of the air turbulence behind the car. The ZX5′s rear window does not open separately from the hatch.
For safety, the ZX5 comes with standard dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags, safety belts with pretensioners and energy management retractors, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) in outboard rear seating positions, and optional front side impact head/chest airbags.
As well Ford’s AdvanceTrac anti-skid system, which uses electronic sensors and computerized control of the vehicle’s brakes to help maintain handling in extreme driving situations, is optional.
The ZX5′s competitors include the Mazda Protégé5 ($19,895), Pontiac Vibe ($19,150), Toyota Matrix ($16,645), VW Golf GLS ($22,280), Hyundai Elantra GT ($18,495), and Kia Spectra GSX ($17,595).
I’ve driven all of these except the Matrix (which is similar to the Vibe) In my opinion, the ZX5 has above-average driving dynamics, comparable performance, similar interior room and cargo room (with the exception of the bigger Elantra GT) and a competitive price. If you’re looking for European-style handling, ride, steering, and general driving dynamics, the Focus ZX5 is worth a test-drive.
The Focus ZX3 and ZX5 are manufactured in Hermosillo, Mexico.
|2002 Ford Focus ZX5|
|Type||4 door, 5 passenger compact hatchback|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||130 @ 5300 rpm|
|Torque||135 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed manual (4 speed automatic)|
|Curb weight||1179 kg (2600 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2616 mm (103.0 in.)|
|Length||4270 mm (168.1 in.)|
|Width||1699 mm (66.9 in)|
|Height||1430 mm (56.3 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||526 litres (18.6 cu. ft.) seats up|
|1203 litres (42.5 cu. ft.) seats down|
|Fuel consumption||City 9.3 l/100 km (30 mpg)|
|6.4 l/100 km (44 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|
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