While Europe receives an all-new 2005 Focus, Canadians only get changes to the existing design. Still, from a rocky start with the recall-plagued 2000 model, the Focus has matured into a line-up that returns a fine driving experience, albeit at a higher price tag than some competitors.

Changes for 2005 include a restyling that’s more in line with the corporate face, an updated interior, new stereos, and new model designations. The SVT is gone, replaced by the ZX4 ST; the Focus wagon is now the ZXW; and a new 136 horsepower, lower-emissions 2.0-litre replaces both the 110 hp and 130 hp 2.0-litre engines of 2004.

The Focus comes in four body styles: the ZX3 two-door hatchback, ZX5 four-door hatchback, ZX4 four-door sedan, and ZXW four-door wagon. (The seemingly odd number designations are because Ford calls the hatchbacks three- and five-door models.) There are also four trim levels: S, SE, SES and the high-performance ST.

All Focus models share the new 2.0-litre Duratec inline four-cylinder engine, except for the 2.3-litre four-cylinder on the ST. All come with a five-speed manual that can be optioned up to a four-speed automatic, except for the manual-only ST.

The base S trim line is available on the ZX3 and ZX4 and includes 15-inch steel wheels, manual remote mirrors, fixed intermittent wipers, CD player, and 60/40 folding rear seat. Air conditioning, ABS and side air bags cannot be added as options.

The mid-line SE trim is available on the ZX3, ZX4 and ZXW, and adds air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, and map lights. ABS and side air bags are optional.

The SES is available on ZX4, ZX5 and ZXW, and adds traction control, ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, power heated mirrors, tachometer, cruise control, power windows, leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats.

In addition to the bigger engine, the ZX4 ST adds four-wheel disc brakes, sport-tuned suspension, chrome-tipped exhaust, six-CD player with MP3, and sport bucket seats.

The Focus handles surprisingly well, it has decent acceleration with good fuel economy, it makes the most of its city-friendly size, and the ZX4 ST is a sweet little pocket rocket. But the base sedan is still $1,190 above the 132 hp Dodge SX 2.0, $1,300 over the base 145 hp Chevrolet Cobalt, and $1,800 over the 138 hp Hyundai Elantra.

The Focus is built in Wayne, Michigan and Hermosillo, Mexico.

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