By Bob McHugh
The evolution of the Ford Escort from being an “okay” little economy car into a pretty good little economy car actually started in the early ’90s. That’s when it became a joint venture with Mazda and in ’97 a redesign brought some addition enhancements.
The ’97 Escort came with improvements to the steering, ride, handling and a bigger and more powerful 2.0 litre engine. An Escort wagon, one of the few small wagons on the market in the late nineties, was also available in addition to a 4-door sedan version. The original price was the same for both, but you can expect to pay about $400 or $500 more for a similar condition used wagon.
Although the larger 2.0 litre SPI engine is just a single-cam, two-valve/cylinder set-up it has considerably more power (110 vs. 88-horsepower) than the previous engine. Fuel consumption with a manual transmission is also a frugal 7.7 L/100 km in the city and 5.7 L/100 km on the highway.
The Escort offers good all-around driver vision and the wagon has a raised roof at the back that gives rear seat passengers extra headroom. The wagon also has child seat tether anchors on the roof of the cargo area, so that the tether straps do not interfere with the baggage space.
1999 Ford Escort Sedan
Escort switched to second generation (de-powered) air bags in ’98 and Ford also introduced a sporty version, called the ZX2. This slick looking 2-door coupe comes with a twin-cam 4-valve/cylinder 2.0-litre Zetec engine that’s rated at 130-hp. The ZX2 was also packaged in “Hot” or “Cool” trim versions. “Hot” means that it has extra stuff like air-conditioning, an anti-theft alarm and a remote entry system.
Escort was pulled from the Canadian market (replaced by the Focus) for the 2000 model year, although it’s still sold in the US and other parts of the world and the ZX2 continued on for an additional year. So, there’s a good supply of reasonably priced used and after-market parts, if repairs are needed.
On the safety front, there were no recalls on this last generation Escort. Although it’s a small vehicle, Escort also did reasonably well in crash tests (IIHS and NHTSA). The wagon does not have head restraints on the rear seats.
A reasonably priced used car purchase Escort offers better than average fuel efficiency and it has a good reliability record. The wagon is particularly desirable and you’ll be surprised at how much you can stuff in one!
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.