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A Short History of the Ford Focus 2000-2011

36034 rear cover B&WFirst-generation Ford Focus: 2000 – 2007

Ford Focus 26330 CoverThe first generation Focus arrived on our shores in 1999 as a 2000 model year in three guises: three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon; a five-door hatch would arrive in 2002. The Focus wore Ford’s New Edge design language, like the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar, with curves coming together with pronounced sharp edges to create a design for the new millennium. Ford seemingly took a cue from Doctor Who and made the inside bigger than the outside as well; tall doors, a raised roofline, and raised H-point seating (marketed under the name Command Seating) contributed to that impression.

Holding up the rear of the Ford Focus’s was an innovative multi-link suspension, dubbed “Control Blade”, which offered respectable ride and handling while taking up minimal space. This control blade design provided firm body control and sharp, accurate steering much better than was typical with the half-independent torsion beam suspension systems under most compacts. The ride and handling of the Ford Focus forced other competitors to come out with their own multi-link system for their compact cars.

Driving every Ford Focus’s front wheels were a variety of inline-four engines. Standard in LX and SE trim sedans until 2004 was a 2.0-liter CVH Split Port, carried over from the Escort, with 110 hp. From 2001 to 2004 a DOHC Zetec 2.0-liter with 127 hp powered the ZX3, ZX5, and wagon models and was optional in others. When the performance-oriented SVT Focus was introduced, it featured a highly tuned version of the 2.0-liter Zetec with 167 hp. Finally, in 2003, a less polluting 2.3-liter Duratec found its way into the engine bay with 145-151 hp, followed by a 2.0-liter version as the base motor a few years later in 2005. One of two five-speed manuals were standard (even in the wagon), with an optional four-speed automatic transmission, except for in the performance-oriented SVT model, which featured a six-speed manual only.

Ford released the Focus with an unusual amount of promotion, included a dedicated website marketing it to young people, three short films which played at the Sundance Film Festival, and some co-branded special editions. The 2000 Sony Limited Edition came with a killer Xplod sound system, though not as killer as the one in the 2002 MACH Audio ZTS sedan, which also had unique trim and wheels. The Kona edition included a bike rack and Kona mountain bike, floor mats and side molding which looked like knobby tire tread, and “Dirt” or Rainforest Green paint. The Ford Centennial Edition celebrated 100 years of Ford with badging, a coffee table book and unique two-tone leather interior. Then there were the better handling 2000 Street Editions sedans and wagons, and 2001 S2 ZX3 hatchbacks, with the European tuned suspension and bespoke interior.

Performance Variants

Finally, for those who wanted a hotter Focus, Ford took care of those needs with the 2002-04 SVT Focus ZX3 hatchback and 2005-07 Focus ZX4 ST sedan models. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team paired a Cosworth modified 2.0 liter Zetec motor with a Getrag six-speed manual; there was no automatic option. Wheels were 17″, brakes were discs all around, the suspension was stiffer with thicker sway bars, and a sportier body kit helped pull it all together. In 2003, the European Appearance Package added different wheels and leather Recaro seats. The SVT package was offered on the ZX5 five-door hatchback in 2003-04 as well but did not include the Recaro seats, or some elements of the body kit.

The Focus ZX4 ST took up the performance flag in 2005, though it was not quite as hot. The compact sedan received a 2.3-liter Duratec paired with a five-speed MTX manual, sportier dampers, and stiffer stabilizer bars, but with softer springs and 16-inch wheels. Color-keyed body components, anti-lock discs all around, and a unique interior helped to set the ST ZX4 apart from the rest of the lineup.

In Europe, the SVT Focus was offered under the ST170 (for the horsepower rating in their system), but they also got an even hotter one not offered to Americans: The 2002 Ford Focus RS. The European team started by bolting on a turbocharger and intercooler, for 212 hp, then added a Quaife limited slip differential, and parts from Brembo (brakes), Sachs (dampers), O.Z. Racing (wheels), and Sparko (seats).

Second-generation Ford Focus: 2008 – 2011

While Europe got a significant update in 2004, the North American Focus stayed the same until the 2008 model year and even then got mostly a facelift. The body styles were narrowed down to just two choices: a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. The 2.0 liter Duratec was the only engine installed in both models and received a small boost in power to 140 hp. For 2009, on manual transmission coupes only, the motor was rated at 143 hp when not equipped with the PZEV emission controls. The body lost 30 pounds overall compared to the previous Focus, and there were other changes aimed at increasing fuel efficiency, pegged at 35 MPG on the highway cycle using the then-new 2008 EPA standards.

Available trims at the time of introduction were the base S, mid-tier SE, and top-line SES. From 2009 through 2011, the four-door sedan also gaining a new luxury trim in the form of the SEL. Meanwhile, the two-door coupe dropped the S trim for the remainder of its production. One of the few new features to come with the update was the introduction of the Ford Sync voice-controlled infotainment system.

Fuel Cell Focus FCV

There was one oddity in the somewhat staid history of the North American version of the Ford Focus: the Focus FCV. Ford CEO and Henry Ford grandson, Bill Ford shepherded a hydrogen fuel cell powered hybrid Focus as the next step in Ford’s “Green Oval” ambitions. The FCV uses a Ballard 902 fuel cell, fed by compressed hydrogen from a 5,000 PSI fuel tank in the trunk, to generate power with only water as a byproduct. Range was 200 miles thanks to regenerative braking and a battery pack, with a top speed of 80 mph. Only 30 FCVs were delivered around the world in 2006, mostly as test fleet vehicles to large fleet buyers, but all were built on 2003 sedan chassis.

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