1 2002 - 2004 Ford SVT Focus | The Forgotten Hot Hatch
By Joe Lorio
The rap on Ford nowadays is that it has neglected cars - particularly small cars - and instead has lavished all its time and attention on trucks and SUVs. The saga of the SVT Focus gives credence to that tale. The Focus itself was introduced to general acclaim for the 2000 model year, and Ford's Special Vehicles Team (SVT) worked up an impressive hot-hatch version two years later. Unfortunately, it was snuffed out after only three years, the excuse being that Focus assembly was moving to a different plant and it was too difficult to do the SVT version there. But the whole thing reeked of political gamesmanship, or at the very least a can't-do attitude, both of which have bedeviled the company for decades. Thus, starting with the '05 model year, the hottest Focus became the milquetoast ST (available only as a four-door sedan), and when the car was redesigned, the funky and practical hatchback body styles went away entirely.
The shame of it was that, with the SVT Focus, Ford had a fun, affordable, high-performance car that could stand with the best competitors from Europe and Japan. SVT had treated the 2.0-liter four to a comprehensive makeover, with a new head, forged steel connecting rods, and variable intake cam timing (the last item a first for North American Fords). With a higher compression ratio and a 7200-rpm redline (up from 6750), output swelled to 170 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque - enough for a 7.7-second 0-to-60-mph time in our tests. In characteristic SVT fashion, the upgrades went far beyond the engine room, with a six-speed manual gearbox; seventeen-inch wheels; retuned springs, dampers, and antiroll bars; heftier steering; and larger, four-wheel disc brakes. Exterior modifications were kept to a tasteful minimum, but the interior was treated to leather-trimmed sport buckets and metal-accented pedals, repositioned for easier heel-and-toe work.
In a 2002 comparison against its rivals from Honda, Volkswagen, Mazda, and Nissan, we found the Ford "by far the most engaging driver in the group." The next year, Ford upped the ante by adding a second body style, a four-door hatch. Options are few, the most worthwhile being the cold-weather group, which bundles heated seats and an engine-block heater with traction control. The SVT Focus has been embraced by the tuner crowd, and many have seen track time. So, look for one that's had adult ownership and a minimal racing history.
Price Then $17,995 (2002)
Price Now $5250
All-Star ('02, '03)
> Watch Out For
The clutch seems to be a weak point (although all the hard driving this car invites surely doesn't help). A new one runs about $1200, and many owners upgrade to an aftermarket disc and pressure plate.
> Fun Fact
The two-door outsold the four-door (available only in '03 and '04) by better than three to one. The rarest SVT Focus of all is the competition orange four-door ('04 only, 51 built).
> Certified Pre-Owned
3-month/3000-mile warranty from purchase date
> Web Sites
focusfanatics.com, svtperformance.com, myfordfocus.com, svtoa.com
- 2.0L I-4, 170 hp, 145 lb-ft
- 6-speed manual
- Front-wheel drive