2003 All-Star Small Car: Ford Focus
In Europe, Ford has a long history of crafting economical cars that resolutely defy economy-car status. Trouble was, we in North America got either watered-down versions of these Continental delights or no versions at all. Then the Focus arrived - over there for 1999 and over here, almost unaltered, for 2000. Flavored for the European small-car palate and proportioned for the American big-car appetite, the Focus was, truly, a car for all countries. Among its many accolades was this publication's Automobile of the Year award. And yet, as superlative as the Focus remains, determining this year's best small car was no small feat. The new Mini Cooper is an undiluted delight, and the Mazda Protege family just keeps getting better. But when the votes were tallied, the endlessly amusing Focus, with its four body styles, incomparable user-friendliness, and sensible pricing, had done it again. The clincher was the new five-door SVT Focus, which augments the practicality of the Special Vehicle Team's three-door model but sacrifices none of its joie de vivre. It, like every Focus, celebrates a driver's enthusiasm while respecting his thriftiness, bringing indulgence to a segment that is all too often defined by sacrifice.