Let's get this off our chests. Ford will soon park the SVT Focus. When it's gone, we'll mourn the loss. Having said that, we've loved the basic Focus enough since its debut in 2000 (when it was our Automobile of the Year) to have given it an All-Star award for best small car in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
The car is even better now. A subtle but comprehensive design overhaul has eliminated the quirkiness (which we loved) and given the front and rear a more re-fined, expensive look. The interior has had a major makeover, following the same sophisticated game plan. It's all very neo-VW.
Nomenclature for the four models is straightforward: the ZX3 (from $13,550) is a two-door hatch, the ZX4 (from $14,150) is a four-door sedan, the ZX5 (from $14,850) is a four-door hatch, and the ZXW (from $17,350) is a wagon. Most come in three trim levels-S, SE, and SES-with the ZX4 also available in an ST version ($18,250). There is the usual laundry list of desirable options, including side air bags, ABS, and traction control. An automatic transmission will set you back $815. We'd use that money on the Sony Audiophile sound system and stay with the base five-speed, which is nicely mated to a newish, 136-horsepower, 2.0-liter DOHC four. (Green states get a PZEV version.) The 2.0-liter is derived from the 151-horsepower, 2.3-liter engine, which is now the top Focus powerplant.
Here comes the weird part. The more powerful engine is available only on the ZX4 ST. That's right, the only high-performance 2005 Focus you can buy is a four-door sedan. Consolation: several chassis upgrades, including front struts and rear dampers from the European version, as well as rear disc brakes, have found their way into the ZX4 ST. It's still no SVT, but it will have to do.