What's New for 2002
Other than a couple of new exterior colors, the Escort ZX2 is unchanged for 2002. The Comfort and Power Groups have been replaced by the Deluxe and Premium Groups, which include new items of standard equipment.
The Ford Escort ZX2 Coupe must feel like middle management. It has some decent skills to offer, but it's getting old and definitely feeling the heat from younger and more dynamic members of the team.
The younger and more dynamic teammate would be Ford's Focus ZX3. Both the Escort ZX2 and the Focus ZX3 are aimed at attracting young buyers through a combination of an affordable price, unique styling, versatility and a fun-to-drive nature. But allow us to be frank: The Focus is a much better car.
The ZX2 has been around since 1998 as the coupe version of the Escort Sedan. It shares the same basic front-drive platform and suspension components with the Escort Sedan (which is no longer available). The ZX2 has its own unique body panels, however, and its styling could be an attribute to some people, especially those who dislike the sharp-angled Focus. Which might explain its longevity.
Escort ZX2 is available as a single model only. There are no trim levels. Options are available in Deluxe and Premium Groups and include a power sliding moonroof, a six-disc CD changer, leather-trimmed sport bucket seats, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry (with anti-theft) and 14-inch chrome wheels. Since the base price is so low, adding a host of options won't necessarily kill your budget.
The only engine available is Ford's 2.0-liter Zetec four-cylinder. This is the same engine that's used in the Focus ZX3, and it's rated at 130 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The Zetec engine is competitive for this class, and its best attribute is a broad and useable powerband. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The manual's shifter is rather floppy and has long throws, but it's clearly the better choice for a more sporting drive.
Inside, the ZX2 has a swoopy (some would say overwrought) instrument panel that blends into the door panels. Both front and rear interior room is good for this class, though the Focus has even more. The same goes for trunk space. The ZX2 will hold 11.8 cubic feet of cargo, while the Focus can manage 18.5 cubic feet. As with most small cars, the ZX2's split rear seatbacks can be flipped forward to make extra space for longer items.
The closest competitors to the ZX2 Coupe are the Focus, the Honda Civic Coupe, the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire Coupes. All have their own distinct advantages, the Civic and Mirage in refinement, the Cavalier/Sunfire in available horsepower.
We see little reason to buy a ZX2 Coupe over a Focus. The ZX2's lower price might be attractive, but the difference isn't that great. All the while, the Focus has a roomier interior, better suspension and handling, and better crash-test scores. If the ZX2 were middle management, it would probably be fired by now.