Full 2003 Ford Escort Review
What's New for 2003
The aged Escort receives a few changes this year. On the outside, there are stylistic changes to its front and rear fascias, including standard foglamps. Inside, new cloth spruces up the seats, and the standard model receives a cassette player. Fifteen-inch wheels are standard on all models, and two new colors make their debut. For 2003, Ford has renamed the options packages "deluxe" and "premium." The deluxe package gets you a CD player, a leather-wrapped steering wheel that tilts, cruise control and map lights as standard equipment. Premium models also get power windows, locks and remote keyless entry. Finally, the in-dash six-disc CD changer is no longer available.
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.
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 the ZX2's longevity. But allow us to be frank: The Focus is a much better car.
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.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The two-door Escort ZX2 is available in three trim levels: standard, deluxe and premium. Standard on all ZX2s are foglamps, a cassette player and a rear spoiler. Deluxe versions add air conditioning, cruise control and a CD player, while the Premium package includes power windows and locks. Options include ABS and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
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 usable power band. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional.
The ZX2 provides basic safety features like front airbags, glow-in-the-dark trunk release and seatbelt pre-tensioners, with ABS as optional equipment. It lacks modern advancements like traction or stability control and side airbags. NHTSA frontal crash testing hasn't been performed on the two-door, though the no-longer-available four-door earned three stars for driver and front-passenger safety. Rear passengers in a side impact may fare well with a score of four stars, but the ZX2 earned just a single star in side-impact testing for front passengers.
Interior Design and Special Features
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.
Understeer is the predominant handling trait of the aged ZX2. We do like the Zetec engine and the sufficient thrust that it provides. The manual's shifter is rather floppy and has long throws, but it's clearly the better choice for a more sporting drive.