2003 Ford Focus Hatchback Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Ford Focus Hatchback

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Ford Focus Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.0 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 130 hp @ 5300 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 22/29 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2003 Ford Focus

  • The 2003 Ford Focus is a wonderful small car that's fun to drive, frugal with fuel and offered in such a wide variety of configurations it would be hard not to find one that suits your needs.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Thoughtful ergonomics, large interior, smooth ride, sharp steering, impressive selection of body configurations and features.

  • Cons

    Seats aren't comfortable for everyone, below-average reliability.

  • What's New for 2003

    Minor changes are in store for the 2003 Ford Focus. Two new trim levels increase the breadth of prices for Ford's economy car; a base trim for the three door hatchback renders air conditioning optional and only comes with a manual transmission. For the five door hatchback, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, front reading lights and a center console are available when you step up to the comfort trim level from the base level. Heated front seats are a new option, as is a traction control and ABS package. New colors for the exterior brighten up the color palette, and the interior is freshened with two new fabric trims. Finally, a CD/MP3 player is now standard on the ZX3 and ZX5. A SVT version of the ZX5 is also scheduled to appear later in the year.

Full 2003 Ford Focus Review

What's New for 2003

Minor changes are in store for the 2003 Ford Focus. Two new trim levels increase the breadth of prices for Ford's economy car; a base trim for the three door hatchback renders air conditioning optional and only comes with a manual transmission. For the five door hatchback, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, front reading lights and a center console are available when you step up to the comfort trim level from the base level. Heated front seats are a new option, as is a traction control and ABS package. New colors for the exterior brighten up the color palette, and the interior is freshened with two new fabric trims. Finally, a CD/MP3 player is now standard on the ZX3 and ZX5. A SVT version of the ZX5 is also scheduled to appear later in the year.

Introduction

"Smart design and spirited driving" were the guiding forces behind the development of the Focus. It debuted in 2000 with "New Edge" styling, a roomy interior and excellent road manners. These qualities, plus a wide variety of configurations, have made the Focus the best small car from a domestic manufacturer. It falls behind the Civic and Corolla in terms of refinement and reliability, but the 2003 Ford Focus is still worth considering for a fun and functional small car.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2003 Ford Focus is available in four body styles: a three-door ZX3 hatchback, a five-door ZX5 hatchback, a sedan and a wagon. The sedan can be ordered in one of three trim levels, starting with the base LX model and going up to the midlevel SE and highline ZTS trim. Wagons are available in SE or ZTW trim. The ZX3 can be had in base, premium or power premium trim, while the ZX5 allows for the choice between base, comfort and premium models. There's also the high-performance SVT Focus, which is based on the ZX3.

Powertrains and Performance

The base drivetrain for LX models is a 2.0-liter 110-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels. This same drivetrain is standard in SE sedans, but ZTS sedans, along with wagons and hatchbacks, get a more powerful 130-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment. A four-speed automatic is optional. Both engines provide adequate power, though the higher-output motor is the clear choice for enthusiasts. Still not enough? Then maybe you should consider the SVT Focus. Based on the ZX3, this hot hatch puts out 170 horsepower and is equipped with an exclusive six-speed manual transmission. The SVT Focus also comes with 17-inch wheels, oversize four-wheel disc brakes and a sport-tuned suspension to keep it glued to the road.

Safety

For safety, the Focus has ABS, traction control and stability control as optional equipment. NHTSA crash test scores for the ZX3 are good with the car earning four stars in frontal impacts and front side-impacts. The rear side-impact test, however, resulted in a very poor one-star rating for the ZX3. However, the ZX5 and wagon also scored four stars for rear side impacts. In frontal offset testing (conducted by the IIHS), the Focus has earned a "Good" score.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Focus is roomy for its class, offering generous accommodations for its front and rear passengers. Inside you'll find plenty of headroom. Some options usually not found in this segment include an in-dash six-disc CD changer, MP3 player and a stability control system. Some may find the asymmetrical dash layout odd, but the well-dampened controls and correct ergonomic placement should forgive any faults.

Driving Impressions

Regardless of trim, the 2003 Ford Focus offers a smooth ride quality and above-average handling ability. The four-wheel fully independent suspension allows for noticeable body roll while cornering, but the Focus stays planted and inspires confidence. The steering system is surprisingly quick, fluid and responsive, always providing plenty of feedback from the road surface. Our experience with our long-term ZX3 has proven to be more than satisfactory, and the SVT Focus, with its aftermarket-sounding exhaust, short-throw shifter and optional audiophile sound system has proven to be our favorite sport compact hatchback.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

More fun than expected

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 Premium 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I knew what I wanted initially: a small hatchback with good mpg and a manual trans. However, I never expected to like it this much. The old saying that its more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow... this car nails it. Driving around town I find this car more satisfying than my 400hp Mustang. Its reasonably peppy, doesn't have to be revved, and with the addition of a stiffer rear swaybar, the handling is a blast. Tons of room too. On one trip I managed 3 people and a 50" tv. On another, a full dresser. It's got 140k miles on it, so a few things are starting to go, but I'd say its held up incredibly well. Couldn't be happier with my purchase!



2 of 8 people found this review helpful

Horrible car

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX5 Comfort 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I bought this care used at 85,00 miles for $5000 and I guess you get what you paid for. Within the first few months I had to get the transmission replaced and from there it has been down hill. I havent even had the car for 4 years and I have had to get a new alternator, spark plugs, coolant resivor, vacuum pump, two thermostats, a plastic piece that connects my coolant resivor to my radiator, and two window pullys that broke. I'd say by now I could have gotten a brand new car....Thats how expensive all the repairs cost. Now it makes a weird rattle noise when I idle and the ford dealership can't figure out what it is....and let me tell you it is a really LOUD rattle. DO NOT BUY THIS CAR!



1 of 3 people found this review helpful

Ford = fix. or. repair.

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

This car is a nightmare. Every other focus owner ive talked to hates this car too. Never buy this vehicle. Even the ford mechanics at the dealerships ive been to tell me this car is nothing but a bag of issues. I have had this car for less than six years and put less than 40,000miles on it and have had so many issues. This car eats tires and rear brakes like candy. So far, new ignition cylinder after six months of ownership, new motor mounts, new fog lights, new throttle cable, more new tires, more new brakes, rear defroster repair, new alternator, driver seat broke (spot welds that hold the seat up right broke), manual window crank broke off, ECU repair, and none of this is covered by Ford.



1 of 5 people found this review helpful

2003 focus zx3, duratech 23

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 Power Premium 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I got my 2003 Focus with the DuraTech 23 engine (2.3 liter) for less than $6000. It had 59000 miles on it. This car is awesome. I needed a car that gets good gas mileage (I also have a Lincoln and a 2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, so I needed a car that gets better than 25mpg). This little car has a lot of get up and go. Its quick and gets excellent gas mileage (when I go from San Diego to L.A., I average 46mpg...which is awesome). And its a fun car to drive. Now, it doesn't have the power of my powerhouse V-8's, but for a 4 cylinder, it really moves. The way this car handles is superb. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this car can corner. Awesome fun car to drive!



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Love this car

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I bought this car with 14,000 miles, it was a car rental from Hertz. I know have 160,000 miles. I have driven this car every where. I put studs on it and in snow and ice it is like a tank. I put low profile tires during the summer and it cruises and hugs the corners. I have had not issues with this car except the usuals of tires, lights and stuff like that. It is so fun to drive, I have had it eight years now and I still love driving it



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Don't waste your money!

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I was excited to get my used car in 2003, but quickly regretted buying it a year later. I first thought it was the dealership because the seatbelt still needed to be fixed and they took out the spare tire when I recieved the car the same day. I have kept all the receipts and made an excel list of all the repairs and maintence I have done so far. So here it is: 3 starters, 1 alternator, ingition switch, cd player fixed (it kept shutting off by itself), 3 positive battery terminals and positve battery cable. My car is now at 100,858 miles because I have done most repairs by myself, but I DO NOT recommend anyone to buy this car. This is not typical for any vehicle!!



Talk About The 2003 Focus

2003 Ford Focus Discussions See all Started By

sylviagm
sylviagm
04-05-2014
I don't understand anything on cars, but I do know that ever since I purchased a 2003 focus in 2008, I have invested or wasted at least $100. per mo. on repairs. For some weird reason, I've had to re...


hillsman
hillsman
12-21-2013
I am having issues with my side marker lights that stay on. I have removed the battery and have disconnected about everything possible on the car and they still are on. The only way that they turn of?...


amethyst_wm
amethyst_wm
09-13-2009
I am thinking of purchasing a used 2003 Focus Zx5 premium with 69K miles on it. The previous owner took care of the car meticulously. It is spotless--I mean, the car really looks like it is still new....



Read more about the 2003 Ford Focus

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Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 22
  • cty
/
  • 29
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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