Used 2003 Ford Focus Review
Edmunds expert review
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.
What's new for 2003
"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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
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.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.