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2002 Ford SVT Focus 
Review

Performance Data

Stephen G. Dye

 

  Video- available soon.

     

Since its introduction to the U.S., the Ford Focus has been a welcomed addition to the economy segment. You may recall my initial road test on the then-new 2001 Ford Focus sedan. In that article, I praised the Focus for its first-rate refinement, precise steering maneuvers, fun-to-drive quotient, and its downright affordability. Although that version of Ford's World Car wasn't especially sporty, I remember thinking that it wouldn't take many chassis and suspension modifications to create a razor sharp driver's car. Obviously, the Blue Oval Company had the same idea, and with the help of the hot-rod magicians at Ford's own SVT (Special Vehicle Team), the all-new Focus SVT is born.

 

     

    

  

Although other Focus models are available as a 4-door sedan, 4-door wagon, 2-door hatchback, or a 4-door hatchback, the SVT arrives only as a 2-door hatch. We'd like to see the SVT version available in a sedan configuration as well, but Ford has no plans for such a car at this time. No matter, the SVT sedan likely wouldn't be as agile as the hatch, and agility is one of the key facets to the SVT's playful personality. 

As great as the standard Focus is, try not to think of the SVT as simply a mildly modified hatchback. After a test drive, you'll understand why. Somewhat similar to a BMW 3-series, the SVT Focus displays confidence-inspiring road manners during spirited driving on almost any road surface. But the fun doesn't stop there. The SVT also exhibits exceptional grip, with only moderate amounts of body roll when tossing the car hard through tight corners.

  

     

    

    

Making this corner carving so easy is well-tuned steering responsiveness. From behind the wheel, the SVT constantly provides superb feedback about the limits of the car at just the right time. The same goes for the brakes, which remain predictable and fade very little after repeated use.

Giving rise to these performance feats are SVT's suspension and braking modifications, which were carefully engineered, tested and tuned for exceptional balance. Beyond the 215/45/ZR17 Continental ContiSport Contact meats on 17 x 7-inch aluminum alloy wheels are beefier shocks, bushings, springs and anti-roll bars. The standard ABS disc brakes boast 11.8-inch rotors up front and 11.0-inchers out back. These mods have a profound effect on not just the car, but also on the driver. The SVT encourages you to take corners just a little faster and wait just a little longer before braking. Law enforcement officers may become well acquainted with the owners of these cars.

   

  

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Is it fast? Well, on a road course, yes. In a drag race against a Mustang GT? No. Our unofficial acceleration runs returned 7.49 seconds to 60-mph and a quarter mile sprint of 15.75 seconds at just shy of 90-mph. (We'll run official times next month, when we'll have more time with the car at the racetrack.) But don't be dismayed, because the rather modest acceleration times take nothing away from the fact that this delightful car is a blast to drive. Actually, those acceleration numbers make the SVT awfully viable among its foreign competition. Sure, the more expensive Volkswagen GTI 1.8T is quicker, but I've tested that hot hatch as well, and it just isn't as much fun to drive as the Focus under most circumstances.

  

     

    

    

Ford claims that this Focus is the most technologically advanced SVT car to date. After adding variable intake cam timing (VCT), a dual-stage intake (DSI) manifold, new exhaust header, forged rods, aluminum pistons, and various other upgrades, the high-revving DOHC Zetec 2.0-liter inline four cylinder creates more smiles than you might imagine. The horsepower is rated at 170 @ 7000 rpm and torque peaks at 145 lb/ft @ 5500 rpm. The torque figure sounds weak until you consider that 85% of it is available by only 2200 rpm. Not bad for an engine that finds its peak horsepower at 7-grand. But at that lofty redline, the Focus certainly lets you know that it's straining to send every one of those 170 ponies through its 6-speed manual transmission. That will be okay with most SVT owners though. A little noise and vibration is acceptable for a car this affordable and this pleasurable to drive.

   

    

    

   

Interior and exterior add-ons further enhance the exciting driving experience. On the outside, the SVT presents a few minor fascia updates, roof spoiler, attractive 5-spoke wheels, and a free-flowing exhaust system with large chrome tip. Inside, SVT went a bit farther. There's a unique shifter knob, supportive bucket seats available with red or blue inserts, aluminum pedals, white face gauges, and an available, must-have Audiophile package, which includes a 6-disc in-dash head unit, premium speakers, and an amplified 8-inch subwoofer. It sounds great.

  

     

    

 

The SVT Focus will be available in four exterior colors: Sonic Blue, Pitch Black, Infra-Red and CD Silver. Most everything you'd want comes standard on this compact racer. In fact, there are only three options: a Cold Weather Package (includes traction control, heated front seats, engine block heater- $395), a power moonroof ($595), and the above-mentioned Audiophile package ($675). By adding all those options to the remarkable $17,995 base price, you still won't reach 20-grand. 

Ford's Special Vehicle Team has done an excellent job in developing the SVT Focus. Critics will report that it's a great car for the money. We say it's a great car, period. This automobile is America's first genuine attempt to join the import-dominated racer crowd, and some of those folks are die-hard Japanese car enthusiasts. Such a domestic challenger will need to be a truly great driver. We know of no candidate more worthy than the Ford SVT Focus.

   

Performance Data:

Best 0-60 mph:.............................................
Best 1/4 mile: ............................................... 
Best 60-0 mph braking:................................
EPA fuel economy rating:  ..........................
Common Driver observed mpg: .................
7.49 seconds
15.75 seconds @ 89.9 mph
124 feet
24/34 mpg 
25.6 mpg 
 

Price:

Base price new:...........................................
Price as tested new:.................................... 

$17,995
$19,265

 

Specifications:

Drivetrain Layout:........................................ Engine Type:.................................................
Displacement:
............................................... Horsepower:..................................................
Torque:..........................................................
Transmission type:........................................
Tire size:........................................................
Airbags:.........................................................
Special Features............................................
Front engine, FWD
Inline 4, DOHC, 16-V
121 ci, 1988 cc 
170 @ 7000 rpm 
145 @ 5500 rpm 
6-speed manual 
P215/45ZR17 Continental ContiSport 
Dual front
Near perfect overall balance
 

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