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Tough Crowd Comparison Test: Ford SVT Focus

Third Place (tie) Ford SVT Focus

After a thorough pounding in the mountains, the SVT Focus left us impressed and somewhat confused. It's not shockingly good like the Protegé and SRT-4, but the SVT Focus is largely free of vices, which left us staring at it in a befuddled state of satisfaction.

Around town, the SVT engine seems gutless and low on torque, an impression caused in large part by the tall gearing. But drive it hard and it's free-revving and strong. It's as if a Honda engine got bolted to a Ford gearbox. The gearing that seemed too tall in town happened to fit our test road perfectly, letting us hang onto second gear where most cars needed constant shifting between second and third.

Cornering grip in the Focus is surprising. It still has a fair amount of body roll, which feels like it should kill grip, but the front tires just hang on. The missing limited slip turned out to be less of an issue than we expected, thanks to big tires and relatively little torque.It's a good thing the Focus' 11.8-inch discs are the biggest of the bunch, because the caliper is partially integrated into the upright, so it's impossible to bolt on larger rotors without cutting apart the upright. Sure, the brake pedal started to get soft after extremely hard use, but it's likely more aggressive pads would cure the problem.

The Focus' odd ergonomics bugged most testers. The seats are mounted too high for tall drivers. Though headroom is still sufficient, the driving position is odd and your passenger is put on a pedestal, whether they like it or not.Overall, the SVT treatment is exactly what the Focus needed, turning a cheaped-out econobox into a well-rounded car with a genuine quality feel and all the performance hardware you'd never be able to bolt onto a Focus yourself. The lack of wings, scoops and fake carbon fiber makes it a refreshingly adult performance car.

Best Feature: The SVT Focus is so thoroughly well-rounded that no one feature stands out, except the price. Finishing this high with the second lowest base price is impressive.

Worst Feature: Gearbox. Sure, the shifter's great,but the gear ratios are way too tall. If you can break every speed limit in California in second gear, what are the other four for? The lack of a limited slip puts the last nail in the gearbox's coffin.

First three things we'd modify
1: Limited-slip differentialOur imitation of a broken record: Quaife should have a diff for the SVT's Getrag six-speed by the time you read this, SVT is also working with Tochigi Fuji Sangyo (maker of the Protegé's diff) on one.

2: Turbo
We don't know any way to put shorter gears in that box, so making enough torque for the gear ratios to make sense seems like the best solution. We're not really sure of the best way to do this, but we'll be figuring it out on our new project car.

3: Driving school
Step 2 was big enough, don't you think? Besides, the SVT doesn't really need anything else. Spend a few days in school learning how to handle it. Tim O'Neil's rally school is a personal favorite, even for street driving.

Base price:$17,480
Measuredhorsepower atthe wheels: 150 hp @ 6600 rpm
Curb weight as tested: 2,780 lb

Estimated Price : $17,480
Engine Code : SVT Zetec
Type : Inline four, iron block,
aluminum head
Valvetrain : DOHC, four valves per
cylinder, variable intake
cam timing
Displacement : 1988cc
Bore x Stroke : 84.8mm x 88.0mm
Compression Ratio : 10.2:1
Claimed Crank Hp : 170 hp @ 7000 rpm
Claimed Crank Torque : 145 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm
Measured Wheel Hp : 150 hp @ 6700 rpm
Measured Wheel Torque : 132 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm
Redline : 7250 rpm
Layout : Transverse front engine,
front-wheel drive
Transmission : Six-speed manual
Gear Ratios
1 : 4.44:1
2 : 2.67:1
3 : 1.33:1
4 : 1.08:1
5 : 1.33:1
6 : 1.08:1
Final Drive:1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th gear : 2.88:1
3rd, 4th gear : 4.25:1
Differential : Open
Chassis Code : C170
Exterior Dimensions
Measured Curb Weight : 2,780 lb
Weight Distribution F/R : 61/39
Overall Length : 168.1 in.
Wheelbase : 103.0 in.
Overall Width : 66.9 in.
Track F/R : 61/39
Height : 56.3 in.
Front : MacPherson strut, anti-roll bar
Rear : Multi-link control blade
(one main trailing link with
integral hub, one main lateral
link, one lateral toe-control
link and one lateral camber
control link), anti-roll bar
Front : 11.8-in. vented discs,
single-piston sliding calipers
Rear : 11.0-inch solid discs,
single-piston sliding calipers
Electronic Driving Aids/Inhibitors : ABS, stability control
optional (not fully defeatable)
Wheels and Tires
Wheels : 17 x 7-in. aluminum
Tires : 215/45ZR-17 Continental
Conti SportContact
0-30 mph : 2.9 sec.
0-60 mph : 7.7 sec.
30-50 mph : 3.0 sec.
50-70 mph : 4.3 sec.
Quarter Mile Time @ Speed : 15.7 sec. @ 88.5 mph
Lateral Grip (200ft skidpad) : 0.87g
Slalom Speed (700ft slalom) : 68.4 mph
60-0 Stopping Distance : 122 ft

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