2002 Ford Escort
    MSRP
    $12,815 - $14,315
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    2002 Ford Escort Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    Youthful fun and flair in an affordable package.

    Introduction

    Ford's little ZX2 offers sporty styling, responsive handling, brisk acceleration, and everyday comfort and practicality for one or two people. You get all that for hardly more money than an economy sedan. 

    It offers front and rear seating and an impressively large trunk for such a small car. The ZX2 is easy on fuel. Overall, it's a fine combination of performance, practicality, comfort, and economy. 

    Lineup

    Ford builds the ZX2 in three time levels. The base or standard model starts at $12,815, and comes with power mirrors, AM/FM/cassette and rear spoiler. The Deluxe series ($13,860) adds air conditioning, cruise control, floor mats, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel and map lights. The Premium level ($14,315) comes with power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry, and fog lights. 

    Some options, including leather-trimmed seats ($395), chrome wheels ($595) and premium stereo with a 6-disc, trunk-mounted CD changer ($295) are offered only with the Premium trim level. A power sliding moonroof ($595) is offered with Premium or Deluxe trim but not on Standard models. 

    Air conditioning can be added to the standard car for $795. ABS is available on any ZX2 for $400. 

    At all trim levels, Ford's 2.0-liter, twin-cam 16-valve Duratec four-cylinder engine drives the front wheels. This engine produces 130 horsepower. A five-speed gearbox is standard; a four-speed automatic is an $815 option. 

    New colors for 2002 are Grabber Green Clearcoat Metallic and Dark Shadow Grey Clearcoat Metallic. 

    Walkaround

    Although based mechanically on the old Escort sedan, the Ford ZX2 boasts a stylish look of its own. It is a true sport coupe, not a sedan with two doors. To our eye it still looks lean, clean, light, and agile. That said, styling ages quickly in the sport-coupe class, and the ZX2 is beginning to show its age. 

    Interior

    A roomy, attractive cabin makes the ZX2 comfortable for long trips. A sporty instrument cluster peeks out from beneath a wedge-shaped dash that sweeps attractively into the door panels. Interior fabrics and materials are of higher quality than in some other cars in this class, although the inside door handles are on the dainty side. 

    The seats in our ZX2 were firm and supportive, if a bit lumpy, and the small headrest didn't raise high enough. The driver's seat adjusts for height, a feature shorter drivers might appreciate. The tilt steering column on Deluxe and Premium models is useful if you don't fit the average-size norm. 

    The rear seats are surprisingly comfortable, which is something you'd never guess from the ZX2's swooping roofline. There's enough headroom and legroom for a 5-foot, 10-inch adult, although tall drivers will use up a lot of that leg space when they push their own seat back. Heater ducts for the rear seat area add comfort in the winter. Getting in and getting out is a squeeze. 

    Three cup holders with liners and a center console add convenience. Hooks on the floor hold the floor mats in place. Yet while the ZX2 is nicely trimmed, it is still an inexpensive car. Not every bolt is covered with a piece of trim, as it would be in a luxury car. 

    It pays to read the owner's manual before attempting to operate the air conditioning. In all but two modes, the system senses when the outside temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and switches on automatically. Then it shuts off under hard acceleration to improve performance. At other times, it cycles on and off constantly. This can be a little annoying for more sensitive drivers, who may feel a subtle bump through the throttle as the compressor engages. Selecting the Vent or Floor mode can also turn the system off. 

    The 11.8-cubic foot trunk is a bit shallow, but it's sizable by compact-coupe standards. The rear seats can be folded forward to make room for longer items. 

    Driving Impression

    Ford ZX2 offers good throttle response and lively acceleration. The Zetec engine is pleasant and willing at all times, with plenty of extra punch for tight passing situations on two-lane highways. The engine's power band is flexible, providing torque and tractability at lower revs in heavy traffic. There's even enough grunt to break the front tires loose from a standing start. But a little planning is required when passing on uphill grades at high altitudes. The Zetec engine starts sounding busy at higher revs. It is not as smooth or refined as the Honda Civic's engine. 

    Weighing in at just under 2,500 pounds, the ZX2 accelerates from 0-60 mph in slightly less than 8 seconds. That measures up well against other leading compacts, including the Civic. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 26/33 mpg. The five-speed gearbox shifts smoothly through gear ratios that seem well suited to the engine's torque characteristics. Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the pedals, which are arranged reasonably well for heel-and-toe downshifting. 

    Steering is precise and handling is responsive. Ride quality is firm, but smooth. The suspension is damped well enough for soaking up potholes and irregular pavement, but still keeps the driver in communication with the road. The ZX2 is nicely balanced, although healthy understeer at the limit makes it easy and safe to drive. It is stable at high speeds, even in gusty side winds. Body lean is controlled well in corners. 

    The ZX2's independent front suspension uses MacPherson struts, a tough, durable setup, although not as sophisticated as double wishbones. The rear suspension is Ford's Quadralink. Front and rear anti-roll bars are standard to reduce body lean in corners. Ford engineers tuned the ZX2 suspension, steering and brakes for sporty handling and a relatively firm, controlled ride. 

    Stopping is no problem, with the ZX2's front discs and rear drums. We recommend the optional $400 anti-lock braking system, which helps the driver to maintain control of the steering in an emergency stopping situation. 

    Summary

    Sporty, quick and fun to drive, the Ford ZX2 is a good choice for young, single folks. Roomy rear seats and generous trunk space make it practical for going out on the town or packing up for a cross-country haul. Its performance may not quite measure up to its aggressive appearance, but the ZX2 compares favorably against its competitors. 

    Model Lineup

    ZX2 Standard ($12,815), Deluxe ($13,860), Premium ($14,315). 

    Assembled In

    Hermosillo, Mexico. 

    Options As Tested

    AM/FM stereo with in-dash CD and six-disc trunk-mounted CD changer ($295), ABS ($400). 

    Model Tested

    ZX2 Premium ($14,315). 

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