Used Ford Focus 2000-2011 review

Overall rating:4 Star Rating
November 24, 2013
Ford Focus SVT
2002 Ford Focus SVT. Photo: Ford

Ford Focus is the top choice for a domestic compact car. It's fuel-efficient, sporty and fun to drive. The 2000-2011 Focus is available as a sedan, two- or four-door hatchback or wagon. It has a peppy engine and the independent rear suspension. Among competitors, only the more expensive Mazda3 offers similar sporty driving experience.

Inside, the Focus is roomy and practical. The visibility is good. The available tilt and telescoping steering makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position. Fuel economy is not bad. Crash test ratings are pretty good too except for the earlier two-door hatchbacks. Maintenance costs are reasonable. Reliability varied through the years, early models were troublesome. Read further for details.

Year to year changes: The Focus has been brought from Europe for 2000 model year. The high-performance 170-hp Focus SVT was available from 2002 to 2004. For 2005, the Focus styling was refreshed. The 2008 redesign brought the new look, more upscale interior and a widely-popular SYNC interface but the platform remained mostly unchanged.

Ford Focus interior
2006 Ford Focus interior. Click for larger photo
2006 Ford Focus wagon
2006 Ford Focus wagon. Click for larger photo

Engine: The 2000-2004 Focus came with the 2.0L 8-valve SOHC "Split Port" (SPI) engine or 2.0L Zetec 16-valve DOHC. Both engines have a timing belt that needs to be replaced at 120K or earlier. Although either of these engines can last for over 200K miles, there have been numerous reported problems. The SPI engine is known to drop valve seats, while the leaking thermostat housing, for example, was common in the 2.0L Zetec engine.
A much better Mazda-sourced 2.3L Duratec DOHC engine is available from 2004 to 2007. A similar 2.0L Duratec DOHC (Mazda L-engine) found in the 2005-2011 Focus. Both, the 2.0L and 2.3L Duratec engines are fairly reliable and require minimum maintenance; both have a timing chain instead of a timing belt.

Fuel economy: The 2005-2006 Ford Focus 2.0L automatic is rated at 22/29 MPG city/hwy, which means you can get roughly 350 miles to a tank. The 2008-2011 Focus is more fuel-efficient. The 2008 Focus 2.0L auto gets 24/33 MPG city/highway, or up to 378 miles on one tank of gas.

Ford Focus SVT: The high-performance SVT model (Special Vehicle Team) was available as a two or four-door hatchback from 2002 to 2004. The Focus SVT was offered with the 170-hp 2.0L SVT Zetec engine, 6-speed Getrag gearbox, sport suspension, 17" low-profile tires, leather seats and premium Audiophile audio system. The Focus SVT requires 91-octane gasoline.
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Handling and ride: Ford Focus handles very well and is fun to drive on twisty roads. The ride is comfortable too, although you will hear some road noise. The steering is sharp and responsive; the tight turning radius is another plus. Overall, you won't be disappointed in the way the Focus drives.

What are the common problems and which model years are better?