Ford Focus 2000-2011: problems and repairs, fuel economy, engine, specs

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.
Similar cars:

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.

Safety: The Focus scored pretty well in the crash tests except for the 2000-2004 hatchback models; see the crash test results in table.

Pros: Value for the money, fun to drive, peppy engine, roomy interior, good on gas, variety of available body styles, reliability (2005-2011), tight turning radius, cargo space, available SYNC on newer models.

Cons: Budget-quality interior materials, road noise, tires wear fast, many models don't have rear seat head restraints, small cup holders, rear disc brakes are not standard on all trims, no trunk release in some models.

Overall: The 2000-2004 Focus had plenty of mechanical problems and should probably be avoided unless you can find one dirt-cheap in excellent condition. The 2005-2011 Ford Focus is a much better choice. Consumer reports rates the 2005-2006 and 2008-2011 Focus 'above average' for reliability, which makes a used Ford Focus the most reliable choice among domestic brands.

Common problems: A faulty ignition switch lock cylinder (tumbler) causing the key not to turn in the ignition was very common in earlier models. The repair cost: $300-$430. A bad engine mount could cause the engine vibration to be felt inside the car. Replacing the top engine mount is a $300-$350 repair. There are quite a few complaints about the dropped valve seats in the 2000-2004 2.0L SPI engine (the one with the aluminum valve cover); the repair is very expensive. A faulty DPFE sensor in earlier models could cause poor idle and Check Engine light with EGR-related codes. Suspension repairs including bad sway bar links and struts are often reported, electrical issues are not uncommon too. Squeaking noise from the rear of the vehicle in 2006 and newer models when driving over bumps can be caused by a parking brake cable bracket. The repair is simple and inexpensive; there is a TSB on this issue that recommends installing a plastic insert. Variety of other interior noises are mentioned frequently. Most of the reported problems are related to 2000-2004 models; the 2005-2011 Focus doesn't have that many issues.

What to look for when buying a used Ford Focus: During a test drive watch out for a humming or rumbling noise; it could be caused by unevenly-worn (cupped) tires or a bad wheel bearing. Check all the electrical accessories, including the radio, power windows and locks, and the rear window defogger. Avoid the car if you notice a blue smoke from the exhaust or if the engine makes a rattling noise. Watch out for rust spots.

Guides for used car buyers:

Maintenance: The 2004 Ford Focus Scheduled Maintenance Guide recommends changing engine oil and rotate tires every 5,000 miles. The same guide recommends replacing a timing belt (camshaft belt) in the 2.0L engine at 120,000-miles. The timing belt condition needs to be checked regularly, as it might need to be replaced earlier if the belt shows signs of excessive wear, cracks or if it's soaked with engine oil.
The Focus SVT requires 91-octane gasoline and 5W-30 Super Premium motor oil. The SVT engine oil capacity: 4.25L or 4.5 quarts, including the oil filter change.
For the 2008 Ford Focus, the 2008 Owner's Manual recommend using SAE 5W-20 Premium Synthetic Blend Motor Oil (US) or 5W-20 Super Premium Motor Oil (Canada). The 2008 Scheduled Maintenance Guide recommends changing engine oil and rotating your tires every 7,500 miles for normal operating conditions and every 5,000 miles for special operating conditions.
More on maintenance:

Related:
Used Mazda 3 2004-2009 review »
Used Honda Civic 2006-2011 review »
Used Mitsubishi Lancer 2008-2012 review »
10 best used cars/SUVs with good fuel economy »

Resources:
Recalls: Safety Recalls - NHTSA or Transport Canada - Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls.
Ford Owners - check the maintenance schedule or download an electronic copy of the owner's manual.
FocusFanatics - online Ford Focus community

2005 Ford Focus sedan specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall height:
Overall width:
Wheelbase:

175.2 in (4,450 mm)
56.9 in (1,446 mm)
78.7 in (1,998 mm)
103 in (2,615 mm)

Seating Capacity:

5

Engines:
Focus S, SE, SES, 2.0L:


Focus ST 2.3L:


2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC I-4,
130 hp @ 6000 rpm, 129 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

2.3-liter, 16-valve DOHC
151 hp @ 5750 rpm, 154 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy:

2.0L manual:


2.0L automatic:


2.3L manual:

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 mpg (7.4 L/100 km)

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km)

city: 20 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel:

87 octane

Fuel Tank Capacity:

14.0 US gal (53.0 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
Oil Change including filter:
2.0L:
2.3L:


4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)
4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)

2008 Ford Focus sedan specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall height:
Overall width:
Wheelbase:

175.0 in (4,445 mm)
58.6 in (1,488 mm)
67.8 in (1,694 mm)
102.9 in (2,614 mm)

Seating Capacity:

5

Engine: 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC I-4,
140 hp @ 6000 rpm, 136 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm

EPA Fuel Economy:

Manual:


Automatic:

city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km)

city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 33 mpg (7.1 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel:

87 octane

Fuel Tank Capacity:

13.0 US gal (49.2 liters)

Engine oil capacity with filter:

4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)