Several years ago I was starting a new job that required a fair amount of driving and realized that it was time for a new car. Basically, I was looking for something sporty but still relatively inexpensive and that would have good gas mileage. After looking at all of the options available to me, I decided to go with the 2002 Ford Escort ZX2 with the Sport package.
And I couldn’t be happier.
WHAT IS IT? Back in the late nineties, Ford was looking for a way to open up their economy car line, the Escort, to a younger market. Frankly, up until that point the Escort was considered anything but sporty, however, Ford knew that there were people out there without a lot of money who still wanted to drive something with power, handling and a stylish look. The redesign of the 2-door escort into the ZX2 was their solution…and it was a good one.
APPEARANCE: The design of this 2-door coupe frankly had more to compare it to the Mazda Miata than it did any previous incarnation of the Escort line, instead borrowing styling tips from both the Taurus and Jaguar models. The ZX2 is a true sports coupe with curved lines, front and rear color bumpers, body side molding, an optional rear spoiler and a rounded front grille that few people that see it would think of as an “economy” car. This made the ZX2 an excellent choice for young drivers or those that just wanted to feel young.
PERFORMANCE: The Ford ZX2 rolled out of the showroom with a 2.0-litre, double overhead cam, 16 valve 130-horsepower engine which provides the car plenty of power for the car’s 2500 pounds and allows the ZX2 to turn in performance numbers of 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 sec and
1/4 mile at 15.7 sec. While numbers like that are not going to match up to a true sports coupe, they are considerably better than what is typically seen in lower priced 2-door economy models. The suspension is nicely tuned and along with the 15″ alloy rims, stock Goodyear Eagle P185/60R15 tires and front ABS brakes (optional) the ZX2 manages to give excellent handling and a very tight turning radius. The standard 5-speed gearbox shifts beautifully adding to the overall sporty feel of the car
COMFORT: For the driver and passenger up front, the ZX2 provides a very comfortable ride, with considerable head and leg room to handle even people as tall as 6’4″. However, despite the fact that the ZX2 is a four seat vehicle, it is fairly obvious that it was really intended for use primarily as a car for one or two people. While the back seats can accommodate two smaller (under 5’8″) individuals, the comfort of the passengers in the rear seats leaves quite a bit to be desired. Those rear seats do however fold down to provide addition storage space adding to the surprisingly ample room in the trunk. Up front, the driver’s seat manages my six foot tall, two hundred pound frame quite well and the steering wheel and gear shift are positioned perfectly for use. The instrument panel is wall laid out and easy to read and amenities like power mirrors, rear window defogger and air conditioning only add to the overall comfort of driving the ZX2.
DRIVABILITY: I purchased this car with the expectation for it to be both responsive and economical and the ZX2 lived up quite well to both attributes. It is a fun car to drive that still manages to give me approximately 27mpg on the highway and 22mpg in the city. Both in town and out on the highway, the ZX2 is just a joy to drive and its small size and ability to perform tight turns make parking a breeze.
UPKEEP COSTS: In the eight years that I have owned this car, I have spent almost nothing on auto repairs. Aside from the routine maintenance purchases for new tires, battery and oil changes the only actual repair that has had to be made on the vehicle has been for $220 which was spent to replace a blown A/C compressor relay. The interior upholstery and carpeting look almost exactly the same today as they did when I first saw the car at the dealer and paint has held up beautifully as well. While I can in no way state that all ZX2’s have had similar insignificant maintenance costs, I can certainly attest to the fact the owning the ZX2 has certainly been easy on my wallet.
WARRANTY AND SAFETY: The 1998 Ford Escort ZX2 originally came with a 3 year/36 month bumper to bumper warranty and was built with safety cage construction, dual airbags, and optional ABS.
SUMMARY: For the past several years this car has been indispensable to myself and my wife and has been our principle vehicle for almost all of our short and mid-range driving. I have to admit that I have never for even a minute regretted purchasing this car back in 2002. My ZX2 has not only met but has exceeded every expectation that I had for it when I bought it. I can honestly say that if I had to do it over again, I would not only buy this car again but I am frankly saddened by the fact that Ford chose to discontinue this model and that my 2002 ZX2 is one of the last of these cars that was ever produced.
If you are in the market for a good, dependable, economical used car then I strongly suggest that you take a serious look at any low mileage ZX2 that you come across. I seriously doubt that you’ll be disappointed if you do.