B15 Sentra Forum banner
1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
250 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yesterday afternoon, I was at the local Ford dealership with a friend who was in the market for a new car and wanted to take a look at the Focus. I was along to provide "technical expertise" (yeah, right!) since my friend didn't really know much about cars.

We got the opportunity to thoroughly test drive a 2001 Focus ZTS sedan with the 130 hp ZETEC engine, 5-speed transmission and Firestone Firehawk GTA 02 205/50R16 tires. When it was my turn to take the wheel, I was frankly surprised at how well the vehicle handled in normal to mildly aggressive driving. Steering was instantaneous, *very* responsive and accurate--the vehicle basically went where you pointed it, much like driving a go-kart (sp?). Rapid lane changes were undramatically and quickly accomplished without any of the disconcerting tail wagging of the SE. Straight line stability was also remarkably good, with very little steering correction required to keep it going straight. I felt more comfortable threading the Focus through the twisties at a moderate clip than I did with my SE. In fact, I'd say that, overall, the Focus ZTS handled almost as well as my stock 200SX SE-R

This test drive got me thinking about the stock 195/55R16 Firehawk GTA 02 tires on our Sentra SEs with the PP, and the numerous complaints posted on this board about the tires' poor performance. Why would the Firehawks perform so well on the Focus ZTS and so poorly on our SEs? Is it the size difference between the two tires, or the way the suspension is tuned, or a combination of both? Just to convince myself, after I got back from the dealership, I took my SE out for a mildly aggressive drive, and noticed all the undesirable handling traits that I and others have posted about on this board. Would changing to another brand and/or size of tire really improve the handling of our SEs?

Any comments?



By the way for those who are interested, here are my (abbreviated) non-driving impressions of the Focus--please feel free to ignore this section:

Packaging: Actually quite comfortable, at least in the ZTS trim. Front seats are a bit narrow, but there's adequate thigh and lumbar support for mildly aggressive driving. Driver's seat has a height adjustment crank. Adequate headroom, both front and rear.

Controls: Switchgear operates quite positively and has a high quality feel to it. You may or may not like the rubberized coating on the climate control knobs. Steering wheel has a beefy rim that's a pleasure to hold. However, with the armrest lowered, the parking brake is virtually inaccessible. Shifter has a spherical top that's almost impossible to grip pistol-style for speed shifting. Reverse is selected European-style, by first lifting a collar on the shaft then engaging.

Build quality: A mixed bag. Paintwork looks good--deep and glossy, without the "orange peel" visual texture on less expensive cars. The body panels seem to line up well and the gaps are consistent, but closer inspection reveals poor attention to detail. Welds are messy with lots of splattering. Lots of paint drips, especially on the wheel arches of the fenders. The metal on the fenders is also not consistently bent inwards at the arches--you won't notice this from a standing position, but bend down and run your fingers along the underside of the arch, the metal is "wavy" (and sharp, as I found out the hard way). The wheel wells are entirely lined with some kind of a dark grey felt material, presumably for sound insulation; I'm wondering how well this material will hold up to the sand and salt of a Midwestern winter. Looking under the rear bumper, I noticed the welds on the muffler and the exhaust hangers were rusty--not surface rust, mind you, but penetrating rust (I was able to scrape off a rusted piece of weld with my fingernail). And this was a showroom car with under a hundred miles on the odometer.

DL
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
312 Posts
Well... there is a reason Ford picked the Focus to be their
"world car." It has received a lot of praise from reviewers world wide.
I have yet to read a bad review regarding the handling, everyone seems to love it.

I test drove the Focus before I bought the Sentra, and I will admit that the Focus felt livelier than the SE, but
it when came to reliability, the Sentra won hands down.

Great write up, thanks for the review.
 
G

·
The Focus is an excellent handling car. On the Autocross track, they are even keeping up with the Miata's and what not. They have a more advanced rear suspension than our cars do aswell. From the factory, they are way undersprung, but they still do pretty well. I looked very closely at the Focus when I bought the Sentra. I drove a ZX3 and a Sentra SE P/P on the same backroad. It's a 80+MPH road with sweeping turns and some tighter stuff. IMO, the Focus was the better handling car. It seemed to track better, and was "easier" to drive fast. The Sentra seemed to demand more of my faculties....which I guess isn't a bad thing. hahaha.

I have a lot of respect for the Focus. It is a very capable car. Unfortunetly, it has fallen victim to Ford's less than Stellar build quality. It's a shame, because it is a really nice little car.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
119 Posts
The tires on out SE's are very good for a stock tire. If you still think they suck then why dont you ask the guy driving the black RX7 in memphis why I finished 2 seconds behind him on the roadrace track? Trust me, these tires hook up good in the dry. The car even felt stable on a long sweeping corner that I went into at 95mph.

For a OEM tire w/ a treadwear rating of 300-ish they grip great in the dry.
 

·
Registered Loser
Joined
·
6,883 Posts
Hey DL, nice write up! I've never had the opportunity to test drive a Focus, but they look very fun to mod and from all the stories, the handling is great. Maybe one day I'll hook up with one and mess with it. :D
 
G

·
Shoot...my local Ford dealer is selling ZX3's for over 3grand BELOW MSRP! They are a VERY good deal at that price. Believe me, the thought of buying one has crossed my mind. hahaha. The problem is that right now, their tuning potential is somewhat limited due to ECU issues. However, there is a N/A car running in the high 14's with just bolt ons....so it can be done. I can't believe the aftermarket that car has though.....it's the next Civic...believe that!
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top