When I finished writing my Cars of a Lifetime series early this year, I had just bought a used Ford Focus to become my main car. But I was keeping my old Toyota Matrix to give to my son when he gets his driver’s license later this year. Both cars are top-of-the line hatchbacks, and both were initially marketed to twentysomething drivers. But their missions couldn’t be more different. The Focus SES offers only some quasi-luxury touches over lower trim levels. The Matrix XRS, on the other hand, is a hot hatch aimed at someone with a hip, active lifestyle. I’m not in any of these demographics – I’m a middle-aged man who needs to carry two teenagers and a large dog in his car. That gives me an unusual perspective. And now that I’ve driven the Focus for a several months, I’d like to share how I think these two hatches compare.
By the numbers, these are fairly comparable cars. The Focus sits on a 102.9-inch wheelbase. It’s 168.5 inches long and 66.7 inches wide. The Matrix sits on a 102.4-inch wheelbase. It’s 171.3 inches long and 69.9 inches wide – three inches more than the Focus. Where these cars really differ is in height: 56.8 inches for the Focus and 61.0 inches for the Matrix.
Styling. Matrix wins. I know this is entirely subjective, but I think the Focus is frumpy. The Matrix’s styling is a little more rakish, maybe even a little boy-racer, but I think it’s good looking. Before it got a little banged up, I was always proud to arrive in my Matrix. I always wince a little inside when I admit I drive this Focus.
Interior. The Matrix edges the Focus. Even though my Focus includes leather seats and a sunroof, its primary interior characteristic is hard plastic. The dashboard, which screams Generic Car, reflects badly onto the windshield on sunny days. The seats are hard, though not uncomfortable on long trips.
Lots of little details make the Matrix a more pleasant place to be. It’s roomier inside, thanks to the three inches of width it has over the Focus. Despite the cloth’s weird, rough weave, the seats are much softer than those in the Focus. They’re very comfortable. Most surfaces are soft and feel pretty good, at least for this class of car. And the cockpit is just a cooler design, with gauges that glow red when the car is on but are invisible otherwise. My Matrix even has a darned useful AC electrical outlet on the dash.
Utility. The Matrix wins by a mile. The Matrix is so darned useful. Check it out: A flat load floor! Even the front passenger seat folds flat. And look at that wide hatch opening! This is where the Matrix’s extra interior height really shines. I’ve carried enormous quantities of stuff in this car. With the seats down, the Matrix carries just over 52 cubic feet of stuff.
Here’s the Focus similarly configured — and it carries just 40 cubic feet of stuff. Ford, get a clue: having to lift up the back-seat bottom before folding down the seats just sucks! And that seat bottom gets in the way of longer items. Because it’s harder to lay down the back seat and less stuff fits in here, when I need to run to Lowe’s I always take the Matrix.
I do like the Focus’s attached rigid cargo cover, though. In everyday driving, anything I store in the wayback is hidden from view. The Matrix stores a fold-out cover under the floor, and it’s usually more hassle than it’s worth to dig it out. On the other hand, when I need to haul large items in the Focus, I have to detach the cover and store it somewhere. That’s fine when I’m at home and can leave it in the garage, but it’s not so convenient when I’m at the store and unexpectedly buy a large item on clearance.
And check this out: the Matrix’s hatch glass opens, as opposed to the Focus’s fixed hatch glass. A button on the key fob even pops the glass. I find this to be so nifty and useful that I’d be willing to lobby to make it Federal law that all hatchbacks work this way.
Fit and Finish, Squeaks and Rattles. Advantage: Matrix. The Focus is much more expertly put together than my last American car, a 1996 Mercury Sable. But everything about the Matrix is at least one cut above, from the switchgear and surfaces inside to the ride free of squeaks, rattles, and vibrations even after 153,000 miles.
But oh em GEE the squeaks, rattles, and vibrations in the Focus! Shortly after I got this car, it started shaking badly at idle. It turns out that the passenger-side motor mount had cracked through – and that this is a common problem in first-generation Focuses! Replacing it cost $200. Also, there’s an infernal body squeak that comes from the rear passenger side. Every minor imperfection in the road activates it – hoop hoop, hoop hoop hoop, hoop hoooop hoop, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. I’m gonna go postal! My mechanic thinks it’s the sway bar bushings, so I’m going to have him replace them. And then there are the unidentified sporadic rattles that come from deep within the doors, the driver’s-side A pillar, and the center armrest storage bin. All this after only 79,000 miles. Ay yi yi!
Fuel Economy. It’s a tossup, and I’m disappointed with the fuel economy of both of these small four-cylinder cars. The Matrix delivers 24-26 mpg in town and 26-28 mpg on the highway, and takes premium fuel. The Focus gets a shockingly low 22-24 mpg in town, but an okayish 28-30 mpg on the highway, on regular gas. I want a zippy small car that gets 30 or more in town, 35 or more on the highway.
Driving Dynamics. The Focus wins big, which shocked the pants off me. The Matrix XRS comes with the 180hp 1.8L 2ZZFE engine that powered the contemporary Celica GT-S. You’d think that would mean performance — and it does feel like a rocket compared to the gutless 130hp 1.8L 1ZZ engine in lesser Matrixes (I used to own one of those, too). Yet the harsh 4-speed automatic shifts abruptly, the gas pedal is twitchy, and the engine is raucous. When I want to build speed but lean into the pedal just a hair too much, it downshifts with a jolt and the engine revs hard and loud. I’m forever hedging on the gas just to avoid one of those kick-in-the-pants downshifts. The engine’s sweet spot doesn’t come until you cross the 6,200-RPM redline, when a special cam kicks in and you get excellent boost. Unfortunately, that only ever happens at highway speeds. Moreover, the Matrix rolls deeply when you corner hard or fast. It even leans too much in routine cornering and feels a little uncertain in straight line driving. I have little confidence in this car when on a twisty road, and tend to drive it very conservatively overall.
The Focus, on the other hand, feels light and spritely, yet firmly planted. The steering is so tight that the Matrix’s steering feels loose in comparison. Lean hard on the pedal from a dead stop and the Focus scoots smoothly and very quickly with no fuss and little engine noise. Punch it when passing on the highway and it still has plenty of legs. It feels considerably quicker than my Matrix even though it’s 2.0L Duratec engine delivers 34 fewer horsepower. Gas it into a turn and it holds steady with minimal lean. I’m generally a careful driver, but I find myself throwing this car into curves with much more gusto than any other car I’ve owned. Even my daily commute to work is more fun in the Focus. The Focus is no sports car, but tossing it around puts plenty of smiles on my face.
The Winner. Even though the Matrix wins in more categories, the Focus is so much more fun to drive that I give it the overall nod. But when my son gets his license, I’m borrowing his car whenever I need to haul something.
Ah dude, manual would have made both of these more fun, especially the Matrix. Cutting from six gears to four with an already anemic torque number (and high-strung action) engine just puts taller gears to magnify that fault.
I’ve had my stint of a 2006 Matrix XR auto (steelies, rear drums, XRS suspension and exhaust bits from the factory). I was surprised it was so willing and controlled on on ramps (going through gears via the “2,” O/D button, and drive helped ), but that was one of the few things I could say nice about it. Compared to my Toyota Echo, the interior gaps were becoming gargantuan, one of the sun-visors was starting to fall off (it took a screw from my Echo’s visor to hold it on– even now two years later I still have one screw but it’s holding tight), the engine would shake the car when stopped at red lights, and yes that throttle was an on/off switch.
Then again, it was my sisters bright-red mommy mobile and was never really treated well. In fact, in the time I was keeping it trying to sell it, it received far more care. After all, how does one find M&M’s and raisins that have not only worked down past the optional rear carpet, past the first layer of plastic load floor, past the tray under said floor, and UNDER the spare tire? When I detail a car for sale, I go deep.
It’s a shame that I could see the Toyota quality dropping as years went on. My ’00 Echo isn’t without it’s faults, but lets just say that 463,000 miles later it’s holding up better than a Matrix with less than 100k– and I’m not always easy on my car. There’s a slight discrepancy. Perhaps yours was early enough to avoid as much down-hill momentum.
Yet now that we sold the Matrix, I wonder how it’s doing a year later. There were hundreds of miles I put on it, so the attachment still grew, and there were things I wanted to try for the sake of making one mine. The first year model like yours with the newer tail-lights would make it a ringer for the concept– that’s the first thing I’d do with an early model.
As for the Focus, the ZX5 is definitely a favorite. Haven’t driven one, honestly, but they read out as a great handling little compact. The later models also had a nice clean Euro look, and the ZX5 in particular combined the rakish hatch profile with the four-door practicality (and more solid side-impact safety). Those new interiors were a bit boring against the old, though. I’d be willing to take an SVT ZX5 and put the new front end on, oddly enough… though maybe with that “sport” kit.
463,000 miles?? That deserves a writeup all its own!!!
More or less been done. She’s been on Hooniverse and lesser-known Gearboxmagazine.com already. Plus if you click my name, it’ll take you to the FB page for the car. It’s actually common on the 1NZ-FE.
I bought both of these cars used, and bought the Matrix in a hurry after wrecking a 2003 base Matrix with the 5 speed. Buying used, I took what was available. The base Matrix was bought new so the 5 speed was deliberately chosen. The base Matrix was a serious dog, and I can only imagine that the automatic would make it worse!
I was under the impression that the suspension was the same in the Matrix regardless of base, XR, or XRS. I can tell you that my base and XRS Matrixes handled not one iota differently.
What’s available is understandable.
As for the suspension, it appears you’re right. I’d thought the base model was softer, while the XR and XRS firmed things up a tad. There was a rear sway I recall the Corolla lacking (could be thinking back to the Echo again for a plain beam, while the similar xB1 and xA have integrated sways in their torsion beams). As it turns out, though, the Matrix used different geometry and had wider tracks than the Corolla, so that could very well be the norm.
I didn’t know the XRS was ever even available with automatic.
Yup. As were the Celica GTS– with wheel buttons a la Lexus IS300 and MR2 Spyder, no less. The XRS was only for a year (2003) though.
It was apparently not ordered that way very often, but yes. On the Matrix forum I used to follow, when I got the XRS and announced it there, I got a ton of “Wow, an XRS automatic, how unusual!” responses.
I had the Pontiac Vibe twin to your Matrix, and once brought home two garage doors and openers in it, AND managed to close all of the doors!
That thing was surprisingly roomy for its size, which is something we seem to be getting away from…
I think the EPA classified the Matrix as a midsizer just because of its copious interior room!
Nice write-up Jim. I always wondered about the plastic floor for the Matrix since I first saw it at an auto show, does everything just slide/bounce around if you don’t strap it down (like Groceries etc?). Both cars look nice, it’s amazing how much good driving dynamics can make one forgive other “characteristics”…
I can answer that, if I may. Things do slide around, but back in ’05 I read a post on an online forum devoted to the Vibe, and found an inexpensive solution: Anti-fatigue mat, sold by the yard in the flooring section of Lowe’s. It is exactly the same width as the depth of the cargo area, and exactly the same shade as the grey interior. For less than $20 and 20 minutes with a razor cutter, you end up with something that works perfectly, and looks like it came that way from the factory.
Oh heck yes, stuff slides. It’s a downer. My first Matrix had the optional carpet for the wayback, which was wonderful. The blue Matrix pictured has a (probably aftermarket) rubbery mat thing that does an okay job.
The dash on your US Focus is much nicer than the one on the European version, which looked like it was drawn by a drunk. I’ve only ever driven the 1.6 petrol, which had a sweet engine and gearbox, but heavy steering that only came good if you drove it like you stole it, when you realised the chassis was brilliant. If you were just driving to the store then the car was a pain.
Really? I love to take the Focus for even a quick spin around the corner. It’s just delightful to drive.
I’d second that, Jim–even the non-ZX4 ’05+ Focuses were a blast in terms of handling. I had a few as rentals when they were new. Loved the way that heavy, settled steering locked into a groove on the freeway, and let you nail apexes in one, smooth motion in curves. Wish I’d picked up an SVT Focus when I had the chance.
I test-drove a couple of Matrix XRSs with the 6-speed stick, and really wanted to like those cars. So much utility, a reasonable MSRP, and an engine that revved to 7800rpm! But on the road, I found the zingy, instant throttle response poorly-matched with the slow, clunky shifter and abrupt clutch action. It was a tough car to drive smoothly. And I just couldn’t get used to the legs-in, arms-out, somewhat laterally askew driving position. By contrast, I always felt right at home in the Focus.
If you haven’t already, don’t test-drive the new Matrix, unless you want to be deeply disappointed. The interior now feels hose-it-out cheap and they’ve shrunk the glass area to the point that you feel like you’re sitting low in a dark, plastic bathtub. The steering and handling didn’t stand out in the old Matrix, but they’ve gotten vaguer and rubberier in the new one. And the 2.4-litre Camry engine isn’t half as interesting as the frenetic old 2ZZ. Seems Toyota concluded–correctly, in fairness–that the Matrix wasn’t drawing the young ‘tuner’ crowd they expected, and they might as well broaden the net.
That XRS instant throttle response is no picnic with the automatic either. This is just the wrong engine for this car.
Re: The squeak that is making you crazy. By chance do you have the drivers seat height in the lowest position to the floor? The same thing happened in my 2006 Focus Wagon. If I moved the knob just a bit to raise the seat the squeak went away. I could swear the sound was coming from the back but it resolved it.
I loved my Focus and bought it new. It drove very nicely and being a wagon, it held quite a bit.
What I couldn’t figure out was why the back of the rear seat was split 60/40 but the bottom cushion wasn’t split that way. What was the point then?
I do have that seat dialed all the way down. I’ll try raising it a hair!
Truth be told, I’d rather have a Focus wagon for the extra space. And the wagon doesn’t look as dorky.
It is surprising how much fuel economy has plateaued. My 20yo 93 Buick Century wagon drove from Cleveland, OH to Charlotte, NC earlier in the week and average 31.56MPG with two people and luggage. That’s with almost 300K on the unadulterated powertrain 3.3V6 and power everything. My former daily driver 2003 Park Avenue would regular nip 30 on the high way even with the supercharger. We had some Vibe company cars at work that I drove now and then. The AC plug outlet on the console is a nice touch and surprising why it hasn’t appeared on other cars.
It just seems so odd how today designed vehicles like this small cars with 4 cylinders yet get worse MPG than both of my Buicks.
And my ’83 Renault Alliance got 35 in town and 40+ on the highway!
I think cars are starting to trend up in fuel economy again. My dad just got a ’12 Focus and it gets 30 in town, 35 highway.
Got that right Craig. I had a 3.8l powered ’88 T-Bird and that sucker would get 32 on the highway no problem! I think part of the problem is how heavy cars are becoming when saddled with too many (IMHO) un-needed safety features. We need safer drivers, not just safer cars.
There seems to be less sense of urgency over fuel economy today as there was in the 1970s and early 80s. Yes there are people that are in tight money situations that worry about it, of course, by the population as a whole seems less concerned than in those days. Even at $3.50-4.00 gallon the psyche is not the same as it was 35 years ago when we were turning our dials down, wearing sweaters around the house and dumping big cars en masse. SUVs are quite as popular as they were 10 years ago, but seeing as trucks constitute nearly 50% or more of the passenger vehicles sold today and their MPGs are teens to low 20s it seems to be the accepted norm. We talk about super high MPG vehicles now, like the new Cruze diesel that just rolled off the assembly line, I saw a video of one of the diesel engineers drove one and got like 900 miles on a tank. http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2013/05/chevrolet-cruze-diesel-nets-900-miles-on-a-single-tank-video.html as amazing as that is it will only sell to a select audience. People will still be satisfied with 250-300 miles per tank.
The thing is, in the ’70s there were times when gas simply wasn’t available, a problem that’s only happened in recent times in the immediate aftermath and vicinity of natural disasters. People mostly paid cash for gas, too, while today most people use swipe cards of some type and don’t face the outright or opportunity costs of driving a guzzler.
The definition of gas-guzzler has stretched, too – 20 MPG in the ’70s was respectable for a domestic compact with the usual options (I’m from the north so that didn’t include AC) while a full-size wagon or a work pickup might get less than 10.
This is a useful comparo. I hate that the local paper only seems to test $50k+ dreamboats. Wow! A new [blank] that costs more than most people’s net worth is a good car! Whodathunkit?
Always liked the gen-1 Matrix, but reading this makes me happy with my Tre. Both cars have sensible high roofs. The whole “no headroom = sporty” shtick should have gone away 25 years ago.
Jim is right about mileage on this vintage compact – all really should do better. I guess the new ones do.
When the 3 was new to the US market in 2004, I test-drove an s hatch, the Focus ZX4, and the Matrix XRS back-to-back. Despite being the most ‘mainstream’ of the bunch, the Mazda was definitely the one to get. The Focus was just as good to drive, but felt cheaper inside and in the details. And the Matrix felt like a great engine trapped in a car that was just not suited to it.
As for mileage–to be fair, at around 3,000lbs, these cars don’t weigh much less than domestic mid-size sedans from the mid-’80s, and many have a fair few more horses and will shave a second or three off their 0-60 times to boot.
Interesting comparison, my daily driver is an 01 Focus ZTS and several of my relatives have Matrixes (Matrii?)
I would have never throught them remotely comparible until I saw the photo of them side by side.
You are right on the ball with the driving dynamics, I’ve driven a Matrix several times and the experience is more like a shrunken minivan.
Our Focus on the other hand (with 5-speed) is more like a go-kart than a minivan and is known to our kids as “the Zippy Car”
It isn’t quite appropriate for a 45 year old engineering manager to still be driving a 12 year old Focus, but it’s still reliable, fun to drive and with 200,000 km on it still feels tight.
I feel the same. My buddy was off-loading his 2002 Focus wagon (5-speed) about a year and a half ago, and wanted $2500 for it. It had 96K klicks on it and was well maintained. I did the math and realized that the payback period was about 40K if it was as reliable as my Crown Vic. It is entirely not my type of car, but the gas savings and the fact it could take all the winter abuse attracted me to the purchase. The wagon allows for all kinds of parts chasing for the fleet, and I don’t have to take my ’73 Chev P/U on far-flung parts hunting runs.
I agree with most of the comments posted. It is light and agile, suprising roomy and quiet. I don’t have the rattles and squeaks that Jim noticed because I oil sprayed every crevice. Mileage is around 43(Imp) on the highway, but I’m slow, and use 100% gas. This alone made close to a 7-10% difference over E10. There is also synthetic in the sump and a K@N air filter. I short shift the little beast at 2000 rev’s, so it’s plenty slow. Engine is the best part of mine, with flawless idle and running, and no oil use.
Downside is that these cars are fragile when you’re used to old US biggies. Everything was replaced in the car prior to me owing it, and there is a sheaf of paperwork for all of the warranty work and repairs in that first 100K km. Window regulators are made of 10-speed cables and plastic, and cost $200 a pop. Alignment and tire wear is a bear, and I rotate every 5000km. The rear suspension needs lower control arms because the toe/camber adjustments rust inside the arm and are impossible to free up. The local repair shop says the arms run $250/ea, so when stabalizer bushings and labour are added in, it would have been an $800 bill just to align the rear. I’m going to plump for tire replacement instead!
All in all, an entertaining car that is a bargain at $2500, and not the $23k the original owner paid. I’m also happy that it is taking the winter misery off of my ’85 Crown Vic, so that I can preserve the latter at the expense of the Focus.
Nice article. Really enjoyed this as a Sunday evening read.
Interesting comparison. I had a Matrix…six months. Bought it; stepped in some ka-ka at work; bosses were trying to sack me. Sold the damn thing; basically, I paid someone to take it off my hands. But there was no money in the bank to make car payments.
Of course, a month after I sold it, I got called back – with apologies. That was the last car I borrowed money to buy. BUT…I remember the Matrix as very zippy, quiet, and VERY fuel-efficient. I was getting about 30 mpg in town; standard engine and automatic. And, like you say…it was a cavern inside.
You say the Focus is more interesting to drive. That’s interesting; although the Matrix, as a Corolla derivative, isn’t exactly sports material. I never figured the Focus was anything but an appliance.
The styling on the Focus was always a turnoff for me. The rear C pillar that comes to a point, and the sharp creases in the fenders (are these supposed to make this look like a New Beetle or a P.T.Cruiser?) just ruin the car for me. I like the look of the newer one so much better.
I have never driven either, so thanks for the nice comparison. Now, we need for ImpCapn to bring his Mazda 3 out and I can meet you guys with my Honda Fit, and we can try again. 🙂
I agree fully with your assessment of the Focus’s styling. When these came out, I wondered what Ford was smoking. I’m still not enamored.
I’m there, JP. Haven’t been to the Speedway, IN White Castle since 1990. 🙂
Wow! It’d be like the Curbside Classic 10Best or something!
Except you can keep the White Castles.
“You gonna eat that?” 🙂
Really interesting… if I were writing this, I’d arrive at the exact same conclusion, but I’d get there much differently!
I was in my early 20s when both of these cars were new, part of the target audience they were intended to appeal to. The Focus I loved immediately and still do. The hatchback models, in particular, seemed hip, sophisticated and distinctly European. The 2-door was the real looker, but there’s something about a 4-door hatch that screams “unique”, or even “un-American” depending on who you ask… and I liked the rest of the model range (the sedans and wagons) as well. They were cars that gave off a sporty, fun vibe without resorting to any kind of gimmicky styling cues or conspicuous badging/tarting-up. Considering previous American compact efforts (see “Cavalier Rally Sport”, CC yesterday), it was quite a feat to have a car this clean and restrained communicate that it would be a blast to whip down twisty backroads without any blatant advertising.
The Matrix, on the other hand, came off like a ricey, bulbous, “lifestyle product”/focus group abomination that completely misunderstood its audience – at first glance, anyway. I thought of it as a boring, baby minivan that graduated from the Grand Am GT School of Design Red Bull XTrEmE WagonKross Edition by VANS Warped Tour. But in reality, I was totally wrong. The Matrix was just way ahead of the curve on cars getting taller and I couldn’t see it back when they were new. By the end of the first generation, it had gone from looking totally ridiculous, in my eyes anyway, to commonplace… and for a car that was first introduced 11 years ago, it doesn’t look all that dated.
It’s too bad Toyota never offered a “bodykit delete” option for the XRS (it’s worst feature, IMO), because I love the totally crazy 180HP ZZ engine. The best (styling) feature is all of the lines created by the interaction of the converging body, roofline and full-length glass towards the rear… really neat. I dig the opening rear glass, too, and agree all wagons/hatches should have this feature where possible.
Thinking about these cars sent me to Wikipedia where I learned that there was a 2nd generation Pontiac Vibe. I had no idea and don’t know that I’ve ever noticed one! They were apparently only around for Pontiac’s last two model years, so I’m guessing there weren’t many sold. The Pontiac grille makes it look kinda like a large rodent baring its teeth…
I am totally with you on the stupid lower-body cladding on the XR and XRS. My base Matrix (photo attached) lacked it and was better looking as a result. And the damned cladding on the front was SO susceptible to scraping on everything. If you dig back and find my COAL on the XRS, you’ll read about how I even broke it all off the car accidentally one day. Yarrrrrrgh.
My wife bought the red Matrix new while we were still married. I thought like you did — this was one over-focus-grouped car. But it comfortably held three child seats abreast in the back seat. And the first time she folded that seat down and hauled a metric tonne of stuff in it, I could see why this car was a winner. I ended up with it after we divorced and, furnishing my post-divorce home, brought home a dining table and six chairs in it, in one trip. Just unbelievable.
Toyota seriously screwed up with the 2nd-gen Matrix’s styling. The Vibe was much better looking, rodent-toothed grille notwithstanding.
Jim- Great comparison, I’ve spent a lot of time in both cars and agree with your assessment. Both my mom and sister have ’07 Focus hatch’s and I think I know what your infernal squeak is. The parking brake cables on both sides run through a looped bracket that holds them to the underbody. The bracket is screwed in on one end and just hooks into a hole in the underbody there. The loose metal-on-metal creates a squeak and can be solved by popping a license plate nut (you know, the square plastic kind) in the hole and putting the end of the bracket through the screw hole. Now it’s nice and snug. This is how the dealer fixes it. Now, the looped part of the bracket that the cable runs through also creates a squeak as the cable rubs against it. This can be fixed temporarily by applying anti-seize to the cable sheathing, or permanently (which I finally did on my mom’s) by filling the whole loop with silicone so the cable can’t move around.
Heh. I bought the Focus from my dad and he told me that it was the brake cable too. I didn’t believe him, and when my mechanic suggested sway bar bushings I went with that. Maybe I need to listen to ol’ Dad.
My dealer said it was the brake cable too. Their adjustment did nothing. I went to the dealer 3 times for the squeak. I even took it for a test drive with one of the dealer technicians to show them I wasn’t crazy. The guy asked me “Why did you buy a Ford?” I asked him what he drove. He told me he had a Pontiac. Nice dedicated Ford technician……
I own a base model 2005 Focus, which I owned for the past 7 years, while a good friend owns the Pontiac Vibe version of the Matrix. As the article said, the interior of the Vibe is a bit better than the one on my Focus, while my friend & his wife appreciate the roominess of the Vibe. The Focus rides very well. One problem that I had w/it was that the door handles feel a bit cheap & I had the driver’s side inside replaced @ at cost of $200. I also had a front axle that needed to be replaced for $800. Otherwise, I’m very happy w/my Focus.
“Truth be told, I’d rather have a Focus wagon for the extra space. And the wagon doesn’t look as dorky.”
Focus wagon with a sunroof FTW. Rare object.
I personally thought the Vibe was miles ahead than the Matrix style wise. At least the first generation….
Wow a 2ZZ automatic must suck! It’s worse than the Celica and Elise due to taller tires, which changes the effective axle ratio or something. Also, only four gears instead of the 6 on the stick and wide ratios really hurts things. That’s why the only had it the first year, and it was never offered on the equivalent Vibe GT.
It may even be slower than the base 1ZZ automatic due to the XRS’ high strung nature. Fun fact: The base engine was available with a TRD supercharger.
Ford cheapened the Focus after 2004, and never sold us the European second-gen Focus (unless you count the Mazda 3 and Volvo S40/V50), although Mexico did get it. The pre-2004 Focus has a much better dash and much less generic. Unfortunately early models did have some problems, so 2002-2004 seems to be the “sweet spot” for Focuses.
How would your comparison change if you had a Focus wagon instead of the ZX5 4-door hatch? It has much more interior space.
Attached is the pre-2005 Focus dash
I’ve never driven the Focus but have enjoyed my 2003 XRS automatic for the last 9 years now(purchased used). Only problem mechanically I’ve had to do to it is replace the motor mounts and water pump.. I can’t complain 245,000 and going strong. No it’s not the fastest car out there but I love the high roof line and the JBL stereo it came with. The exterior styling is awesome with the optional rear spoiler. Very roomy inside for hauling items…..That’s my 2 cents