And now, the first ever Curbside Classic haiku:
I got a new car
For just $199 down
(The air doesn’t work)
The ZX2 was introduced in 1998 as a 2-door variant of the new-for-1997 North American Ford Escort. Unlike the sedan, the ZX2 features the better Zetec 2.0 liter four, good for 130 horsepower. This made the ZX2 capable of a sub-8 second 0-60 when equipped with a manual transmission.
Personally, about 8 or 8.5 seconds to 60 is where my mental idea of a quick car begins. Could the ZX2 be the most overlooked budget pocket rocket since the original Dodge Neon?
Oh, right….that. Yes, it’s homely. You have the melted nose and buttocks, and also the oddly tall little coupe greenhouse sticking up smack in the middle of it all, making me wonder if it’s some kind of half-assed Popemobile. Those who fancy themselves as the sporty type generally want a car that looks the part along with them, or at least a car that looks like it could look the part if only it wanted to. Does the ZX2?
Our featured ZX2 was the victim of some rather haphazard body and paint repairs, so we’ll overlook the paint overspray that was all over the front of the car, but what of this lovely bumper cover mold part line? It doesn’t look too bad in the photo, but if you ran your finger along that ragged ridge you’d be left with only a bloody stump, I assure you.
Yes, the car is built to a price, but what a price! These things can be bought on Craigslist and everywhere else all day long for peanuts. It sure seems to me it’d make a good, economical, disposable commuter or city car for this very reason, especially if you don’t have kids or hopes of making any. Maybe you could even buy one at a Buy Here/Pay Here lot that accepts weekly payments so you don’t pay for the whole thing (or even a whole month) if it spits out a rod on the way to Kroger!
The ZX2 was generally well-equipped for an Escort, with many being sold with spoilers, nice upholstery, fog lights, and alloy wheels as pictured above. Those wheels are 15″ in diameter, but they somehow have the appearance of being the size of a York Peppermint Patty.
Contemporary reviews were generally favorable, stating the car was zippy and well-made. It is hard today to determine how well the car actually held up due to so few being bought by owners who would properly maintain it, but my guess is that it’s probably a pretty durable car. In fact, considering the general state of owner-induced disrepair most ZX2s now seem to be in, I’d say this proves it’s a durable car just by the sheer number still running.
The interior of the ZX2 has this standard-issue, late ’90s Taurus Lite interior design with its roundish center pod housing the HVAC and radio controls. I never cared for this style of radio in Fords because it made it more costly to replace the radio, requiring a special new trim piece for the whole area around the radio. As you can see, the owner of this ZX2 added some sort of FM modulator for their iPod or maybe a CD changer to theirs rather than replace the head unit as would be done in virtually any other used car.
All in all, I think the ZX2 is a pretty neat little car. They cost nothing to buy, are probably easy to work on, have cheap parts, lots of headroom, good economy, and good power. What’s not to like besides Civic guys talking behind your back?
It looks like a first generation Lexus SC from the front. That is not necessarily a good thing. But hey, if the price is right…
I would love to own one of these for driving to and from work. Seriously. They seem just right – small, probably really good on gas, quick enough, cheap, probably cheap to fix. A quick check of Cars.com for a 100-mile radius of my Indiana home nets a half-dozen or so of these, prices hovering around the $3,000 mark. Jeez, this might just be the perfect car to buy my son when he gets his driver’s license next year. IIRC, this car is heavily based on the generation of Escort that immediately preceded it. My dad had one of those and the sucker just wouldn’t die.
I’ll tell you what not to like about the car.
I remember going to the dealer to test-drive one. I saw a long rows of these, as typical in an American dealers. Then I noticed that the nearest one has a Ford logo that’s not centered in the little indentations in the grille for them. So I started paying attention to the logo on all the cars in the row. None of them are centered in their little indent! Wow, this must be Ford’s “Quality is Job 1”! If this is the kind of workmanship lavished on the symbol of company’s pride, the big logo front and center in the car, imagine what kind of attention is lavished on parts never seen inside or beneath the car, like brake linings or fuel line or stuff behind the dashboard. Then I got on the test drive, and literally got a headache from the cacophony inside the car. Needless to say, the test drive leave me with a bad impression of the brand for a long, long time. Hopefully they’re better now. If a ZX2 is given to me for free, I’d probably drive it to a junkyard immediately. I’d rather walk, and I hate walking!
That’s a bit of anecdotal “evidence” I’m not buying. If ALL the cars you saw had the emblems misaligned I’d question your eye sight.
Google ZX2 images.
Here’s one. Note the Ford emblem and the indent in the bumper cover. It would be virtually impossible to misalign.
Later 03 with Ford emblem in the grill. The emblem probably has pins that fit into holes in plastic grill.
If you are going to malign American cars (what’s wrong with a long row of choices?) and Fords specifically at least know wtf you are talking about. You made a lot of aspersions (brake lines, really?) based on a possible, doubtful, misaligned emblem! The Escorts and ZX2s were good tough little cars. All your negative “Job 1” and “workmanship” ramblings seem off base for a car that has a earned itself a good reputation after some 10 or so years on the road.
this generation of fords are under-appreciated. it probably has something to do with their god awful “oval” design language. if you can put aside their esthetics, they are very solid cars. in nyc, the harsh road environment eliminates all but the most durable or loved of older cars. since nobody loves these, it’s clearly the durability that explains their perseverance. not too many zr2’s but they were rare even when new but the escorts and tauri are ubiquitous. i think this era ford focused on keep it simple stupid and it worked.
I only ever drove the four-door versions of these cars (as occasional rentals) but the general air of tinniness and queasy handling (felt like the car was balanced on a beach ball) put me right off. Who knows, maybe the ZX2 was more tightly buttoned down, but they could handle like a Lotus and they’d still be dog-butt homely.
I won’t diss it any further; hey, receptionists and pizza delivery drivers need sporty cars too.
The ZX2 and especially the S/R version were MUCH more “buttoned down” and I’ve gotta say I think they are cool looking, maybe because of the “Ray-Ban’ tail lights? I had a 94 SHO 5spd at the time when I tried one out. the S/R was kind of a Junior SHO. I’m sure the later, more evolved, SVT Focus’ handled better, but they all were a blast!
I had to check regional Craigslist prices in SoCal/NV/AZ. (I’ve done this several times after reading a CC article!) $2000 won’t get much. Certainly not a low mileage one. $2800 is a bargain in good condition, to over $5000 with low miles at a dealer.
Out here we tend to drive cars longer, no rust issues so they last longer.
lol,lol wot a pile of shit,lol ill give 5 pence for it,lol
The first time I saw one of these was at a Circuit City by the Dayton Mall – inside the store with a super powerful stereo system installed – it was to demo the sound system! I thought it was a unique design – kind of like a mini-Taurus coupe. Now you don’t see many of them anymore. I think they followed to wherever the Ford Probes went…
Chick car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Next to the Volkswagen 2nd generation Beetle, this is a car that I’ve almost always seen a woman driving. And if there was a guy behind the wheel, there was a rainbow bumper sticker on the back.
I have owned and modifed a few ZX2’s in my time. Heres a little backround on these little gems. First off its a focus enigne with a specially geared transmission for the ZX2. Now 130 Hp is pretty good today for a small car. 10 years ago, it outpowered most cars of its class. Now put that in a car that weighs 300 lbs less than a focus with performance gearing…you have a quick small car. I had a few, and Id change parts from new to old all the time. Once you fix a few small things, like the shifter and linkage its a excellent small car platform to build on. I ran cam gears,full exhaust from the header back, msd coil packs and iridium plugs and an 92 octane tune and blew away most small econosport cars short of turboed cars. Now build quality,interior finishes etc werent the best. Now where it mattered, it had a solid platform to build off of and they responed better than other cars. From my experience with fords, they always left something to be desired performance wise but, when modded. They do seem to really respond well to mods.
I drove one new when I was car shopping in 2000. I can’t explain it, but the steering felt..well, it felt weird, like there was a huge mass between me and the road that was part of the steering that didn’t do any of the work but was still part of the whole assembly, like there was a giant dampening mechanism. There wasn’t any feedback to me about what the wheels were doing that I’ve never felt on any other FWD car before. I’ve never felt that on any other car model but the Focus, as a test drive of the Focus hatch five or so years ago was the same way. I then read C&D raving about the driving dynamics of the higher performance Focus and I wonder what they’ve been smoking.
The Focus’ steering feel was very sensitive to tire/wheel choice. I remember test-driving a base-model sedan on cheapo 14s and getting much the same impression as you did. Then I tried a ZX5 on 16s–not bad. I later drove a 2003 SVT Focus, and its steering was among the best I’ve tried (and I drove to that dealer in a Miata).
The buff books raved about the sportier versions of the ZX2 when they were new, so I’ve always wanted to take one for a spin.
Personally I think they aren’t bad looking cars, as Mads noted it looks like a Lexus SC. They have held up well as there are quite a few still running around in these parts. I considered purchasing one a few months ago for my DD/Beater car. Hard to beat the combination of MPG, price and performance at their current values. The problem was finding one that either didn’t have 200K on it, was really beat up, had the slush box, had been modified not to my taste, lacked A/C or all of the above. In the end instead of getting a new DD/beater for me I got the wife a new DD/beater. A 2001 Grand Marquis LS Limited that only had 74,000 miles. I inherited her old beater a 2000 Taurus, at least temporarily until my Son starts driving and then I’ll pawn it off on him, and maybe by then I’ll find a good ZX2.
This is true when it comes to finding a clean ZX2. There are alot of high milage cars out there. However, look at it this way, seeing alot of high milage ZX2’s proves there reliabilty. That and Ive seen some low milage cars fetching half or more of their original sale price. Crazy considering that the newest ZX2 was made in 03. Eric, if you ever look out for a zx2 look for the S/R model. it carried a factory Air intake and open filter element,exhaust and shocks designed by Jack Rousch.
Its sad that model never took off. For its time, there were not that many naturally apsirated imports that could touch it. Short of turbo’d factory ricers. I used to love tearing apart Civic’s with that car.
Ya’ know what? I really do believe that american sport compacts never got their just do.
I’m definitely keeping my eye out for the SR2 version, but I’m not holding my breath since they never made that many.
I have to echo Eric. I always kind of liked these, maybe it was just my thing for older coupes with thin roof pillars, like the Karmann Ghia. I am starting to get a little enthusiastic about these, given the concensus of how durable they have turned out to be.
And please: More CC Haikus! I laughed out loud at this one.
I’m glad someone liked it!
We can add the first-ever CC limerick.
There once was a red ZX2
It made most CC readers blue
It’s value, I guess
is probably less
Than Mr. Tactful’s clever Haiku.
I thought these were alright and I wouldn’t mind one of the high performance variants that were manufactured toward the end of production.
The only person I knew with one when they were new as the Dean of Students at the college I attended (1995-1999). The man could have afforded just about anything but he just wanted a commuter car to rack up the miles on. I had an 8 am class in the same building as the administration offices. If I saw him circling the parking lot when I walked out of the student union I knew I would be late for State and Local Politics.
I started liking the ZX after they reshaped the front and rear. When they put an actual grille on it the whole car transformed a bit.
I like the grille-less version much better the angles of the grille don’t fit right with the rest of the front end in my opinion.
Yeah, the later versions are the best looking by far. That and their factory rims that came with the new restyle look perfect on it with a fresh set of lowering springs.
Ugly little critter looks kinda like a Taurus with a bit of Toyota Altezza thrown in on the front. Definitely a mashup from the Ford parts bin with Mondeo/Focus/Escort engine flung together for the US market sounds like they got lucky on the durability must be some Mazda under the ugly suit.
The 1991-2003 Escorts were Mazda based here, yes.
Ugly ugly but I didn’t know about the Zetec motor. Our 2001 Focus ZTS (with Zetec and 5-speed of course) is certainly zippy and fun to drive.
Also with annual application of Krown rustproofing I think it’s the only early Focus in salt belt Canada that still has it’s rocker panels.
That being said I can’t imagine my Focus’s’s’ drivetrain installed in my BIL’s Escort wagon. It would be like, what did El_kabong say up there? balancing on a beach ball. Exactly.
I’ve been looking at getting one myself as my daily driver, but I’ve been happy with my Escort GT so far. I don’t think they are too bad looking.
The ZX2 does have a cult following with tuners. On one club site, many will not even trade up to a Focus saying ‘ugly’. [Again, car looks are subjective]. “ZX Tuners” want a ”new” Ford ZX2′, but the Focus and Fiesta are it for new compact Fords.
At first glance, the ZX2 would seem to be quite a worthy foe for its main rival, the Neon coupe (forget the Cavalier 2-door). But, as pointed out, the devil was in the details. For me, the deal killer on the ZX2 (and on the Escort/Tracer and Contour/Mystique, as well) was the lack of a center console, even on the completely loaded versions. It might sound trivial but if Chrysler could slip in a standard console on even the most basic Neon, well, Ford should have been able to do it on their compacts.
Too bad, too, because, style and performance-wise (at least with the later, now relatively rare S/R versions), the ZX2 compared reasonably well against the Neon coupes.
Even better would have been the last iteration of the Mercury Cougar. Has there been a CC on that one yet?
Awful car! What do I not like about it is mostly the fact that I do not even fit into it. Not as a passenger or driver!
Actually, this is a great car. We just bought the one in the photo attached back in August for my niece. It had just 28,000 miles on it. It’s the premium edition with a huge power moonroof and a premium sound system with a 6 changer CD in the trunk. She loves it. Calls it her Z. A 10 gallon tank and 30 MPG seals the deal.
These came out at kind of an awkward time — just as the “Ovoid” Ford styling transitioned to “New Edge” in ’99/’00. As a result, they looked dated very quickly, even when new. The grille they tacked on later in the model run (when the removed the “Escort” name and just called them “Ford ZX2” didn’t help much).
My dad had a ’97 Taurus on which the interior of this car was obviously based, and I do have to say, the quality of the switch gear was very good. Substantial buttons that felt solid and almost slightly padded (in a good way) when pressed. Prior to the ’97, my dad had a ’94 Taurus and the difference in quality between the early ’90s and late ’90s Ford interiors was substantial. Head and shoulders above GM interiors of the same time.
I had a 2002 White ZX2 with all the goodies and a nice little black double pinstripe down the side that really made the car look decent. I had it for about a year, and yes, I bought it at a buy here pay here in Virginia, before I moved back to Texas. for a decent $ sticker I got a very nice sounding factory stereo, with a 6 CD changer mounted in the trunk ( I thought it was nice but I bought it in the MP3 CD age and it didnt read those LOL) cold a/c and clean inside and out with a 5 speed. The care drove awesome, and the gas mileage was so so, I dont really miss the car as it was cramped imo, but it was a fine piece of automobile. Oh and mine had 157,000 miles on it when I bought it too 🙂
Late to the reply, but my ’99 has 180K+ and still kicking. I bought it as a cheap car to drive around. I compared it to overpriced (and overly-modified) Honda Civics of the same era. It had two owners prior and they both were somewhat fastidious about the interior but the 2nd owner was not concerned @ all about maintenance.
I’ve done a tune-up, T-belt/Waterpump, brakes, struts, etc. I’ve put lowering springs and wider performance tires and run it in Auto-X. It’s not quick by today’s standards but it’s a fun little ‘runner’ that still gets out of its own way.
I bought an aftermarket SCT tuner (not one of those cheap ebay chips!) and I can tune it (increase the HP/Torque) just like any Mustang or F150 of that era….well, I actually pay someones else to provide the updated tune so I don’t blow it up!
I’m 5’10” , 160# and the interior fits me well. Seat has room to go back for a 6’+ too. The rear seats fold down and there’s actually a lot of room back there to load stuff. Not sure I’d want to endure a 2-hour road-trip in the backseat, but a couple of kids would likely handle it just fine.
MPG is low 30’s @ 60-65MPH. I have the 5-speed. The engine is noisy @ idle compared to my Toyota of the same vintage, but runs smooth on the highway and cruises up hills in top gear w/out effort.
I don’t have #’s but based on Craigslist ads, etc. Ford sold quite a few of these from ’98-’03. As noted their downfall has been they were a cheap(er) car to buy new so many owners neglected maintenance as they probably had enough for fuel, insurance and a monthly payment…..and maybe an oil change on occasion.
I’m not a Ford loyalist, but if you find one that’s been maintained, there are worse cars you could buy for <$1500 (I paid <$800).
I have a 1999 SE 2.0(purchased new). For the first 10 years the car had zero mechanical problems. Unfortunately, at around 120,00 miles a slew of things started to break or wear out. Some were common issues with Escorts and some were age/mileage issues. The rear strut springs broke (very common expensive Escort problem), a circuit in CCRM that controls the AC went bad (common Escort problem not very expensive and easy DIY), the flex pipe for exhaust corroded (common escort problem), horn switch in steering wheel broke (very expensive due to labor and not really a DIY project due to airbag), as well as many age/mileage problems such a Alternator, oil pan gasket leak, brakes, tires, speaker has short in it, dome light switch, leak in trunk, etc…
Overall it’s been a pretty decent car. It’s not my primary car anymore, but still gets me to and fro. My gas mileage never got into the low 30mpg as others state. 24-26 mpg is about the best i’ve ever achieved on open highway.
As for working on the car, some things are easy like oil changes, plugs & wires, brakes, but some things you wouldn’t expect like changing the fuel filter is far more difficult than you’d think.
Car turns 21 in March 2020. Shooting for the 25 year antique tag.
ZX2 nin parçaları neylen aynıdır bende var türkiyedeyim