Curbside Classic: 1999 Ford Escort ZX2 – Pride Comes From Within

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 world's smallest-looking 15" alloy wheel.

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?