Classic CARmentary: 1998 Ford Escort SE Sedan

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

It may look like I’m fawning over this Escort much more that it deserves, but I was genuinely impressed with it.  Having driven the Corolla just a couple of months before, it was still pretty fresh in my mind and I really didn’t notice any discernible difference in quality.  I’m sure that if I had to live with the Escort for a few years I would.  However, I don’t recall any major quality issues with this generation.  That also may be due to the fact the HUGE quality issues with the Contour, Taurus, Focus and Escape overshadowed it.

This was also the review where I learned that my editor didn’t like parentheses:

I prefer not to use parenthesis[sic] in stories. If the information is worth putting in the story, then put it in. Parenthesis slow down the flow, and Adam, your reviews do have a nice flow and rhythm to them. Jackie

Anyone who reads my work knows that I love parentheses, since I feel it’s the best way to state an aside inside the referring sentence.  My favorite Stephen Wright joke:  “If you can’t hear me, it’s because I’m in parentheses.”

The below review ran on July 28, 1998.

How does near Japanese quality and refinement at a substantially lower price strike you? I thought that would get your attention. The 1998 Ford Escort SE sedan proves that an American company can build a refined, high quality small car for a reasonable price. We will disclose, however, that it does use the platform and transmission of the previous generation Mazda Protege.

The Escort sedan was updated last year, turning the bland, angular little car into a smaller version of the Ford Taurus. On top of its slick, curvaceous styling, the Escort also received an all-new interior that includes the same space-age radio/climate control pod found in the Taurus. Under the hood, a larger and substantially more powerful engine resides and can finally move the Escort with the authority of its Toyota Corolla, Saturn SL and Dodge/Plymouth Neon competitors. It can also go 100,000 miles between tuneups.

Fortunately, “small” today doesn’t necessarily mean “striped down.” Our loaded example included power windows/locks/mirrors, four-speaker cassette stereo with six-CD changer, remote locking with trunk release and panic alarm, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, tilt-steering wheel, aluminum wheels, and anti-lock brakes. For shift-it-yourselfers, a five-speed manual is standard, something that is becoming difficult to find in larger sedans. The shifter feels rubbery, but is easy to manipulate and, combined with the light clutch, allows the less-than-coordinated motorist to drive smoothly. A four-speed automatic is optional.

The ride, of course, is more active than in a larger car, but you get added maneuverability and sharper handling to compensate. Four average-sized people can ride comfortably in the Escort, and the split-folding rear seat expands the already roomy 12.8 cubic foot trunk.

A few complaints: the aluminum wheels look incredibly like wheel covers, an interior trunk release would have been nice, and Ford does not remove the attached rubber plug for the 12-volt outlet when the “smokers’ package” and its requisite cigarette lighting element is ordered. The plug just awkwardly hangs there.

Comparably equipped, the Escort SE comes in nearly $3,000 less than the Corolla LE while performing similarly. You can call it inexpensive, but don’t ever call it cheap.

For more information contact 1-800-392-FORD


Type: 4-Door Sedan
Engine: 110-horsepower, 2.0 liter inline 4
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 28 city/38 highway
Tested Price: $15,215