Ford SVT Focus: Used Car Reminder

Ford SVT Focus: Used Car Reminder

I know, I know: this one isn’t exactly off-the radar. But I realized something about the Focus SVT the other day: it’s really cool.

For starters, some background. We all know the first-generation Ford Focus, because it came out in 2000 and lasted for like a decade, as if it was a Mercedes SL-Class. Well it wasn’t an SL-Class, and anyone who drove one knew that. But the SVT was kind of cool.

Here’s the deal on the SVT Focus: it came out for the 2002 model, initially as a 3-door hatchback. In 2003, a 5-door SVT model was added. And 2004 was the final year, which means these things aren’t really that common.

In a world of hot hatches, the SVT Focus was pretty cool. Power wasn’t exceptional, at just 170 horses, though I’m sure people all over the rural South are putting down “two fifty to thuh whuls.” But it was the manual-only transmission, the sweet (and very subtle) bodykit, the unique wheels, and that gorgeous blue color that made the SVT Focus really stand out. The fact that you could get it in five-door was icing on the cake.

You never see the SVT Focus anymore, likely a result of the fact that a) it was unreliable; b) it was pretty rare, even when new; or c) you don’t spend enough time at rural dragstrips. But they’re out there, somewhere, a reminder of a rare bright spot during one of Ford’s darker periods. Some might even be that gorgeous blue color.

11 Responses to “ “Ford SVT Focus: Used Car Reminder”

  1. Lenn says:

    I never knew they had reliability issues. Other than the interior plastics sucking donkey balls, the few I knew around town in my younger years took all the beatings that late-teenagers could throw at them.

    Either way, (stock) they had a pretty damn sweet exhaust note. Deep, throaty, pleasantly raspy, and a bit hollow. Oh, and yes- I used “deep” and “throaty” adjacently in the same sentance. LOL.

  2. TheKevin says:

    The only problem is finding one that hasn’t been hacked into by some @home garage mechanic. You never know what people have done when modding these things, or if it was done right! A friend of mine has one and loves it, peppy and fun to drive, and reasonably easy to fix.

  3. Mike Livshiz says:

    I agree, this car is pretty cool. That’s exactly why I bought one in 2010. They do have some issues, mine has a few minor ones. And all first gen Focus hatchbacks have rust problems that require attention to keep from getting out of control (if you live in the rust belt). But the car is a blast to drive and extremely cheap to maintain, and, again, it looks cool and unique.

    One thing to look out for when looking for one is previous abuse. I specifically wanted one of these and it took me about 4 months to find a good one, and that’s in Southeastern MI where they are relatively plentiful. I would say 80% of these cars are beat to shit and don’t have much life in them by 100k miles. Mine had 72K when I bought it and just rolled over 130K earlier this week. I was lucky to find a clean one that hadn’t been modified or beat on by some punk. If it ever had a turbo or supercharger on it, it’s gonna die long before its time. I had one blow a head gasket right as I was test driving it.

    It’s an awesome car and can be had for a very reasonable amount of money provided you can find one of the few clean ones. Makes a great daily driver though.

  4. Ltd783 says:

    These are definitely awesome little cars. I looked at an orange 5-door SVT a few years back, even when only a couple years old they were hard to find in good shape. Ultimately I was put off my post warranty repair costs on them. And wasn’t the transmission some weird 6 six speed where they cobbled together two transmissions to get 6 gears? Not as bad as the C4 Corvette with the 4+3, but if I’m remembering correctly I thought they were some sort of weird compromise.

    I took a first-gen Focus wagon in ZTW trim, on a several thousand mile road trip through CO, NM, WY and MT, and it was a great car on the open road. 3 guys and all our camping gear fit no problem, and it was way more stable and quiet going 90 on the interstate in WY than any car that small should be. The Focus’s “Europeaness” really shined through in the first gens.

    • Mike Livshiz says:

      The transmission is a Getrag MT285, twin lay shaft set-up. It’s the same unit that was used in the Mini Cooper S at the time. Nothing cobbled together about it. The car has issues, but the trans isn’t one of them. It shifts like a gem.

  5. Kyle says:

    I was obsessed with these when they came out. The SVT focus’ contemporaries were the Sentra SE-R and Civic Si, and it consistently won the “shootouts” and “comparos”. Quite a coup since Ford had 0 cache among compact sport enthusiasts. I remember one reviewer calling it the FWD M3, not from a power standpoint, but due to the dynamic “oneness” that makes the car feel like a natural extension of the driver. Never did buy one, I was too broke when they came out, and now they are too small for my needs. I admire the sh*t out of them though.

  6. Lee_K says:

    I loved this car when it came out and was sorely tempted to get one. My local Ford salesman threw me the keys to one as I walked into the dealership one evening and said, “Have fun!”. What a blast that thing was to drive, reminding me of my 1983 Rabbit GTI. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it just felt right –everything that a Hot Hatch should be.. Having an SVT Contour at the time, I couldn’t really justify buying it, but I’ll always have a fond memory of that car. Alas, they weren’t very reliable (neither was my Contour) and you don’t see them too often as Doug points out. But for one brief shining moment in the early 2000s, Ford out-GTIed the GTI.

  7. Noah Wheeler says:

    They make a new SVT focus. Its called the Fiesta ST. Its also epic.

  8. Kyle P. says:

    I’ve owned two of them, a red 2003 and a 2002 in that gorgeous blue color. One of the best cars I’ve ever owned, never had any problems with either of them and they were a blast to drive. You’re making me regret selling the blue one.

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