New Car/Review

1999 FORD ESCORT ZX2 "HOT"

by Tom Hagin

Ford Full Line factory footage (14:26) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

SPECIFICATIONS



Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 13,895

Price As Tested                                    $ 14,930

Engine Type               DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SFI*

Engine Size                                 121 cid/1983 cc

Horsepower                                   130 @ 5750 RPM

Torque (lb-ft)                               127 @ 4250 RPM

Wheelbase/Width/Length                   98.4"/67.4"/175.2"

Transmission                              Five-speed manual

Curb Weight                                     2527 pounds

Fuel Capacity                                  12.8 gallons

Tires  (F/R)                                     P185/65R14

Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /drum

Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive

Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door

Domestic Content                                        N/A

Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33



PERFORMANCE



EPA Economy, miles per gallon

   city/highway/average                            25/33/30

0-60 MPH                                          9 seconds

1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 83.5 mph

Top speed                                           100 mph

     * Sequential fuel injection

These are good times to be a part of the auto world. Technology is so advanced, even the inexpensive compact cars go fast and handle well.

The Ford Escort ZX2 is an example. It's built on the Escort sedan platform, but uses a completely different body. It came out last year and continues to be offered in base "Cool" and uplevel "Hot" trim, with a Sport package adding a spoiler, fog lamps and 15-inch wheels.

OUTSIDE - Unlike past performance versions of the Escort which looked like a two-door version of the four-door, the ZX2 has a look all its own. It's also slightly longer and wider than the sedan and all the body panels are unique. The shape is muscular and wedged, with a few well-placed creases, and should please most tastes. We drove the Hot version this time around, and about the only difference we can see is the body-color side strips that run between the fender wells, and the addition of a second outside mirror. Ours was fitted with a sporty set of optional five-spoke alloy wheels and performance tires with a grippier compound than the standard units. We liked the trunk hinges with their gas-charged supports, which made opening and closing the hatch effortless, and maximized cargo space.

INSIDE - ZX2's interior is no-nonsense, and uses shapes and controls borrowed from other Ford products. The driver sits up high and it's spacious for a small coupe, with plenty of head and legroom - up front, at least. An optional power moonroof takes up some precious headroom, but shouldn't affect those six-feet tall or under. The back seat is best left for kids or short hops across town with adults, but it is more comfortable and roomy than many others in its class. The front seats fold and rock forward when released, which makes access to the rear easier. Both ZX2 models come well-equipped, with standards like a 60/40 split rear seat, AM/FM stereo and lots of cupholders and map pockets. Our Hot test model added air conditioning, a rear window defroster, keyless remote entry and a color-keyed four-spoke steering wheel. Lots of other optional equipment is available as well.

ON THE ROAD - ZX2 doesn't share powertrains with the standard Escort, either. Instead of the miserly 110-horse single-cam 2.0 liter four cylinder engine of the sedan and wagon, ZX2 receives another version of the standard Escort engine. It's borrowed from the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, and produces 130 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque, and makes ZX2 hustle along very well. It features dual overhead cams and 16 valves, and zero-to-sixty comes in around nine seconds, yet the car still delivers over 30 miles per gallon with moderate driving. Last year we drove the Cool model with an optional automatic transmission and liked it for driving ease and frugal nature, but wished for one with a more sporting Attitude. Our five-speed test model was quicker off the line and it was easier to keep the engine revved at the top of its power range.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - While it shares the same basic independent suspension design with both the Escort sedan and wagon, it handles much better than either of those cars. The front suspension uses basic MacPherson struts as a core component, and what Ford calls a QuadraLink system makes up the rear layout. It uses slightly stiffer springs than the standard Escort, and the shocks have internal rebound springs to reduce body roll. The rubber bushings isolating the suspension parts are also stiffer, and a thicker front anti-roll bar is fitted. To improve the standard rack-and-pinion steering system, the mounting points were beefed up, and friction was reduced in the steering gear and ball joints. All these extras do wonders to improve its handling, so backcountry roads become the route of choice. ZX2 gives a very stable feel, and the difference between the handling of the ZX2 and the Escort sedan is dramatic. Braking is achieved with front disc and rear drum brakes, with an anti-lock braking system offered optionally.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard, ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - Alloy wheels added $265

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