The words ‘thrilling’ and ‘Ford Escort’ have probably never been used in the same sentence…until now. The Ford Escort ZX2 isn’t very good to look at. It was cheap when it was new, and it’s cheap today. If you tell people that you just bought a Ford Escort, they’re probably going to look at you and laugh. But like a bark-y little dog protecting grandma, this spunky little Ford is just waiting to pounce. Snausages anyone?
Produced from 1998 to 2003, the Escort ZX2 was a sporty version of Ford’s cheapest car. It didn’t have much street cred, but it more than made up for that with hilariously good handling and an eager DOHC 4-pot. Multi-link independent rear suspension and a pair of sway bars, give this 2400 pound coupe the ability to cling to curves like a cat on a rug. The car feels light and willing to go wherever you point it. On a curvy back road, this little Ford will have you grinning like a jackass eating Briers.
To motivate this pint sized rascal, Ford gave it a 2.0 liter twin-cam 4 cylinder, with variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder. Dubbed the Zetec, this little mill pumped out 130-hp, with 127 lb-ft of twist. Mercifully, it has a broad power band, and it’s best controlled with the 5 speed manual. Although, the 4-speed automatic isn’t the worst gearbox on the planet. Expect 0-60 times in the 8-second range and gas mileage in the high-20’s.
The inside isn’t a comfort-fest, but this is essentially a sport-ified base-model car. On the plus side, the seats are decently supportive, and the cupholders are great! Another positive is the dirt-cheap repair costs. The PCV valve for example, can go bad and cause a misfire. But you can fix it for around fifteen bucks. And you can buy a whole car for $2,000-$4,500!
The Ford Escort ZX2 isn’t really fast enough to get you a speeding ticket. But it’s athletic enough to put a smile on your face every time you drive it. Which makes this little Ford, a performance bargain.