Complaints: Enough said, and this time it wasn't Ford's fault.
Praise: Despite its recall problems in the United States shortly after its introduction in 2000, the Focus and its myriad iterations remain the world's best-selling small cars. I understand why. Ford fixed most of the problems. What remains is a spirited, tough, easy-to-drive little car. It's perfect for commuting in a metropolitan area that maintains decent streets.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The overall ride was good despite the occasional left-front shimmy. Handling was good to impressive, with the highest mark going to handling in emergency situations, where it really counts. Braking was excellent.
Body style, layout, vehicle lineup: The tested Focus was a front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan with a traditional trunk. The Focus lineup includes the sedan, a three-door hatchback, a five-door hatchback and a station wagon.
Capacities: The sedan seats four people comfortably, five with a squeeze. Fuel capacity is 13.2 gallons. Regular unleaded fuel is recommended.
Mileage: We averaged 30 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving carrying mixed loads.
Safety: Dual-deployment front bags are standard. Head and chest side-impact bags are optional, as are traction control and anti-lock brakes. Yes, Arianna, you can roll this one, too.
New-vehicle price: The base price of the tested 2003 Focus SE sedan is $14,790. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $13,847. Price as tested (bought new) is $16,335, including $1,000 in estimated options and a $545 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: True bargain hunters should shop for this one at auction or on used-car lots. Check with car-rental companies.