And this is the most powerful version of the Focus available from Ford in the US. At 150 hp the Focus ZX4 ST is not a slouch, but not really a superstar. At lest it's available with a manual transmission. And let's not forget that wing, ooh wow. Not exactly warming up my blood. Not just that it's a 4 door sedan, I could get over that. But 150 hp??? Come on. This "sport compact" version can be had for around $19k and blends in well at any mall or high school.
This is the media's new star, the 2006 Honda Civic Si, with 197 hp and priced around $20k. Now I'm going to be kind, 197 hp is adequate, but what about torque? Can you say limp? The Civic Si only makes 148 lb ft of Torque. And you better love to rev up near the limit to make that 197 hp. Cause down low, it's not there. I have to admit I like the exterior styling, but the new interior leaves me wondering why? Why have a huge tach and then in a binacle out of Star Trek, have a digital speedo? We have a new 2005 Civic EX in our driveway, and it's dash is one of it's greater assets. Nice clear gauges, that are backlit in blue, controls laid out well. So why do this to a decent car?
Even Chevy is in the game, with their 205 hp Cobalt SS Supercharged model, selling around $22k. I've driven this and it's a powerful little package, and a good value. If I was in the market for a sport compact coupe, this would be my first and possibly last stop. Even for a guy that doesn't like GM, this is a well done car. I've driven both the SS and the LS in auto and stick shift and the handling is good, brakes are actually great, transmission feel is very good. Why can't Ford do something like this??
The outgoing American champ in the sport compact segment, the Neon SRT4 had 230 hp from a Turbocharged motor and a 6spd manual. These sold, when you could find them for around $24k, and from what I've heard, they're rough but drivable little beasts. But it's too late to get one of these, the Neon is dead to be replaced by the Caliber. The closest you can get to this is a slightly detuned version in the PT Cruiser GT with I believe 205 hp. There will be an R/T version of the Caliber and possibly an SRT4 version. The Caliber's top engine will be a naturally aspirated 178 hp I4. Even the base engine will be a 148 hp 1.8 and next a 158 hp 2.0.
With 300 hp and all wheel drive, the Subaru WRX STI is one of the kings of the segment, but don't expect to buy one for less than $30k. But even the lesser Subaru WRX with 227 hp will cost you close to $28k. Not bargains prices, but still class leading performance.
Matching the Subaru's boy racer looks and with almost 300 hp and all wheel drive, is Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution VIII. Again not cheap at around $30k, this is a tie for class leader with the subaru. Get em while you can, as Mitsu's future looks shaky.
Now, the Mini Cooper in base trim is a bargain at around $18k ( actually closer to $22k on dealer lots, only because they are ordered loaded), but with only 160 hp going to the front wheels it's not the fastest of the group. But for a few grand (about $4k) more you can get the JCW package, including a supercharger and various handling pieces. This like the Mustang and Beetle is another Retro wagon, but unlike the Beetle this one's interesting and not just a rebodied Golf.
The Scion Tc at $18k and with 160 hp is a bargain when you consider that for that price you need to order no options. Standard are the wheels (17's) Moonroof, stereo, A/C and power windows and such. Now when you go into the dealer it's easy to get suckered into another $4k in accessories, but the basic car is available for $18k. There is even a TRD supercharger available, so like the Mini Cooper JCW it can achieve better power.
And what about the loyal Blue Oval fan? Well, he's screwed. Here is the Roush Focus, with it's body kit, big brakes and 18" wheels, but what do you get in the way of power? The same 150 hp available in the Factory ZX4 ST. That's right, it's a pimped out ZX3 with a price tag of $26k.
But wait, there's always the Saleen N2O Focus right?? It's advertised on Saleen's website as being a factory 250 hp!! Wrong!!!!!!! It's the same 150 hp ZX3 with an almost completely installed 100 hp nitrous system. I say almost installed, because they do everything, install and wire the system, including arming switch. Mount the empty cylinder in your hatch. Everything, almost everything. And for an amazingly low price of $26k. Wow what could be cooler? I want to sing up now, where can I get one?
Hold on there buckaroo, don't jump too fast. You see, if you fill the tank of nitrous and install that last little hose to make the system functional, you void your warranty !!! And Steve Saleen and his boys won't lift a finger to help you. Now I don't just mean your warranty from Saleen, I mean your warranty from Ford! And not just on the engine, but transmission and everything else!
So while GM and Chrysler take this segment seriously, Ford just pretends it doesn't exist and allows aftermarket tuners to pedal this crap at selected Ford dealers. I recently was at a local dealer test driving a Fusion and they had several Roush product on hand including a Mustang GT for $47,000!!! And what did you get for that kind of premium? A body kit, big wheels and brakes, some handling goodies and oh yeah the stock 300 hp GT engine.
What fool would piss away the money on this? The salesman told me, they sell well. I can't figure why. I mean next year you can get a Mustang SVT GT500 for about $45K, right? Oh no, that's right the dealers will charge premiums for them and generally fuck around.
So here's a question for you, if you had $25,000 and wanted to buy a sporty compact car, which one of these would you buy? Would you spend the entire budget at the dealer or keep some of it for aftermarket speed goodies? Could a tuner plaque on the car make you spend the extra $8,000 ?
If it was my money, the Chevy would be in the driveway, with the factory leather, moonroof and 6 CD stereo and with what's left over I'd go to the TireRack and buy an extra set of tires for autocrossing.
Jack Roush and Steve Saleen should hang their heads in shame for putting their names on this crap. Saleen in particular should have to apologize to each person who bought the N2O and lost their warranty.