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Old 09-04-2011, 09:58 AM   #1
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Which ZX5 automatic: 2004 2.3L or 2007 SES?

My two girls share a 2004 Focus SE (automatic) with the 2.3L engine. I chose it for them for its well-known virtues as well as for one that's seldom mentioned: At 66.7 inches, it's among the narrowest cars made. The girls' car would be about the perfect car for my urban commute. But I prefer a hatchback. So next spring, when our family will need an additional car, I'll be buying a Focus hatchback just for me.

Even though I'll be driving it 98 percent of the time, with no one in it but me, I want four doors. In a tight parking space, a four-door's shorter door will open more fully without hitting the car parked next to mine. And even though I'm willing to learn how to drive a stick shift, I'll be sticking with the 4-speed automatic so the car can be borrowed by my wife and daughters.

I absolutely love the 2004's steering and handling, and the low-end pickup and purr of its 2.3L. But the 2.0L Duratec may be close enough. Moreover, the heated seats traction control available on the 2007 would be welcome options. And in today's crazy market, I can buy a loaded 2007 ZX5 SES for just $1500 or $2000 more than a loaded 2004 ZX5 2.3L...even if the ZX5 is 30,000 miles younger.

While I won't need the car till June, I want to be ready to buy if a standout bargain comes my way. But I'd rather not buy the 2007 if it's less thrilling to drive at city speeds.

So: Which Focus ZX5 automatic would you recommend: the 2004 2.3L, or the 2007 SES?

Specifically, how would you compare their...
- reliability?
- low-end pickup?
- steering?
- driver's seat?
- fuel efficiency? One owner reports that his 2007 automatic glides without slowing down when his foot's off the pedal; as a hypermiler who coasts to red lights, I love that idea.


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