Car Corner
Escort ZX2 Test Drive

October 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis

Ah, first cars. They sure do drive the soul wild. My brother-in-law just bought a new 1998 Ford Escort ZX2. This is Ford's latest attempt at making a sporty version of the tried and true Escort.

Ford has been doing this in one form or another for years. But this time I think they are doing it right. To help Ford get a grasp on what potential buyers wanted, they gave a bunch of disposable camera's to people in the eighteen - twenty something age group. They let them take pictures of their lives.

It sounds like an unusual experiment to me, but it seems like it paid off. I haven't seen any of these pictures to even confirm that Ford really did this camera trick. I heard that they didn't even get pictures of cars back. Camera trickery aside, Ford did an excellent job at building an economy car that appeals to young people.

The ZX2 is basically an escort with a few extra options, and a completely different body than the stodgy four door. This results in a car that is peppy (with 130 horsepower), and reasonable fun to drive.

The seating position is classic Ford upright. I found the shifter to be smooth, and the clutch easy to use. Big things for an American front wheel drive with a manual transmission.

The car is peppy, though not very fast from a performance enthusiast's point of view. Steering is very numb. You will need ESP to tell what the front tires are doing, since the steering wheel won't.

This is my brother-in-laws first new car. He is 22 years old, and a little naive about cars. He is the perfect target for the car. I predict he will enjoy it for some time.

Would I recommend the ZX2 to someone else? Sure. It makes a very good first car. It has enough style to please any first new car buyers, and is fast enough to get a beginner in trouble. If you are looking for a true performance car, at economy car prices, stick with the Dodge Neon in R/T trim (strips optional that goodness). The Neon is rougher around the edges than the ZX2, but it has 20 more horsepower, and puts it to better use. The ZX2 has just enough polish to appeal to a much wider audience.