Overview & Reviews
With small Japanese cars dominating the economy car segment by the late '70s, Ford decided to bring something to the table that was more competitive than the antiquated, outgoing Pinto. The result was the subcompact Ford Escort. The vehicle debuted in 1981 as a two-door hatchback or four-door wagon and featured front-wheel drive, an overhead cam four-cylinder engine, a fully independent suspension and rack and pinion steering. On paper, it looked like Ford had a winner. But in reality there were early problems that made a rash of recalls necessary, and the vehicle's longevity was questionable.
But despite the teething problems, the Ford Escort went on to become the top-selling car in America for many consecutive years. Broader appeal for Ford's small import fighter appeared in the mid-'80s via the introduction of a four-door hatchback and the sporty GT.
By the late '80s, the Ford Escort had become a solid little economy car, with build quality and reliability approaching respectable, if not Japanese manufacturer's, levels. By 1991, Ford's partnership with Mazda started to bear fruit in the form of the Escort GT, which was powered by a spirited dual-overhead-cam, four-cylinder engine borrowed from Mazda. A formal sedan debuted around this time, as did a four-speed automatic (which replaced the old three-speed unit). By the time the year 2000 came around, the Escort was being phased out by Ford's new Focus. With a decidedly edgy, European-flavored personality, the Focus offered much more in terms of personality and driving fun.
Most shoppers interested in a used Ford Escort will find themselves looking at the fourth and last generation. This one debuted in 1997 with a more rounded body style and a more refined 110-horsepower 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices were once again a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. The next year brought the sporty ZX2 two-door coupe, which was essentially the Escort GT's overdue replacement. With 130 hp, the ZX2 was relatively quick, running zero to 60 mph in around 8 seconds.
When Ford phased in the Escort's replacement, the Focus, for 2000, the Escort family was thinned out by dropping the wagon, leaving just the sedan and ZX2 sport coupe. By 2002, only the ZX2 remained, and would soldier on for one more year.
Consumer commentary posted on Edmunds.com about the Ford Escort is generally upbeat, with strong points being listed as ride comfort, fuel economy and outward visibility. Proper maintenance is key, as most owners report trouble-free driving well into the 100,000-mile range, while some others have indicated troubles with the automatic transmission. Though a well-maintained Escort with lower mileage will sell for quite a bit less than an equivalent Civic or Corolla, the latter pair still has the edge in predicted reliability.
Although it debuted 10 years earlier, the Ford Escort really came into its own with the introduction of the revamped 1991 model. A lower beltline and increased glass area afforded a more airy cabin and the 1.9-liter inline four was refined for smoother operation. Higher overall build quality was evident in the car's quieter, more refined demeanor and more substantial feel throughout. The all-new Escort GT was one of the better affordable sport hatchbacks of its day thanks to its free-revving, Mazda-sourced, DOHC 127-hp engine, four-wheel disc brakes and firm sport suspension. With the exception of the adoption of safety items such as dual airbags and (on some trim levels) antilock brakes, the Escort stood pat until its 1997 redesign.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 834.00
Decent for local, bad for distance - 1999 Ford Escort
By Josh - January 3 - 8:56 pm
We were the second owners of this car and it was good at first but after making numerous trips of over 500 miles the car did not prove to be reliable. We had many problems with the belt and brakes. It was very small for us. Once we stayed local and drove only 3 mile a day, we were ok and didn't have prolems, but it always felt like the car was in the shop.
fordtovw - 1999 Ford Escort
By Joe - December 19 - 11:07 pm
Got the car as a gift from my grandfather for my first car. Had 115k on it. Now has 123k and is sitting in my driveway. I loved it when I first got it... But it started to deteriorate substantially after a rough new england winter. Traction is terrible, but never killed me. Always idled very rough, car shakes when not moving. Rusts out cery bad. Tranny started to shift hard, throwing code for tranny failure. Got rid of it for an '05 jetta, Love it much more. All in all, not a bad choice for a first car/cheap transportation
reliable vehicle - 1999 Ford Escort
By john - November 29 - 9:53 am
98 wagon - 1998 Ford Escort
By firstname.lastname@example.org - October 22 - 7:39 pm
Bought used in 1999 with 25,000 miles. Not a lot of power but fun to drive around town. Reliability has been better than average, interior and body/paint have held up well and average 30 - 32 mpg. A great second car and will keep it until it dies.
bought new - 1997 Ford Escort
By Tony - October 7 - 12:21 am
We bought this nee and although we got it - 287000 miles it wasn't without lots of work. Alternator 13000 miles serpentine belt 32000 miles water pump 42000 miles alternator again 56000 miles battery 57000 miles EGR valve 62000 miles oxygen sensor 73000 miles fuel pump 81000 miles alternator again 92000 miles transmission torque converter 93000 miles needed new transmission 93000 miles head gasket 98000 miles alternator again 103000 miles blower motor and heater core 106000 miles radiator hundred and twenty eight thousand miles ac 172000 miles alternator again 181000 miles transmission again 201000 miles I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch but I can't remember it all
Approaching 100k and Near End of Life - 2003 Ford Escort
By Paul Gyergyek - August 13 - 1:52 pm
I bought this car in Dec 2011 (w/ only 72.8k miles on it) for my son in college. Almost 4 years and 25.5k miles later, I learned a valuable lesson in used-car buying: a older, low-mileage car is not always a good deal. It cost a ton to maintain this car - I think I've replaced everything once, some things twice (front brakes, portions of exhaust system). The upstate NY winters (no car washing = lots of rust damage) & rough roads have aged this car tremendously. However, lots of items that shouldn't have failed, did - CD player (it won't play ANY CDs), speedo, odometer, blower motor resistor. My son's hard driving, especially on some bad country roads, and not taking good care of it was a major contributing factor to its rapid decline. However, honestly, I think the previous owner simply sold this car at the right time. Best Features: The gas mileage is fantastic! 32-36 MPG on most of my trips. I own an '07 Mustang GT, and this car, though it doesn't compare, is still fun to drive. Even though the '03 Foci I owned were better-built and performing cars, I prefer the ZX2 stying. Pretty roomy for me, a 250 lb guy. Stereo system sounds OK, for a lower-end vehicle. My son didn't care for A/C (which is good, 'cause it broke in 2014), but he loved driving with the moonroof wide open. Worst Features: Auto tranny downshifts very hard & violently into 1st gear when you stomp on the gas - but the car does move fairly quickly. In the northern rust belt, this car abhors water (and the damage it does) more than the Wicked Witch of the West. Definitely needs a driver's arm rest. I highly recommend snow tires for winter driving - it's snow/ice traction is poor.
best car ever - 2000 Ford Escort
By cali - August 12 - 7:05 pm
Bought brand new 253896 miles runs great no problems replaced original clutch at 208197 love this car
Approaching 200,000 and counting - 2003 Ford Escort
By email@example.com - July 10 - 1:46 pm
I purchased my ZX2 new because I needed a car and this one fit my budget at the time. I had intended on keeping it 2 to 3 years and then trading up. Needless to say that was quite some time ago and I have no plans on getting rid of it yet. It is dependable, economical, and fun to drive. I drive in the mountains and the 5 speed manual transmission is a real kick. We go over a mountain pass to Yellowstone Park and the ZX2 handles it well enough to have the Harleys pull over to let me pass. I have done minimal repairs to it and do not expect that to change.
Love it - 2001 Ford Escort
By tinarinkus - May 6 - 1:14 pm
I have driven my ZX2 for the last 8 years and I have loved every minute of it.
great little car - 1995 Ford Escort
By mecal1100 - April 29 - 11:38 pm
So far I have 201,000 on it and it needs a new clutch. Otherwise, I have had only minor issues. Reliability is fantastic (partly thanks to the Mazda 1.8L engine).