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Ford Focus ZX3 vs. VW Golf

norwaydougnorwaydoug Posts: 249
I am interested in both the Focus Hatchback
(available in mid November) and the Golf GL TDI(2
door). I am looking for advice regarding quality,
style, safety and practicality. The unfortunate
aspect of the Focus is the lack of cruise control
and adjustable steering wheel. Meanwhile, the TDI
GOlf has both of these options. Still I am
impressed with Ford and they have done a super job
with the Focus. I believe the people on these
links are very knowledgeable and I would appreciate
some help making a decision.

Thank you.......NorwayDoug


  • floridianfloridian Posts: 219

    I know that style and looks are in the eyes of the beholder but the ZX2 and the VW Golf seem to be in a "dead heat" for winner of the ugliest car (s) on the planet award. What was Ford thinking ?? My gawd, these things are a blight to the eyes. I guess some people will go to any lengths to get noticed tho! I just have to laugh every time I see a Golf on the road. It's a "mini bread truck". Well at least you'll have a choice in the ugly derby when the Focus ZX3 hits the streets. What a hoot.

  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34
    Well, not IMO. I think the Golf and ZX3 are both great-looking cars. Like the original poster, I'm also looking at the Golf TDI and ZX3.

    I've driven the Golf TDI and think it's great. Very quiet on the road, especially at highway speeds where the RPM is very low compared to other cars. At 80mph it's 2800rpm compared to 3350rpm for the Focus. Plus, the Golf has better sound insulation. Inside, the materials feel very upscale, with nice plastics and chrome.

    The Focus I have not driven, but from everything I've read, it should handle better than the Golf, with also a very good ride. I don't think it's quieter, but it does have much more rear leg room. The interior is ergonomically sound, but looks inexpensive.

    Which is fair, since the ZX3 can be had for $2K less than the Golf GL TDI, when optioned similarly.

    Did I leave anything else?
  • A well equiped TDI golf runs about $18,000US where a Focus ZX3 would be more in the $14,000 range. Given that price difference its hard to compare the two. If only the ZX3 could have more options...
  • And vision is focused

    Golf and ZX-3 are unusual looking cars and I am happy for that. People are individuals and have different tastes in all things. Thank goodness we are not all the same! I believe one of the reasons these cars are ungainly is due to their relative short length, long wheelbase and height. Both are about 56 inches high!

    I have been waiting for about 5 years for a car company to build a small car that fits my 6 foot 3 inch frame and finally 2 automobile manufacturers have done it! I also appreciate not spending huge sums of cash upfront and followed by decent owner satisfaction and good gas mileage.

    In my first note, I failed to mention that I would like viewpoints on quality of materials (fabric, paint, feel good factor etc.), durability and engineering. I have always bought Japanese automobiles and for me to consider a Ford really says that Ford has done something right to at least gain my interest. Golfs have alway been attractive (to me!), but always too small until the Mark IV.

    I agree that 18 K is significantly more expensive than 14 K (Focus with Air, power door locks, ABS, Side airbags) compared to a TDI golf. The equipment differences essentially are just Cruise and disc brakes all around and of course the diesel option for the Golf. The price difference of 4K is quite large, but if the VW is truly superior in engineering, durability and overall satisfaction ... I would be willing to pay for it. Is it really 4K better? This amounts to about 25% of the price of a ZX-3.

    I appreciate the responses!! Thank you,

  • floridianfloridian Posts: 219
    Pretty/not pretty ? Prince Charles thinks Ms. Bowles is a hot ticket so it's no surprise that SOMEONE will think the ZX3 and Golf are sveldt and sexy too. Everybody to their own taste said the man as he kissed the Wart-Hog. Go figger!

  • giagia Posts: 2
    I don't really notice cars that much but I just bought a Civic HB so I constantly am checking out cars. I saw a cute red car yesterday parked at a gas station so I had to go find out what it was and it was the Golf HB, 4 DOOR. I have been trying to spot one because I wanted to know what they looked liked and ugly would not describe this HB. Yes everyones has an opinion and that's mine. I could name several ugly minivans, sedans and features on other vehicles but because I would not want to hurt anyones's feelings I will not post them. I am 33 years old and mature enough not to act the way small children do.
  • I appreciate the responses. I am glad I am not alone (thank Gia). Of course, you may not like the ZX-3. To be honest, the Focus is strange, but functional and that is the appeal.

    SInce I live in Europe and GOlfs are the most popular car here...I see them constantly. Focus is not super popular, but you certainly see a lot. Mostly 5 door hatchbacks (not available in USA) and the 3 door (ZX-3).

    I believe I have grown accustomed to their appearance and have become to like them. Golf is certainly more conservative. Focus is definitely more radical and can make a very negative and/or a very positive impression.

    I think the ZX-3 in particular represents a good value and is practical. These positive attributes make it appealing and these qualities grow on you (not just skin deep) and one finds it to be attractive.

    Golf GL (3 door) is certainly more expensive and the quality of the materials is higher. Whether it is better engineered or will last longer is the true question.

    GOlf only has a 2L 8 valve 115 HP engine, while the Focus has a much tekier 2.0 L 16 valve double overhead cam engine with 130 HP. Focus also has higher road holding value. (approx 0.5) and from all the information I have it is a much more enjoyable car. Yet, the Focus is about 2K cheaper!

    I am moving back to the USA and need a car! Within days of returning in December I will be buying a car. So there is urgency. In Europe these cars are well respected and I am trying to gauge peoples' opinion in the States.

    So many cars in the USA have bad gas mileage or are just oversized with huge trunks and back seats just are so boring and wasteful. Not too mention, far too expensive. Cheap gas allows this to happen. One day the gas will be 2 dollars a gallon! Why do opeople buy 4x4? THey handle poorly and are boring to drive.

    FYI: ZX-3 stands for (Z - Zetec; X - x-generation and 3 - 3 door).

    Personally I wish it wasn't called the focus and just called ZX-3. Much better name than focus.

  • Is there honestly a choice here? I had 2 fords in the past, a Ranger, and a Countour. And while Ford does build a quality product, it just doesn't compare to how my new Volkswagen is put togther, and how it handles. Also, take into consideration the LONG list of standard features on the new VWs, and the LONG list of the same features that are optional on most any other American car on the market. A friend of mine recently bought an Escort, and I'm not afraid to say that the quality in Ford products has not changed. Slam the door, trunk, or hood of a Ford, then do the same to a VW, and notice which one is tighter and more solid feeling. I've been very satisfied w/ my Golf GLS. I look forward to driving it every day. I've had it for almost 4 months, and have put almost 7,000 miles on it in that short time. I take it on trips because it gets better gas mileage, is more comfortable, and we can fit ALOT of stuff in the hatch, plus it's FUN to drive. I know not everyone would agree, but I wanted to give some props to VW for the best car I've ever bought.
  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34
    First, to the poster who said a well-equipped Golf TDI costs $18K: that surely is not in the US. The Golf GL TDI lists at $16.2K and that comes with everthing except front armrests, sunroof, and power windows. Again, that's LIST price. So it's only about $2K more than the ZX3, but the interior feels and looks MUCH nicer than the ZX3.

    That said, the Focus is getting fantastic reviews. Read the current C&D and Automobile magazine. In the latter, they actually compared it to a Jetta and they thought the Focus was a much better car for enthusiastic drivers.

    Still, the Golf/Jetta are very nice, fun-to-drive cars, if not as competent as the Focus's chassis. And the TDI is a great engine.

    It's really a toss-up. If you want the best handling/ride of the two, get the Focus. If you want a quieter ride (Automobile's only major complaint of the Focus) along with a upscale-feeling interior (despite no power windows in the Golf GL) along with great steering and a pretty good ride/handling, get the Golf.

    I can't decide.
  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34
    I should add that the TDI engine should feel a lot more potent than the Zetec, despite the lower top HP rating. The TDI has prodigous torque, 155ft-lbs at only 1900rpm. I haven't seen the torque curve for the Zetec, but I bet it's about 100-110 ft-lbs at 1900rpm. Of course, the TDI runs out of steam at 4000rpm, but in most driving, that's a high enough revs for most people. So if you use the a/c a lot, or have lots of hills in your area, or both, be sure to drive the TDI before deciding.
  • I live in Europe now and can only compare the Euro Focus with the German Golf (Golf available in the USA is made in Germany also).

    My impressions of both is very high, however, I agree the Golf seems more solid in the door closing department and this gives a very positive impression of the rest of the car. The Focus gives a very good impression in engineering and design and less so with quality of materials. It is cheaper though and so it makes sense.

    It is too bad the ZX-3 is not available as an SE Model with more standard equipment. I feel it is only right to compare a Golf GL with a 'loaded' ZX-3 with side airbags, anti lock brakes and remote door locking. In that level of 'luxury' they are equipped the same. The lack of tilt and telescoping steering wheel in the ZX-3 is a serious omission. I hope I will not have to buy a SE sedan. So boring, but lack of tilt is a show stopper for me if I can't fit comfortably.

    I am not terribly impressed with Golf's 2L 8 valve iron block engine. The available 1.9 L diesel TDI sounds more interesting and from what I understand, people love them. So I would pass on the old 2L engine and buy the 1.9 L TDI.

    The only issue I have in the Golf is its interior volume. Slightly too small for me. I am 6 foot 3 inches and the Golf is just a bit too small when I compare to the Focus. Focus is 'right on' for me. I even like the fact that it is only the seat portion that raises and lowers and not the whole seat because it give me more back support in a lower position. To me this seat lowering only feature is a real bonus!!

    GOlf is the better car in terms of quality, but for me I am getting enthusiastic about the Focus because of its interior volume. It is also stylish to me too.

    I hope Ford has made this Ford with top quality parts so it will wear well and not fall apart. To me, this is my biggest concern regarding Ford. Does anyone have good experiences with Contour (similiar drivetrain?) or with the Escort ZX-2?
    I started this topic (Focus ZX-3 vs Golf IV GL) because I think a lot of people will be struggling with the decision as I am. I think they are both great and there is no loser car here. I change my mind every week. Buying in December and so my time is running short.

  • alextalext Posts: 63
    Yes, the list price for the Golf TDI is around $16, but trying finding one for that price and you'll end up nowhere. There are so few of them and they are so coveted that I have seen people here in California selling the first model 1999's (not the 99-and-a-halves) for $18,000 with 10k-30k miles already on them! It's a matter of demand outweighing supply, so the price hikes up and people WILL pay it.
  • Yep, the Golf TDI is very difficult to locate. I am very interested in one but cannot find a local dealer who has one or who claims they can even get one. So...what good is a vehicle if you cannot get one? Oh, there are plenty of TDI Jettas around here. And I hear the Ford Focus Hatchback is coming real soon.
  • I believe it is true that the TDI is hard to find. It is difficult to get a good deal to on a rare car too. Golf TDIs come from Germany and the allotment to the USA is most likely low.

    Is it possible that autobytel or other services may be helpful to find a car for you? They may be more helpful than a dealer because the dealer is more motivated to sell the product on the dealer lot.

    Good Luck,

  • Thanks for your input. I will try that route and see what comes up.

  • orlockorlock Posts: 25
    I'm pleased that the ZX-3 doesn't have cruise control, because it's $300 I'm not going to use. Ford is having a general recall anyways.

    As for tilt steering, that is a joke. I want a car without it. I want all of you to drive with a wet noodle and see how comfortable that is, because that is exactly what the steering column feels like with the set "pin" breaks (and they do break often). It also requires big bucks to fix it. Ford has a more stable option in height adjustment. The seat doesn't just go forward and back, but up and down as well.

    As for air being optional and not standard, I'm glad of it. You can spend the extra $200 to fix the engine when it breaks if you want to (it sits over everything). Besides where I live, it only gets hot maybe 5 times a year and I live in southern California. Air conditioning also makes me sick. The option is $700 or so. It's your money.

    The ZTS has the above three and come standard. There is no wall between the back seat and the trunk and the back seats fold down on the sedan for more trunk room.

    Somebody wanted the Focus to have a V-6. There is no way a V-6 would fit. With air conditioning, you can't see the ground from looking down the engine compartment as it is.

    Another person wanted a moon/sun roof. They leak bad after a couple of years.

    Now for the Golf. I have seen them, but haven't looked into them except for cost. Cost is the big word from the cost of the car to the cost of the parts.

    Both Ford and VW have parts availability problems on everything from car mats to sheet metal. With a better engine (the standard puts out only 90 hp) and all the gizmos that the people wanted, you could spend even $3,000 more than the upgraded Golf (the basic is still $5,000 or so over the Focus ZX-3 basic) and get a basic Mustang.
  • Hi Focus fans, did I get a bum test drive? Every reference says the Focus is a fun car comparable to the Golf but I test drove one recently that felt detached from the road and not particularly responsive. It was an automatic wagon and I saw the engine which said Zetec on it but my test drives of an auto Golf TDI and auto Jetta gas blew it away. As did an auto Mazda Protege 1.6L (and even my 1.0L Geo Metro manual!) Does that sound right?
  • From Orlock's response it can be easily assumed that people have a wide view of what should be in the ZX-3 or not.

    I believe the attraction of the ZX-3 is its sporty shape compared to the conservative ZTS sedan. Orlock's advice to get the ZTS if you want all the options lacks this understanding.

    I do like strong opinions though and Orlock certainly had a lot of them.

    I believe it would be best to have a ZX-3 base model as they have now, but also a ZX-3 that can be ordered with options including tilt, telescope, power door locks/windows and side airbags etc. Currently, Ford is about 1/2 way there in this regard.

    The poor performance of the wagon is a concern, but perhaps that could be best dealt with in the wagon section of Townhall. In the USA, I believe, it only comes with the SPI 110 HP engine and not the Zetec 2.0 DOHC 130 HP engine. There is a lot of conflicting information about this issue. I think an automatic really robs a lot of performance from any 4 cylinder. 5 speed is much preferred.

    Has anyone actually seen a ZX-3 yet or has driven one? It is almost November.

    Happy Holloween,

  • dhkdhk Posts: 49
    Not having cruise control available on the ZX3 is a big mistake, IMO. I for one wouldn't buy a new car without that feature. Ford should have the same option package available on the ZX3 as the ZTS; their American marketing department seems to be stuck on the (self-reinforcing) idea that hatchbacks are just entry-level cars.
  • I agree that the FORD marketers believe that the Zx-3 is an only entry level car. They are mistaken about the market.

    The BMW 318TI was a hatchback with a good base option package, however, most were only available in a loaded form and were often about 25,000 while the base was a 'reasonable' 20,000. Now I am talking about BMW.

    There are many European cars that are hatchbacks and are not considered entry-level cars. Saab 900 for example.

    Now the ZX-3 could have been a poor man's 318TI with all options as the ZTS and cost about $16 K.

    I think Ford will do this, but in the 2001 model year with a performance engine. I wish they just made it available for this year.

  • Do ither of these two cars (Focus & Golf) have stainless steel mufflers/and/or tailpipes?
  • I am 100% certain that the Focus has a stainless steel muffler. I am uncertain about the Golf, but I am sure it does. Most cars now have stainless steel mufflers because of their superior corrosion resistance quality.

    I hope you won't make the material of construction of the muffler an issue regarding the Golf. It is a quality car.

    You could check the specification section of the VW website.

  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34
    The Golf is definitely a quality car in terms of the way it was put together and the materials used. The interior materials (besides the GL cloth design) would not be out of place in a Mercedes or BMW. I'm not kidding. Stick leather seats in there and change out the manual roll-down windows and you'll satisfy anyone.

    Furthermore, the TDI and 1.8T engines are wonderful. Both have gobs of low-rpm torque, and both have received a lot of recognition and awards.

    Unfortunately, the Golf's suspension isn't quite as good as some other small cars out there, notably the Focus. Anyone read the current Automobile magazine? They clearly favored the Focus' steering, handling, and ride over that of the Golf (and Honda Civic). This view has been echoed in other magazines as well. There must be something quite special about the Focus's suspension. I'm waiting for the ZX3 to find out. I also want to see the ZX3 in person to decide if it looks good or ugly. :)

    Then I'd have to decide between a ZX3 and a Golf TDI or 1.8T. It's superior chassis vs. superior engine. If the Focus had a more powerful engine, my decision would be a lot easier.
  • Jtaim,

    Only 2.0 L 8 valve 115 HP engine and 1.9 L TDI available in USA. I am uncertain about Canada. I just checked out the VW website and unfortunately the Audi engine is not available.

    Of course you could always buy a 1.8T in a Passat or Beetle.

    I am not impressed that the 2L gas engine in the Golf revs at 3500 rpm at 70 HP. I would think that would be quite tiresome. Therefore, the TDI could be fun, but I heard it has low availability.

    I agree with your opinons though. VW has the almost the best interiors around. Mercedes are dull with that huge hazard red triangle placed in the center of the dash of all their cars. Mercedes interiors look cheap when one looks at the sticker price too! Only, BMW has better interiors than VW (IMO).

    Let us know your final car decision.
  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34

    The Golf GTI will get the 1.8T in Spring. I don't know about the Golf GLS.

    I agree with you - the 2.0L engine is nothing to write home about.
  • Thank you for the information Jtaim. That makes the VW very appealing. Unfortunately, I must buy a car in December and will not have the time to wait until the Spring. To all people considering a Golf.....if you can wait for the 1.8T ... I would.

    I am still considering the Golf GL 2.0L or the 1.9L TDi or the Ztec ZX-3 or Focus ZTS.

    The 1.8T engine does requre premium gasoline, but it would be worth it. To me......the 1.8T represents the return of the true GTI. I hope you will buy the 1.8T Jtaim. It would be prime!!

  • jtaimjtaim Posts: 34
    While the 1.8T is not as frugal as the TDI, it has surprisingly good mileage. My '99 Passat, with 10W-30 synthetic oil, gets 30mpg in the city. It used to get about 27mpg on the highway (crusing at 80mph with a/c on and 205/55 tires), but after changing to a lighter, synthetic, mileage went up a lot. I believe the stock oil is 5w-40 dyno oil

    The Golf should have even better mileage since it weighs about 400 lbs less than the passat.

    Of course, with a TDI, you'll be getting 40-45mpg in the city.
  • that VW will not sell you one if you're a California or New York resident.

    Or maybe this is a problem with VW, or with the states I mentioned...
  • Posting by Orlock above is incorrect. Automobile Magazine states it is likely that Ford will be coming out with a V6 - 170 HP Focus SVT in 2001. The photo shows a ZX-3. That will be a pocket rocket. If the engine is anything like the V6 in my 94 Probe GT it will be hot. It's a Mazda engine and it's got great torque.
  • dhkdhk Posts: 49
    NorwayDoug: I too thought the 1.8T required premium, but the VW NB and Audi brouchures say fuel is Regular Unleaded, Premium recommended for optimum performance. On a Passat post, one owner said he now uses regular with no "noticeable" loss of performance. Wonder what the horsepower difference really is...have seen no figures. Still, great advantage to have a choice of fuel.
This discussion has been closed.