A vehicle commissioned as a sporty two-door coupe version of the Ford Escort compact car in 1998, production of the ZX2 outlived the use of the Escort nameplate after 2002. For 2003, the car was known only as the Ford ZX2. For performance enthusiasts on a budget, the 2003 Ford ZX2 lower overall weight and lower profile made it preferable to the Focus. One notable change was made to the front end of the ZX2 for 2003 consisting of a new top grille opening that also housed the parking lights. 15-inch aluminum wheels and a rear spoiler were offered as standard exterior equipment on the ZX2.
Inside the four-passenger cabin of the 2003 Ford ZX2, dual front airbags, power mirrors and an AM/FM radio with cassette player is found in every vehicle. Optional equipment available on the ZX2 included power windows, air conditioning and leather seating. The 2003 ZX2 was propelled by a 2.0-liter Zetec four-cylinder engine generating 130 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The front-wheel drive car came standard with a five-speed manual gearbox but a four-speed automatic transmission was available as an option.
Operating with the five-speed manual transmission, fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon city and 33 miles per gallon highway is realized with the 2003 Ford ZX2. Billed as a peppy car, acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour was estimated around the eight-second range. Based on an aging platform, the ZX2 was dropped by Ford following the 2003 model year leaving the Focus ZX3 as the closest alternative.