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couple of years we've come down pretty hard on Ford...

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TOM: In the past couple of years, we've come down pretty hard on Ford for the quality problems it had with the 2000-2002 Focuses.

RAY: I mean, you could say we were being picky, but we thought wheels falling off, air bags going off untriggered and engine fires were worth alerting the public to.

TOM: We did mention at the time that it was a laudable car in many ways. It was one of the first "small, but taller" cars (which we like). It made excellent use of interior space, and its handling and steering were superb for a compact car. But, we said, given the serious quality flaws, we couldn't recommend the Focus.

RAY: Well, in the interest of fairness, we are happy to report that Ford seems to have fixed (or is in the process of fixing) the major problems that occurred in the 2000-2002 models.

TOM: So far, there are no National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defect investigations on 2003 or 2004 models. And -- probably the biggest news of all -- based on owner surveys, Consumer Reports has put the Focus on its new-car "Recommended" list.

RAY: We're glad to see this, and we would now like to officially remove the 2003 and later Focuses from our "Fecal Roster." We still suggest that you avoid the 2000-2002 Focus if you're buying used. But new-car shoppers looking for compact cars can put the Focus back on their shopping lists.

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