The cars we loved.

1976 Esprit vs 2016 Focus: A Comparison?


76 Lotus Esprit S1 vs. 2016 Ford Focus SE

It’s easy to take the advancements in the world of automotive engineering for granted. In just the last few years tremendous advances have made cars faster, more efficient and safer than ever before – not to mention more comfortable and reliable. 40 or just 10 years ago, an exotic sports car would not have the creature comforts we have come to rely on like mobile phone integration, satellite radio and self parking.


The 3rd gen Focus came on the scene with a bang. Although no longer a class leader, it has since become a baseline for what’s possible from a modern compact car.

The more I thought about the more curious for a comparison I became, so I found two contrasting cars from different eras with similar specs. For comparison sake, I pitted what was considered an advanced sports car from 1976 with a typical modern entry level car by today’s standards. A Lotus Esprit and Ford Focus might seem like extreme examples, but they show how far the automotive industry has come in less than 50 years. Although some of the specs are similar on paper, a late model Focus would likely give the Lotus a run for it’s money – although a properly maintained Lotus might have the edge due to it’s light weight and closer to ideal weight balance. A ST or RS Focus would of course be no contest.


The Lotus Esprit was one of the most advanced sports car’s of the ’70s. It offered V8-like power in a small 4 cylinder package and had handling on par with Ferrari and Lamborghini.

Of course the Lotus with no airbags and infotainment baggage was much lighter and likely better in the curves. It’s excellent handling and rakish shape will likely be the object of affection far into the future. That’s not likely to be the case for the Focus, but I know which one I’d rather depend on in a drive across the country.

Specification 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 2016 Ford Focus SE
Engine 4 cylinders, DOHC, 2.0L 4 cylinders, DOHC, 2.0L
Horsepower 160 @ 6200 rpm 160 @ 6500 rpm
Transmission Manual 5-speed Manual 5-speed
Suspension Independent front and rear Independent front and rear
Top Speed 135 mph 124 mph
0 to 60 mph Acceleration* 8.4 seconds 8.4 seconds
Wheels 14” alloy wheels 16″ painted aluminum wheels
MPG 21 mpg average 26 City / 36 Hwy

* 0 to 60 speeds vary greatly, but generally the Esprit and Focus are within a half second of each other according to published reports.


One comment on “1976 Esprit vs 2016 Focus: A Comparison?

  1. Wirewheels
    December 25, 2016

    Good catch! I ever would have imagined to see such similarities between such otherwise unrelated types of cars. The same 0-60 figures are probably explained by differences in weight being offset by differences in torque.

    While the Focus is undeniably a better passenger vehicle, the democratization of performance will most likely always render spirited driving in it less of an occasion than in the Esprit. And the Lotus will undoubtedly scare the driver more, in all the best ways! I believe that’s just as integral to the experience as anything else.

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2016 by in 10's Cars, 70's Cars, Ford Motor Company, Lotus, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
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