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Leave it to brain-dead Californian air regulatory bureaucrats to infuriate math purists everywhere by assuming that something called a Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle, or PZEV, would make sense. Now, one of the things I have faith in when I get up each morning is that zero is still an absolute entity, no partiality about it. In offering a carrot to automakers who have to meet fleet emissions standards, California and like-minded states such as my own beloved New York have apparently deemed it appropriate to redefine laws of math, and created the acronym from hell in the process.

Pray there’s a just reward for these nuts. In the meantime, you can’t deny it’s a good thing to encourage cleaner-burning rides, particularly when they’ve got the fun factor found in Ford’s Focus, now available with an optional PZEV-compliant engine nationwide.

The engine is known in-house as the Duratec 23E, a dual-overhead cam, all-aluminum in-line four displacing 2.3 liters. First introduced halfway through the 2003 model year as standard equipment in California, New York, and Massachusetts, the great thing for gearheads is that the new mill ups the performance ante over the base 2.0-liter engine, providing 144 hp at 5750 rpm and 149 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm.

The torque spec is most significant, as it’s 4 lb-ft greater and 1300 revs more accessible than that found in the enthusiast-oriented SVT Focus. Performance engineering that makes the world healthier for all is one delicious irony, don’t you think?

For those of you keeping cleanliness scores, the 23E allows the Focus to meet another ridiculous California acronymic standard, SULEV (for Super Ultra-low Emissions Vehicle), which means it emits a mere pound of smog-forming pollution over 15,000 miles of driving. It also eliminates fuel-system evaporative emissions. 

Fuel economy numbers are respectable as well. EPA numbers of 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, are posted for the standard five-speed transmission; the optional four-speed automotive delivers 24/30 figures.

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