Bulk and surface properties of dispersed partially stabilized zirconias (PSZ) prepared via coprecipitation of zirconium and alkaline-earth metal hydroxides have been studied by XPD, SIMS, IR spectroscopy of surface hydroxyls and adsorbed C.O. For Sr- and Ca-PSZ, the number of the Lewis acid centers, surface concentration of the guest cation and Zr-O bonding strength at the surface have been found to deviate substantially from the values predicted by a bulk truncation model, while for Ba-PSZ it seems to be valid. A local reconstruction of the near-surface layer into the perovskite-like structure was proposed for the first two systems, which explained satisfactorily their surface properties including catalytic performance in the selective reduction of nitrogen oxides by propane in the excess of oxygen. Such reconstruction is probably facilitated by segregation of the guest cations in the subsurface layer. The driving force for this process depends upon site preference of the alkaline-earth cations to cubooctahedrons and steric factors.