FORD GALAXY (1995-2000)

November 30, 2007

You’re a parent. You’ve two or three children – maybe more. Probably a dog. Certainly a stack of paraphernalia to carry on almost every journey. For years, you’ve managed quite happily with a family-sized estate car. But then you noticed the growing popularity of People Carriers and wondered whether you could live with one. Your preconceptions suggested a van-like vehicle, heavy to drive, difficult to park and expensive to buy and run. Your preconceptions were wrong. The latest generation of People Carriers handle just like your average family saloon – probably better in fact. Sales have taken off, with one model standing head and shoulders above the rest in terms of volume – Ford’s Galaxy.

Credit for the Galaxy must go not only to Ford but to their development partners Volkswagen. Together, the two companies jointly funded the design programme and built a new factory in Portugal to handle production. By the time the car came to the market, rumours abounded of a less than cordial relationship between the two companies – which both deny. Whether this has had any bearing over their decision to limit the sharing of engines is anybody’s guess. Basically, Ford’s Galaxy and VW’s Sharan share the same 2.8-litre V6 engine (the VR6 unit used in the top VW Golf) and the 90bhp and 110bhp 1.9-litre turbo diesels (also VW-sourced). They do however, go their own separate ways with the 2.0-litre units used in the entry-level models; the Sharan has the VW Passat unit, while the Galaxy’s 2.0-litre engine is from the Mondeo. Subsequently, Ford has added a 2.3-litre-engined option from the Scorpio. The third version of this car is sold by VW-owned SEAT and christened the Alhambra. It uses the VW 2.0-litre and 1.8 Turbo petrol engines plus the 1.9-litre turbo diesels. As far as the Galaxy is concerned, the car was launched in June 1995 and not changed substantially until early 1997. At this point, specifications were revised, with body-coloured bumpers on the entry-level Aspen and standard air conditioning on the GLX. The 2.3-litre models made their debuts at this point, available in GLX, Ghia and new Ghia X trim. A 4×4 version (using VW’s Synchro system) was also launched with V6 power only. At the top of the range, a V6 Ultima version was made available, with wood and leather trim (but quickly dropped). The R-reg ‘plate change saw the introduction of new mid-range Si models, available with both the 2.3-litre and 2.8-litre engines. These cars sported special alloy wheels and a thankfully subtle body kit. Air conditioning was also standardised across the range. Zetec and LX 2.3-litre versions arrived in early 1999. The range was substantially revised in the Summer of 2000, with new styling, interior trim and dashboard. Though at first glance every inch an MPV, the Galaxy, say Ford, is something quite different. Sure enough, though it seats between five and seven people depending on the model you choose, it’s easy to drive, simple to park and no more expensive to run than the car you have at the moment. This, say Ford, is the future; car-like qualities in what, until pre-Galaxy times, was a van-like sector of the market. Prior to the original launch, one of the most comprehensive customer surveys ever undertaken by the company established that though wealthy families would continue to buy large, cumbersome van-based MPVs, everyone else would probably ignore them until they became cheaper and more user-friendly. Hence the demand for what the blue oval calls the Galaxy class vehicle. In the showroom, the car costs about the same as a mid-range Ford Mondeo estate, measures in at about the same length and takes up no more space on the road. Behind the wheel, it’s exactly like a medium range estate – only better, thanks to that high-seated driving position and the glassy cabin. Whichever version you choose, you’ll be looking for flexibility – and you shouldn’t be disappointed. Whatever configuration of seats you choose, you’ll find that all of them can be folded down or unclipped and removed completely. Above Aspen specification, the front seats also swivel round to face the rear passengers, facilitating picnics or on-the-spot conferences.

Prices start from around £4,600 for the first of the M-plated 2.0-litre Aspen entry-level models. The GLX and Ghia models are worth up to £500 more. The 2.3s start at about £6,600 for a 97P GLX with the Si about £300 more and another £300 for a Ghia. You’ll also find LX and Zetec versions on 99S and later plates starting from about £8,100. The turbo diesels are a good option and there are 90bhp and 110bhp versions about – but they tend to be thin on the ground. Prices start from just about £5,400 for a 90bhp Aspen and around £5,700 for a GLX. The six-seater Ghia starts at around £6,000, and the seven-seater at around £7,500. The 110bhp cars arrived on 97R plates in Ghia and Ghia X form and prices start around £8,400. Prices for the V6 start from around £4,900 for a Ghia, interestingly around the same as the more spartan GLX (mainly due to the fact that the Ghia has six, rather than seven, seats). Later versions (which received seven seats) start at £6,500 on 96P plates while the plush Ghia X 7-seater starts at about £6,700 as a 96P. Check for faulty trim and excessive transmission noise caused by the specially lengthened gear linkages. On the popular 2.0-litre, listen for clattery camshafts and make sure that the drive-belt has been replaced on schedule. If you’re buying a baseline model, make sure you’re getting seven, rather than five seats (some basic cars miss out the back two). Also, all Aspens and early GLX models do without air conditioning (well worth having in a car with this glass area) so think carefully before you do without, remembering that a car with air will be easier to sell on later. Bear in mind too that most Galaxys will have been used by people unused to cars of this size. It’s worth checking therefore for body scrapes and scuffed mirrors. The Galaxy is deservedly leading the way in the expansion of the People Carrying sector to what Ford reckons will soon be nearly half a million vehicles in Europe and at least 7% of the UK market. That means a growing second-hand market for MPVs. Right now, the Galaxy looks the best bet if you’re shopping for one.

(Estimated prices, based on a 2.0 GLX (inc VAT) A clutch assembly is around £110, an exhaust system around £800 (incl. catalytic converter) and an exchange alternator around £320. Front brake pads are around £50 and a headlamp unit will set you back just over £100. Front shock absorbers are about £45 and rears just under £35. The Ford Galaxy represent great value as used cars go if you are after a vehicle to carry your family in comfort and safety.

This car (along with its Sharan and Alhambra stablemates) is the best handling used people carrier you can buy. The Galaxy doesn’t roll, pitch or wallow like many of its MPV counterparts. Nor do you need a period of acclimatisation before you can drive it quickly, as you would, for example, with a fashionable four-wheel drive.


FORD GALAXY (2000- TO DATE)

November 30, 2007

As the big cheese amongst full-sized MPVs, the Ford Galaxy could have rested on its laurels. After all, with sales far in excess of any other big people carrier, the Galaxy didn’t need a major revision. It got one nevertheless, and the post 2000 model year Galaxy is a vast improvement in almost every respect. Track down a decent used model and you’ll be treated to the most car-like drive of all full sized MPVs as well as some very neat styling and a proven range of engines. No wonder they’re so valued in the used car trade.

The Galaxy sprang from the joint development between Ford and Volkswagen ultimately responsible for the Galaxy, VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra. Together, Ford and VW jointly funded the design programme and built a new factory in Portugal to handle production. Basically, Ford’s Galaxy and VW’s Sharan share the same 2.8-litre V6 engine (the VR6 unit used in the top VW Golf) and the 90bhp and 115bhp 1.9-litre turbo diesels (also VW-sourced). Ford also has a 2.3-litre-engined option from the Scorpio. The range was substantially revised in the summer of 2000, with new styling, interior trim and dashboard. An old 2.0-litre engine was deleted as was the slow-selling 4×4 V6. Ford’s 2.3 now powered the entry-level models plus there was a revised 201bhp 2.8-litre V6. In Spring 2003 the Galaxy range was revised again, with the addition of a TDI130 version. Inside the heavily reworked post 2000 cabin, it’s all much more luxurious – and very different to the utilitarian feel of the old model. Beautifully textured soft plastics, subtle wood strips and flashes of silver trim combine to create one of the nicest Ford interiors we’ve seen – and certainly the most practical. To complement larger door pockets, two substantial stowage boxes have been built into the dashboard in response to customers who wanted to be able to hide away clutter after a weekend and reclaim their car as a business vehicle for the working week. Once you were behind the wheel there was never much wrong with the first model but, as we’ve suggested, this newest versions march resolutely upmarket, in keeping with Ford’s stated aim to steal customers from the executive saloon sector. The first thing you notice is the redesigned four-spoke steering wheel and the aluminium-look instrument surround. A ‘Ka-style’ analogue clock sits in the centre of the dash in traditional contrast to the high gadgetry in the centre console, redesigned to accommodate an optional satellite navigation system. Those used to VW and Audi products will recognise most of the stalks and switchgear – which is no bad thing since nobody makes them better. Ford’s strengths lie in packaging (hence high equipment levels including air conditioning, ABS and dual airbags) and tight pricing (pitched much as before, between £18,245 to £24,245). The options list is now vast including everything from a fridge to a multi-media system capable of entertaining rear passengers with DVD video or computer games via colour screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests. Befitting its role as large MPV market leader, the Galaxy seats seven people in even greater comfort (though you can opt for a six-seater version). The redesigned seats are welcome and it continues to be easy to drive, simple to park and no more expensive to run than an average large family hatch or estate.

Prices start from around £10,300 for a 2000 W plate 2.3-litre LX, with a Zetec trim priced at around £10,800. A Ghia model should retail at around £11,400, again on the 2000 W plate. Trade up to a 2.8-litre V6 Ghia and you’ll need £12,000 for a 2000 W plated car. Diesel buyers get the choice of the 90 or 115bhp engines. The 90bhp LX starts at £11,300 whilst its more powerful 115bhp starts at £11,900. No significant faults have yet to emerge. Although Galaxy interiors are well constructed, check for the usual damage wrought by children and negotiate hard. The Galaxy is a deserved market leader. It fills a niche for somebody looking to transport a family in comfort but still wants a vehicle that can put generate a little driving satisfaction. Newer MPVs my be bigger, some may even be a little cleverer, but none so far has eclipsed the Galaxy for a blend of all-round talents. Still the one.

(Estimated prices, based on a 2.3 LX (inc VAT) A clutch assembly is around £130, an exhaust system around £800 (incl. catalytic converter) and an exchange alternator around £320. Front brake pads are around £50, front shock absorbers are about £45 and rears just under £35.

Those the have never driven a Galaxy before will be pleasantly surprised by its car-like qualities, further refined with more responsive steering and slight suspension tweaks. Handling is exemplary, and the Galaxy doesn’t roll, pitch or wallow like many of its MPV counterparts. Nor do you need a period of acclimatisation before you can drive it quickly. There are three trim levels in the line-up: LX, Zetec and Ghia, the latter two including side airbags and a radar parking system that should avoid many a supermarket scrape. Opt for the latest 201bhp V6 flagship and you also get ESP (Electronic Stability Programme), a system that will over-ride both brake and throttle to keep you on the tarmac should you enter a corner too fast. Which is maybe just as well, given that this glorious light alloy powerplant is fast enough to make the Ford Galaxy something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with progress to 60mph in 9.9s seconds accompanied by a satisfying yet muted roar on the way to a maximum of around 135mph. On paper, the 115bhp turbo diesel version appears a lot slower (13.1s and 113mph) but in practice, due to its lighter weight and impressive through-the-gears pulling power, it should feel just as fast in real road terms. Quick enough certainly to justify specifying ESP as an option. Plus here, you’ve can expect to travel almost twice as far on a tank of fuel (with an average consumption figure of well over 40mpg). New 6-speed manual gearboxes are standard on both diesels and the V6 but not on the Ford 2.3. The ‘SelectShift’ Tiptronic auto (with the option of ‘manual’ up-and-down changes) comes on this 2.3 and the V6.


FORD FUSION (2002 – TO DATE)

November 29, 2007

Few mainstream cars have caused quite so much perplexed head scratching and confused chin stroking as Ford’s Fusion. When it first appeared in design sketches, it was mocked up like a rugged little 4×4 but as it neared production, the edges were smoothed off and it eventually landed in UK showrooms looking little more than a chunkily rebodied Fiesta with a little extra in the way of ride height. This puzzled British customers and the Fusion has resulted in more than a few blown sales targets for Ford dealers the length and breadth of the nation. That’s not to say it’s a bad car. Anything based on a Fiesta platform is going to make a great little package, but the Fusion’s target market seems a little ill defined. If the idea of a well-engineered and economical supermini that offers a better vantage point appeals, a used Ford Fusion offers the opportunity for a genuine bargain.

Based on the chassis of the sixth generation Fiesta, the Ford Fusion landed on these shores in August 2002. Ford’s advertising trumped the benefits of that extra couple of inches of ride height, featuring a vertically challenged chap sitting on a pile of programmes at the theatre in order to see the stage. Unfortunately for Ford, it would take more than this for customers to see the point of the Fusion. Three engines were available from launch; 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units and a 1.6-litre TDCi powerplant that Ford had worked on in conjunction with Peugeot and Citroen. The Fusion was subsequently offered with a neat Durashift sequential manual gearbox that did away with the need for a clutch pedal and made the Fusion a doddle to pilot through traffic-choked cities. A Fusion+ model was also made available, featuring a healthy complement of standard equipment including a DVD rear seat entertainment system. Towards the end of 2004, a 90bhp 1.6-litre TDCi engine was introduced to the range. Despite the raised ride height and chunky styling, the Fusion isn’t really a go-anywhere vehicle. Built on the same front-wheel drive underpinnings as the Fiesta it is in some respects a latter day incarnation of the Matra Rancho – and if you remember one of those, you really are an anorak. Suffice it to say that it supplied the go-anywhere looks without the need for the expensive go-anywhere hardware that would normally accompany them. If we suspend our inbuilt cynicism of the PR machine that pushes the Fusion upon us, what are we left with? Basically, the Fusion looks like a Fiesta on stilts with some clever packaging tricks up its sleeve. The rugged bumpers and mini-4×4 stance of the original Frankfurt show car have been toned down into something far more conventional, the Fusion slotting into the supermini-MPV class quite nicely, despite Ford’s claims to the contrary. It’s a market that features purpose built designs like the Toyota Yaris Verso, crossover designs like the Suzuki Ignis, Honda Jazz and Daihatsu YRV. In short, it’s one of the hot sectors. In designing the Fusion for urban families, a number of key criteria had to be met. These elements included a higher driving position to give good all round visibility, body height and wheel designs optimised for ground clearance and ride comfort so that Fusion drivers can easily shrug off kerbs, speed humps and the worst urban potholes. So-called ‘cubed-out’ architecture maximises seating space while the same philosophy maximises the luggage space by providing a squared-off rear header and a flat load floor. That driving position is a full 75mm higher than you’d find in a Fiesta and it’s longer but slightly narrower too. The bumpers and rubbing strips followed intensive research into how cars become damaged in the urban environment. Should you contrive to take the car’s name somewhat literally and meld it with something else, it’s good to know that you’ve an Intelligent Protection System that will intervene with dual stage front air bags that sense the type and severity of the impact. Side airbags are available for front seat passengers and optional curtain bags provide side-impact head protection. The high seating position gives a commanding view of the road ahead and there’s a wonderful sense of airiness about the cabin. As well as offering the usual split/fold rear seats, the Fusion also allows the front passenger seat and the rear seats to fold flat, although the operation isn’t as slick as in some rivals. Even with the seats in an upright position, the boot is impressive with a standard luggage volume of some 337 litres. Should you need to slide luggage out from the rear, Ford have thoughtfully designed the Fusion with no rear loading lip. The elevated seating position also allows for extra stowage space under the passenger seats, whilst the fascia features a flip-top bin like the Galaxy whilst the main instruments are housed in a neat oval binnacle.

Although Fusion and Fiesta trim/equipment levels aren’t directly comparable, one fact stands out right from the get go. The low level of customer take up for the taller sibling has sent used prices tumbling. A Ford Fusion1 which retailed for £9,825 in August 2002 on a 52 plate is now worth £6,700, whereas a Fiesta LX five-door which retailed at £25 more new is still worth a hefty £7,350. Opt for the Durashift-equipped 1.4-litre Fusion2 and prices open at £7,800 on the 52 plate. The 1.6-litre Fusion2 starts at £7,800 whereas aFusion3 with the same powerplant opens at £8,100. If you plan on covering significant mileage, the 1.4-litre TDCI diesel is the version to go for and the Fusion1, 2, and 3 trim levels on the 02 plate are priced at £7,200, £8,00 and £8,300 respectively. Insurance ratings are reasonable, the Fusion ranging from Group 4 for the base 1.4-litre models up to Group 6 for the plusher 1.6-litre variants. Being so new, there’s little to report. Make sure your prospective purchase has been properly serviced and that the tyres are in decent shape. Otherwise check for the usual kiddie damage and parking scrapes. Engines are, on the whole, reliable, but watch for the usual signs of wear and signs of hard fleet or company use such as worn carpets or beaten up trim. It’s fair to say that as a new product, the Fusion has been a rare flop from Ford. It’s something of a shame when a car as thoroughly engineered and well built as the Fusion fails to find favour, but Ford’s marketeers just hadn’t tied down the target market sufficiently, pricing the Fusion above what buyers could snap up a Focus for. This is all good news if you’re in the market for a used example, as prices have taken a nosedive. Where the Fusion was more expensive than the Fiesta new, it’s now available for less than its more cramped sibling. Whereas a new Fusion struggled to make a case for itself, a used version makes all the sense in the world. The head scratching stops here.

(approx based on a Fusion1 1.4) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly and an alternator will both be around £75. Front brake pads are around £30 a set and the rears £20, a replacement headlamp is close to £50 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £50. A full exhaust is about £120 and a catalyst is about £220. A starter motor around is around £110, front wing is around £90, a windscreen about £70.

As you would expect from anything based on a Fiesta, the handling is very good. Although the tall Fusion looks like something that may be slightly top heavy, your first corner will rapidly dispel this impression. Somehow Ford seem to have engineered a ride that’s able to absorb the ruts and bumps of city streets with a chassis that enjoys spirited driving. Refinement is a mixed bag, the 1.4-litre engine being reasonably well behaved at higher speeds with tyre and wind noise making a significant intrusion. The 1.4-litre engine needs to be worked quite hard to make respectable progress, hitting 60mph in 13.5 seconds on the way to 101mph. CO2 emissions are reasonable, the Fusion pumping out 154g for every kilometre travelled. Likewise, you’ll not be taken to the cleaners at the pumps, the 43.5mpg average fuel consumption a fine effort. Even around town you can expect to see over 33mpg. Should you want to expend even less effort in the city, a ‘clutchless’ Durashift version is also available. When driven back to back with the 1.4-litre petrol powerplant, the TDCi diesel version is infinitely more desirable, the additional muscularity of the powerplant making those annoying downchanges on long uphill stretches virtually superfluous. The acceleration to 60mph is a little tardier at 15.3 seconds, but this gives little clue as to the satisfying nature of the Duratorq engine’s mid range pull. The in-gear acceleration times give a more accurate representation of the car’s punch, and here the scores are reversed, the diesel car comfortably acing its petrol counterpart. That’s perhaps not surprising, given that the midrange is where the turbocharger really gets to work, and what’s also equally predictable is the way the diesel car excels in terms of fuel consumption. What’s surprising are the raw figures. The combined fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg allows the Fusion TDCi to travel 634 miles between top ups, whilst the carbon dioxide emissions are a virtuous 116 grammes per kilometre. The Fusion 1.6 brings to the party a 99bhp engine that’s good enough to propel it to 60mph in 10.6 seconds en route to a top speed of 111mph. It’s a very willing powerplant, if a little vocal at the top end of the rev range and given that maximum power is generated at a nosebleed 6000rpm, it responds well to a heavy right foot. Driven in a more genteel manner, the Fusion 1.6 will return an average of 43mpg, making it an economical used car. There’s a 422 mile fuel tank range and emissions are an acceptable 157g/km.


FORD FOCUS C-MAX (2003-TO DATE)

November 27, 2007

The Ford Focus C-MAX confused quite a few people upon launch in 2003. What exactly was it trying to be? It didn’t offer any additional seating capacity over the standard Ford Focus hatch and wasn’t as good looking. It was, on the other hand, a fair bit pricier and it didn’t feel quite as sharp to drive. Small wonder that sales were initially a little sticky. After a while word got round that the C-MAX was a car well worth having. Well stocked with practical features and riding on the next-generation Focus chassis, it may not have been quite as sporting as the old Focus hatch but it offered more for the family motorist. Here’s the lowdown on used examples.

As far as problems go, it’s quite a nice one to have. So successful was the Ford Focus hatch that when it came to designing an all-new model, Ford had quite a task on their hands. Instead of trying to replicate the dynamic feel of the old car, Ford’s engineers instead opted for a more grown up feel and the first cars to use the next-generation Focus chassis were the Focus C-MAX mini-MPV and the Volvo S40/V50 models, all of which nevertheless garnered critical acclaim as sweet driving cars. The Focus C-MAX was launched in October 2003 and after a slow start, sales have picked up nicely. Euro IV versions of the diesel engines were offered alongside the non-compliant units at a premium of around £300. Towards the end of 2004 a 1.6-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine was added to the range with 115bhp it was slightly quicker, more frugal and more expensive than the existing 1.6 engine which continued to be offered. Think about how we use our cars for a moment. Many of us rarely even use the back seats for anything but shopping bags and jackets. If you’ve got a family in tow, you may well need four or even five seats but if you seriously need seven seats, it makes sense to go with the additional carrying capacity of a full sized MPV like a Ford Galaxy. Sales figures at the time of the C-MAX launch showed the Citroen Xsara Picasso – a car endowed with a mere quintet of seats – residing in the number one position. Therefore it was Ford’s aim to build the best and most practical five-seat mini-MPV possible that would appeal to ‘real world’ requirements. With a wheelbase some 25mm longer than the Focus, the C-MAX offers a good deal of interior space, helped by a novel seating arrangement. The ‘wheel at each corner’ design also helps maximise interior dimensions. The styling may disappoint those expecting something as ground breaking as the Focus originally was, but having seen the Fiesta and the Fusion, it’s perhaps not surprising that the C-MAX follows a similarly conservative design theme. The metallic finish around the front grille and the jewel-effect lights give the car a Mondeo-like nose, whereas the back end looks distinctly Fiesta. If you’d have sketched a Ford mini-MPV before you’d even seen the C-MAX, you would probably have been pretty near the mark. Still, this is a market where conservatism tends to pay off. If the exterior may be a little underwhelming, the C-MAX more than makes up for it with the ideas factory that is the cabin. Although it’s unlikely to be available on entry-level versions, Ford’s rear seat flexibility system really is the ace in the C-MAX hole. A 40-20-40 tip and tumble rear seat sees the centre section flip rearwards into the luggage compartment, leaving the remaining two seats to slide diagonally along a runner towards the centre of the car, giving unprecedented levels of space for four. With 100mm of extra legroom and 60mm of additional shoulder room, even extravagantly dimensioned passengers should be able to find space in the back of the C-MAX. Even in the standard three-abreast bench position there’s plenty of room, offering 946mm of legroom and 582 litres of luggage compartment space. Remove the rear seats altogether and there’s a monstrous 1,692 litres available. One trick Ford did miss was the ability to tumble the front passenger seat forward to a flat position.

Buyers seem rather contented with their C-MAXs and as such values are holding up very well. A 1.6-litre C-MAX LX on a 53 plate fetches £10, 400 while the slightly ritzier Zetec model commands £11,000. Plump for the quicker 1.8-litre car and a Zetec model on the same plate will be £11,250. The diesel models have proved very popular and a 2.0-litre TDCi Ghia will still be worth in the region of £14,000 for a 53-plated car. Insurance ranges from Group 6E to Group 9E. All of the engines are tough units and the diesels are especially good so no major mechanical issues there. The cabins are reasonably hardwearing too but look for damage in the rear caused by tots. The C-MAX tends not to be driven quite as hard as regular Focus models but it’s still worth keeping an eye out for mega mileage company hacks. Worn carpets, and scuffed trim are the usual clues. Check that all the electrical items work properly, ensure that the air conditioner delivers chilled air soon after the engine is started and remember that there’s no excuse for missed servicing with a car of this age. If you’re not too fussed about seating seven and you still want a car that feels like a car and not a delivery van, the Ford Focus C-MAX is one of the best possible picks. It’s beautifully finished and feels like a premium product, a fact reflected in its upscale used pricing. The diesel models are the pick of the bunch with the 2.0-litre TDCi being a real gem. These engine really eat up the miles, making them a great used car even with high mileage.

(approx based on a Focus C-MAX 1.6) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £115 and an alternator should be close to £165. Brake pads are around £35 a front set with rear shoes around £45 and a replacement headlamp is close to £140. A full exhaust is about £275 and a catalyst is about £285. Dampers are around £60 each and a radiator about £140.

Ford claim the C-MAX moniker is an amalgam of both the C-segment in which it competes and a combination of maximum comfort, maximum confidence and maximum control. Whilst some of this sounds like marketing flannel, it’s a source of great importance for Ford that the C-MAX should uphold the reputation of its Focus progenitor as a sparkling drive. Rumour has it that during the development cycle, an all-electric steering was developed that developed far better feedback than any electric power steering system to date. Thing was, it still wasn’t as good as the Focus’ existing helm, so despite being undoubtedly clever, it was ditched. Instead Ford uses a hydroelectric pump system that offers great feel and a three per cent fuel saving over conventional systems. This, coupled with the celebrated control blade rear suspension, ensures that the C-MAX feels a very capable handler. Five engines are offered – a pair of diesels and a trio of petrol units. The 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel is a development of the existing 1.4TDCi common rail unit but the pick of the range has to be the punchy 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi engine sourced from Peugeot. Backed up by a six-speed gearshift, this will be the car to take the fight to Citroen, Renault, Volkswagen and Vauxhall. Both oil-burners are now available in Euro III or Euro IV compliant forms. Petrol buyers are catered for with 100bhp 1.6-litre, 120bhp 1.8-litre and 145bhp 2.0-litre options. Ford would neither confirm nor deny the eventual existence of 1.8-litre SCi direct injection petrol and hot rod V6 ST versions of the C-MAX but the twinkle in the engineer’s eye when the question was raised spoke volumes. The Durashift CVT gearbox is offered with the 1.6 TDCi Euro III diesels.


FORD FOCUS (1998-2002)

November 25, 2007

Unlike its predecessor, the Escort, the Ford Focus wowed the critics immediately when it was launched in October 1998. The new family Ford attracted praise for its crisp ‘New Edge’ styling, funky interior, great ‘zetec’ engines and, most of all, its class-leading handling and ride. No competitor has yet got close. Soon after launch the Focus shot straight to the top of the UK best-sellers charts and is likely to remain there for quite some time yet. With something like 12,000 being sold new each month, plenty have now found their way onto the used market where a vast choice of models and sensible pricing makes Ford’s finest family range an excellent buy.

Ford launched a wide Focus range in October 1998 though it took about a year before all variants were available. That means that models like the sporty two-litre Zetec and 1.6-litre automatics are still rare on used car forecourts. There was a choice of three and five-door hatchbacks, a stylish saloon (which you’ll find only with plush Ghia trim) and an estate. Engines were 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 and two-litre Zetec petrol units and a 1.8-litre direct injection turbo diesel and all bar the 1.6 came only with five-speed manual transmission. Trim levels were CL, Zetec, LX and Ghia and there were a variety of option packs that are worth seeking out on used examples. These included Style (alloy wheels and metallic paint), Reflex (anti-lock, traction control and side airbags) and Climate (air conditioning, heated windscreen and mirrors). March 2000 saw the introduction of an entry-level three-door 1.4CL hatchback and some price reductions for mainstream 1.4 and 1.6-litre models. Launched in October 1999, the 1.8-litre Millennium five-door hatchback special edition was painted in (very) bright yellow with black leather upholstery and top-of-the-range equipment including air conditioning, CD player, power windows, dual airbags and unique alloy wheels. It’s worth about 3% more than a Ghia. Zetec Collection special editions were launched in May 2000. Based on the supposedly sporty three and five-door Zetec models they came with Ford’s entire RS body kit fitted as standard – including bumpers, spoiler, chrome exhaust trim, a mesh grille and unique 3×2 spoke, 15-inch alloy wheels. The call for a sportier Focus model was finally answered in February 2002 when the ST170 model was launched. This month also spelt good news for diesel customers with the excellent 115bhp TDCi common rail engine being fitted to the affordable Zetec trim level. In summer 2002 the TDCi engine was also offered in a slightly detuned 100bhp form. The range-topping Focus RS was finally launched in September 2002 and the limited run was sold out by late 2003. An estate version of the ST170 was introduced in April 2003. Arguably the most stylish and best handling (and riding) family hatchback you can buy. This is a car into which you can load the family and still enjoy such mundane trips as the supermarket run. It’s little wonder that waiting lists formed at launch time and that most versions are still in strong demand. Whichever body style you opt for, the Focus is a stylish car with excellent engines and road manners and a well laid-out interior that provides plenty of room for a family. There are a lot of used examples about so take your time and choose carefully. Choose a Zetec or LX with a popular option pack or two so you get items like electric windows, air conditioning and Ford’s clever Quickclear self-de-icing windscreen. Desirable equipment like this will make selling on easier in two or three years’ time.

Used Focus prices start at around £4,400 for a 1.4-litre CL five-door hatchback on 98S plates and you may be able to secure even a 01X for under £6,000. Around £4,700 should buy you either a 98S five-door 1.6LX with air-conditioning or a three-door Zetec with the Climate option pack. Plusher Ghia trim adds about £500 and similar money will get you an early saloon although these are quite rare. Estate prices start at about £4,900 with LX trim. The 1.8-litre cars are priced the same as 1.6s new but command about £200 more used. Two-litre models start on 99S plates at about £5,500 with Ghia trim. Diesels are now quite plentiful and you should get a 98S CL five-door for under £5,400 or a more mainstream 99T Zetec with Climate pack for less than £5,800. Ford’s ‘zetec’ engines are, on the whole, reliable, so give the car the usual once-over looking for signs of wear and indications of hard fleet, company or rental car use. Worn carpets, and scuffed trim are the usual clues. Check that all the electrical items work properly, ensure that the air conditioner delivers chilled air soon after the engine is started and remember that a full service history always helps when selling on, too. The Focus is, quite simply, the best family hatchback on the used market if you take into account the huge dealer network, affordable part prices and the vast choice offered at sensible prices. Streets ahead of its dull but worthy Escort predecessor, this is the car to buy if the budget will stretch.

(approx based on a Focus 1.6) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £100 and an alternator should be close to £140. Brake pads are around £25 a front set with rear shoes around £45, a replacement headlamp is close to £80 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £50. A full exhaust is about £200 and a catalyst is about £240. Dampers are around £40 each and a radiator about £100. This makes a used Ford Focus cheap to run.

When you’ll really appreciate the Focus is when there’s no one in it but you. Under the skin lie a host of engineering novelties that together, enable it comfortably to take the honours as the best driver’s car in the class. The body for a start, is 100% stiffer than that of the Escort and 15% stiffer than its nearest rival. The gearbox is slick enough to make you want to change up and down just for the sake of it. And the fully independent suspension attains a level of sophistication previously unheard of in this class. We’re not just talking about tyre-squealing qualifying laps around your favourite country B-road test route either. Ford’s engineers have tuned the Focus to compensate for the times you and I get brain fade; you’re lost, it’s dark and chucking its down and the kids are screaming in the back. The corner you just entered too quickly is getting sharper and you do exactly the wrong thing; you stamp on the brakes. This used car will deal with that: no fuss, no problem. Performance is reasonable – though not exceptional, with the 1.6-litre engine most will choose making sixty in 11.2s on the way to 114mph. Its fuel economy (41.5mpg on the combined cycle) comfortably beats all comers, however, and there are major components everywhere designed to need minimal or no maintenance.


FORD FOCUS (2002-TO 2004)

November 24, 2007

Although it has established itself as a recurring fixture at the top of the UK sales charts, the Ford Focus has never rested on its laurels. The 2002 restyle was subtle but looked set to last the car through to its eventual replacement at the start of 2005. Even though there are fresher shapes around, the driving dynamics of the Focus have yet to be matched. With many new models increasingly opting for fuel efficient systems such as electric power steering, the purity and feel of the effervescent Focus may well represent a high water mark in driver enjoyment in this class for some time yet. Naturally there’s a huge choice of models to choose from and to tell the truth, there’s barely a duffer of a used car amongst them.

Although the Ford Focus had been with us since October 1998, it took a while before customers got accustomed to that shape, as radical as the Escort was conservative. Once established at the top of the sales charts, however, the Focus took quite some shifting. The addition of common rail diesel variants and a sporting ST170 version added to the car’s appeal and a facelift for the model arrived in 2002 which looked to breathe a little fresh life into the car. The 2002 Focus model tidied up a few minor details, adding subtle front bumper rubbing strips much in the style of later Mercedes A-class models. The narrow black strips below the headlights afford some protection in a multi storey car park, but they were chiefly there to add a touch of gravitas to the front end. The nose of the Focus also benefited from a slightly more prominent mesh grille as well as the blue-tinged xenon headlamps. The front indicators, previously mounted below the headlamp unit, were incorporated inside the lamp housing in a similar vein to Volkswagen’s Golf. The most obvious difference to the front end is the different shape of the under-bumper air intake and the fog lights. Instead of a benign arc to the intake, the late shape Focus featured a unit bounded on either side by some quite aggressive diagonal supports giving the Focus a far more sporting appearance. The range-topping Focus RS was finally launched in September 2002 and the limited run was sold out by late 2003. An estate version of the ST170 was introduced in April 2003. An LPG powered Bi-Fuel model was launched in June 2003 and the mini-MPV Focus C-MAX range was unveiled in September of the same year. A number of special edition models were launched including the Chic, Elle, Flight, Ink, MP3 and Silver variants. Arguably the most stylish and best handling (and riding) family hatchback you can buy. This is a car into which you can load the family and still enjoy such mundane trips as the supermarket run. It’s little wonder that waiting lists formed at launch time and that most versions are still in strong demand. Whichever body style you opt for, the Focus is a stylish car with excellent engines and road manners and a well laid-out interior that provides plenty of room for a family. Trim levels were raised across the range with items like a revised centre console, silicon-damped glovebox lids and fresh colours boosting the car’s appeal. An automatic gearbox is now available with the punchy 2.0-litre engine. Ford Telematics, a system that offers assistance, telephone functions and traffic information is optional across the range as is ESP electronic stability control. Satellite navigation can even be plumbed into the most basic LX model if you’re map dyslexic.

With so much variety available, this section could get very long indeed. Prices start at£6,500 for a 51-plated 1.4-litre CL three door, with an equivalent vintage five-door 1.6-litre Zetec with Climate Pack fetching £7,600. The 1.8-litre versions are well worth tracking down and an LX saloon starts at £7,250. Those looking for a more sporting drive will doubtless enjoy the 2.0-litre ST170 and these open at £11,300. The TDdi diesel versions aren’t the pick of the range, opening at £7,800 for an LX saloon, but the TDCi common rail models are far superior. A 115bhp TDCi Zetec three-door start at £9,200 and the 100bhp versions are distinctly affordable. Prices for the rare Focus RS fluctuate enormously, but bottom book is around £17,000. Ford’s ‘Zetec’ engines are, on the whole, reliable, so give the car the usual once-over looking for signs of wear and indications of hard fleet, company or rental car use. Worn carpets, and scuffed trim are the usual clues. Check that all the electrical items work properly, ensure that the air conditioner delivers chilled air soon after the engine is started and remember that a full service history always helps when selling on, too. If you’re looking at ST or RS model, make sure the tyres still have some tread on them, and that the car hasn’t been thrashed or crashed. Focuses are tough but some will inevitably have been abused. You may not stand out in a crowd with a used Focus but chances are you won’t care. Few cars as good as this sell quite so well, and it’s a testament to British buyers that they recognise a great car when they see one. History will remember this Focus as one of the best small cars ever built. If you don’t know what all the fuss is about, get yourself a test drive. Then you’ll see.

(approx based on a Focus 1.6) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £100 and an alternator should be close to £140. Brake pads are around £25 a front set with rear shoes around £45, a replacement headlamp is close to £80 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £50. A full exhaust is about £200 and a catalyst is about £240. Dampers are around £40 each and a radiator about £100.

When you’ll really appreciate the Focus is when there’s no one in it but you. Under the skin lie a host of engineering novelties that together, enable it comfortably to take the honours as the best driver’s car in the class. The body for a start, is 100% stiffer than that of the Escort and 15% stiffer than its nearest rival. The gearbox is slick enough to make you want to change up and down just for the sake of it. And the fully independent suspension attains a level of sophistication previously unheard of in this class. We’re not just talking about tyre-squealing qualifying laps around your favourite country B-road test route either. Ford’s engineers have tuned the Focus to compensate for the times you and I get brain fade; you’re lost, it’s dark and chucking its down and the kids are screaming in the back. The corner you just entered too quickly is getting sharper and you do exactly the wrong thing; you stamp on the brakes. This car will deal with that: no fuss, no problem. Performance is reasonable – though not exceptional, with the 1.6-litre engine most will choose making sixty in 11.2s on the way to 114mph. Its fuel economy (41.5mpg on the combined cycle) comfortably beats all comers, however, and there are major components everywhere designed to need minimal or no maintenance. Sportier drivers will choose the 2.0-litre Zetec models and those with even more intent will opt for the ST170 and RS variants. The ST170 has been a modest success, offering only a mild performance advantage over the much cheaper 2.0-litre Zetec hatch. The Focus RSD is another thing altogether. The Focus RS harnesses its 217bhp through a Quaife torque-biasing differential and the traction of huge 18 inch tyres mounted on those OZ Racing alloy wheels. Redesigned front suspension helps, with a wider track, Sachs Racing dampers and a beefy front anti-roll bar. At the back, the Focus RS retains the Control Blade multi-link set up, but stiffness has been increased for greater durability. Make no mistake, this is one car designed to be driven hard. With an all-up weight of 1175kg, the Focus boasts a power to weight ratio of almost 200bhp per tonne, thus trumping the latest Subaru Impreza WRX. The oily bits underpinning the Focus RS are relatively fundamental: a water-air intercooler, forged pistons and conrods and remapped engine management unit are the technical highlights whilst the 2.0-litre four cylinder Zetec unit with a single turbocharger promises old-school big-boost action. Intentionally, you get more of an intoxicating turbo rush than the current opposition can offer and while many will feel this is a retrograde step, Ford want to bring back the excitement, the rawness and the pure joie de vivre that has always marked out a classic RS model.


FORD FIESTA (1999 – 2002)

November 23, 2007

The fifth generation Fiesta established itself as the best handling supermini around, testament to Richard Parry-Jones’ insistence on driving fun being the key to sales success. Although subsequent events have shown clever packaging to be of greater concern to buyers, the Fiesta has become synonymous with a big grin. The fifth generation cars led to the very different sixth generation model, a car that managed to successfully combine space and agility. As used cars go, a Fiesta makes sense on a number of levels.

Once a byword for lowest common denominator motoring, the Fiesta gradually developed into something extremely competent. The fourth generation Fiesta range launched in October 1995, though shaped similarly to its predecessor was quite different under the skin from previous models. The range was revised in October 1999 with more angular nose styling, new tailgate badges and various minor interior modifications. In winter 2000, the 100bhp 1.6-litre engine, which had been used in the sporting Zetec-S model, replaced the Ghia model’s ageing 1.4-litre unit. The TDdi diesel engine made an appearance, as did a sporty Zetec-S variant. Early 2002 saw the final fling for this Fiesta as it was replaced by an all-new sixth generation version. All but the cheapest models have power steering, a sunroof and a driver’s airbag. Zetec customers also get alloy wheels, central locking and a height-adjustable driver’s seat, while LX buyers can expect air conditioning and electric windows. That only leaves electric mirrors, rear head restraints and a rather dubious mock wood-effect facia for Ghia folk, many of whom will order the smooth CVT automatic transmission system. Apart from its overall lack of space, the interior is still one of the old Fiesta’s best features: it’s still clear and classy, with an up-market feel suggestive of a much larger car. Look closely and you’ll notice some of the more recent detail improvements. Useful storage space has been added in front of the gearstick, with an extra stowage area added where the ashtray used to be (assuming you decide against the no-cost ‘smoker’s pack’). The seats themselves are better than they used to be, with bright trim and front and rear storage pouches on plusher models. Specify a front passenger airbag and they also incorporate side airbags. There are also clear dashboard graphics, an electronic odometer and LED warning lights. In addition, several nice touches are carried over from the original post ‘95 range, including the optional air conditioned glovebox that keeps your soft drinks and chocolate cool. On the question of cabin space, it’s no problem as long as you’re sitting at the sharp end for, provided you’re not over six foot, front seat head and legroom is quite adequate, aided on plusher models by new seat height adjustment. It would be even better if you could adjust the steering wheel too: sadly you can’t. At the rear however, legroom is at much more of a premium, while boot space is slightly compromised by suspension intrusion. In compensation, headroom is good, the tailgate opens high and wide and every model has a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

Word got around that the fifth-generation Fiesta was something worth having and sales were very good for what was effectively the last of its line before being replaced by an all-new car. Prices start around £3,300 for 1999 V LX models or £3,600 for a 1999 V plated 1.2 16v Zetec three door. The five-door body costs another £100. The 1.3-litre versions open at around £2,900 for a 1999V plated Encore or £3,100 for a Finesse. The 1.4-litre 16v is a much preferable powerplant and prices reflect this, a 1999 V plated 1.4 Zetec commanding around £3,600. Opt for the 1.6-litre engine and you can expect to pay around £4,700 for a 2000 V plated Zetec-S. Diesel models are a little way off the cutting edge, the TDCi engines being reserved for the sixth generation car, but they are cheap to run and consequently in reasonable demand. A fair opening value for a 1999 V plate 1.8 Encore diesel would be around £3,100 with a Finesse costing another £200, both in five-door form. Insurance for the fifth generation Fiesta reflects its low cost of repair, ranging from Group 4 for the 1.3-litre cars up to a moderate Group 8 for the effervescent 1.6 Zetec-S. Engines are, on the whole, reliable, but watch for the usual signs of wear and signs of hard fleet or company use such as worn carpets or scuffed trim. Check for tyre wear as many fifth generation cars will have been driven enthusiastically. Rust shouldn’t be a problem on these cars as Dagenham build quality is reasonably good but check the bottom and opening edges of the doors, and the tailgate, for user-inflicted damage that can lead to corrosion. Remember that a full service history always helps when selling on, too. Britain has always had something of a love affair with the Fiesta, but it was only when the fifth generation car was announced that the baby Ford was really deserving of all this fawning affection. Whilst it’s hardly the most spacious supermini on the used market, it is one of the most entertaining. Don’t buy one if you’ve got rapidly sprouting sprogs but if you can afford to be a little bit selfish, indulge yourself while you still can. The vast dealer network, affordable part prices and the wide choice available also do no harm to the Fiesta’s standing amongst used buyers. With the sixth generation car punching values down, now is a good time to snap up a well looked after fifth generation Fiesta.

(approx based on a Fiesta 1.4 Zetec) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly and an alternator will both be around £75. Front brake pads are around £25 a set and the rears £20, a replacement headlamp is close to £50 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £40. A full exhaust is about £80 and a catalyst is about £200. A starter motor around is around £110, front wing is around £60, a windscreen about £70, a tail lamp about £30 and a catalyst about £200. Front dampers are around £55 each and rears around £50 each.

This is where the fifth generation Fiesta scores. Able to outhandle some quite serious tackle, the Fiesta quickly gained a reputation as a proper driver’s car, helped in no small part by the acclaim heaped upon its sister vehicle, the Puma. The excellent 1.7-litre engine from the Puma would have been an obvious choice to propel the Fiesta, but Ford feared it might steal some of that coupe’s customers. Hence the use of an upgraded 104bhp 1.6-litre engine borrowed from the larger Focus family hatch. That means rest to sixty in 10.2s on the way to 113mph – though it should feel a lot faster thanks to the Puma’s short-throw gearchange and an engine note apparently tuned to provide a suitably sporty soundtrack.