FORD STREETKA (2003 – TO DATE)

December 7, 2007

Find yourself in the market for a used supermini convertible and you tend to be faced with a run of depressing choices. You can either opt for the sort of hatchback conversion that looks like a pram or you can opt for the sort of ‘sporting’ coupe-convertible car with folding metal roofs that tend to malfunction, leaving you drenched in the throes of the British ‘summer’. Most give up on this sector and buy a proper roadster such as an MG TF or a Mazda MX-5 but salvation arrived in 2003 in the pert shape of Ford’s Streetka. It was small, it looked the part and it was fun to drive. Was that really so difficult? Tracking down a used example may be a little more difficult than working up the enthusiasm in the first instance. Although the Streetka sold in decent numbers, owners seem strangely unwilling to divest themselves of the baby Ford. Your best bet may well be a low mileage demonstrator from a Ford franchised dealer. Don’t expect too many outrageous bargains even if you do choose to buy in the traditional convertible ‘dead period’ in late autumn.

Quite why it took fully seven years for Ford to realise that a convertible Ka might make hot cakes look a sticky line is anyone’s guess. Designs for the Streetka had been circulating within the Ford empire for years before a prototype ever saw the light of day, the Turin Show of 2000 being the first public airing for the design. Fortunately for us, Ford timed the production launch of the Streetka to coincide with the introduction into the Ka range of a decently powerful engine in the form of the 95bhp 1.6-litre Duratec. For years enthusiasts had raved over the Ka’s handling prowess and begged Ford to give it more power. The Streetka retains a superb chassis balance and many feel that if a bigger engine would fit beneath that tiny bonnet, the Ka would be more than capable of doing it justice. Winter 2003 saw the launch of the Streetka Winter Edition, a limited run series that included a detachable hard top to keep out the worst ravages of the British elements. The standard Streetka is fitted with anti-lock brakes, a cloth roof, remote central locking, twin airbags, a height adjustable driver’s seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, an alarm, power heated door mirrors, front fog lamps, a CD based stereo and electric windows. Should you want an even better equipped version, the Luxury Streetka adds leather trim, heated seats, height adjustment for the passenger seats, air conditioning and a heated windscreen. Options include metallic paint, a CD autochanger and a climate pack (air con and the heated screen). With seating strictly for two, the Streetka has an intimate feel to the cabin. Many of the interior parts are standard Ford fare, but the addition of a Puma-style metallic gearknob and some metallic detailing on the dashboard and the steering wheel jollies things up a little. Unlike most of today’s state of the art roadsters, the Streetka does without an electric folding hardtop, relying instead on a manually folding soft top that can be stowed in less than 30 seconds. Beneath the roof mechanism is a storage space that can accommodate a golf bag. Another lockable box sits between the front seats giving a total stowage space of 188 litres.

Prices start at £10,000 for an 03 registered Streetka with the Luxury model tacking another £300 onto these prices. Both cars are rated at Group 7 insurance so they needn’t break the bank. The Streetka is often bought as a second car and mileages are often correspondingly low. Mainly cosmetic damage (the headlamps in particular aren’t cheap). Inspect the hood carefully for any rips or discolouration. The front tyres will also warrant inspection as an enthusiastically driven Streetka can have a surprising appetite for rubber. The engine and gearbox are both very tough units and little has been reported to go wrong. The seat runners have been known to rattle somewhat but this is an easy fix. When mediocrity would have sufficed, Ford went the extra mile and created a genuinely fun supermini convertible. If you can prise the keys to one from its owners grasp, consider yourself very privileged indeed.

(approx) A clutch assembly is around £75. Front brakepads are around £45, a full exhaust about £90, a catalyst about £200 and an alternator (exchange) around £115. A headlamp is about £95. Making for a cheap used sports car.

Powered by that 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engine that’s good for 95bhp, the Streetka is much more than a Ka with its head scissored off. With only the bonnet and front light assembly shared with the standard Ka, this city funster is a vastly different proposition. The track is wider at both front and rear and the suspension is a good deal stiffer, giving the Streetka a more solid platform than the Ka. Couple this with the punchy South African-built engine and you have a car that’ll be guaranteed to put a grin on the most jaded driver’s face. Given that the standard Ka with it’s somewhat wheezy 1.3-litre engine is still great fun to steer, the Streetka is quite a blast. A sprint to 60mph in 12.1 seconds may not sound rapid enough to incinerate the trousers of your average bar room petrolhead, but the engine has been engineered for low end torque and boasts a sporty exhaust note. The fuel consumption figure of 36mpg will satisfy all but the most tight-fisted, but the C02 emissions figure of 189g/km isn’t the most impressive around. The steering has also been tuned for a sportier feel and now requires just 2.6 turns from lock to lock. As a used car they are a great sporty number!

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FORD MONDEO MK3 ESTATE (2000 – TO DATE)

December 3, 2007

It’s easy to take the Ford Mondeo Estate for granted. Even with healthy annual sales, few who’ve yet to get behind the wheel of a Mk 3 Mondeo realise quite what a superb vehicle it is. The press lavishes praise over the latest shiny faces in the medium estate class whilst the Mondeo continues to represent the true benchmark for dynamic excellence. As well as being a hoot to drive, the Mondeo Estate fulfils its role as a load lugger with aplomb. If you’re not overly concerned with a premium badge stuck to the snout of your car, the Mondeo Estate takes some beating. Used examples are relatively plentiful and there’s a wide range of engine and trim options from which to choose.

Just as many were predicting the imminent demise of the medium range estate market, Ford launched a car that was just too good to overlook. The explosion in popularity of medium sized MPVs like the Vauxhall Zafira and Citroen Xsara Picasso squeezed the medium range estate market from below while premium sportwagons like the Alfa 156 and the BMW 3 Series Touring further eroded Ford’s market share from above. Although the Mk2 Mondeo had been a serviceable load lugger what was needed was a car that could still fulfil its practical remit but offer an upmarket feel. Few were ready for what Ford unveiled. With the exception of the unexceptional 2.0-litre TDdi turbo diesel engine, the Mondeo barely put a foot wrong. Keen to rectify this oversight, Ford launched the state of the art common rail 2.0-litre TDCi engine in 2001 and made a series of detail changes aimed to keep the Mondeo at the top of the tree. Electronic Brake Assist, once a £250 option, was fitted as standard across the range. This reduces stopping distances by augmenting the driver’s braking effort with additional hydraulic support thus ensuring that maximum braking efficiency is reached. Security was also boosted by the introduction of auto relock. If a locked Mondeo is unlocked using the remote key fob and no doors are opened within 45 seconds, the system will automatically relock itself. In addition to this, convenience features such as automatic reverse wash wipe were phased in. This automatically activates the rear screen wiper if reverse is selected whilst the windscreen wipers are on. Sounds simple, but then the most elegant technical solutions usually are. The range was added to in spring 2003 with the launch of the 3.0-litre 151mph ST220 sports estate. Those who’d felt short changed by the Mk2 ST200 emerged metaphorically beaten over the head with a sockful of quarters after a spell behind the wheel of the ST220. A powerful yet economical 1.8-litre SCi engine was added to the Mondeo line up in autumn 2003, alongside Euro IV compliant TDCi 130 diesel engines. Two more new engines arrived in time for summer 2004. A 204bhp 3.0-litre V6 and a 155bhp TDCi engine which was offered in the ST TDCi. Elegant is certainly a word that applies to the Mondeo’s interior. Flick the switches, then check the quality of fit and finish. Take away the Blue Oval badge and you’d probably guess at compact executive class leaders like Audi’s A4 – maybe even BMW’s 3 Series. Except, that this car isn’t compact. You don’t need a tape measure to know that. In fact, there’s as much space inside as Ford offered in its old flagship Scorpio, a car from the next class up. And all of the same gadgets, niceties and safety standards. As for overall space, well the rear load bay offers a generous 0.54 cubic metres with the rear seats in place, and is refreshingly free of the boominess that often afflicts this body shape. All right, so you could get more by opting to go the MPV or 4×4 route – but then you’d have to sacrifice driving satisfaction. Equipment levels include most of what you would expect – air conditioning, front electric windows, a decent quality stereo and so on. There’s plenty of stowage space around the cabin too, with perfectly-shaped homes for items like window squeeges, atlases, drinks cans, tapes, CDs, owners manuals and mobile ‘phones. Notable options include a facia-mounted CD autochanger and a DVD video system with screens mounted in the back of the front head rests: with films or linked to a PlayStation, that should keep the kids quiet on long journeys.

Prices start at around £7,150 for a 2000X registered Mondeo 1.8i LX estate. A 2.0-litre Zetec model of similar vintage will be £7,800 in saloon guise, £7,800. The 2.5-litre cars offer a beautiful V6 warble and the Ghia X starts at just under £9,000 on the 2000X plate. The ST220 estate is still a very rare find but you’ll have a lot more luck tracking down decent diesels. If funds are really tight, the 2.0 TDdi model opens at £7,750 for an LX trim, but we’d recommend stretching that bit further and going for an ex-demonstrator or low mileage TDCi. 115bhp LX estates open at £10,000 on an 02 plate but our advice would be to find a 51-plated 130bhp model which will cost about the same. The Series Three Mondeo has proved commendably reliable to date, although owners have commented on cold starting issues with the TDdi diesel engine and the occasional duff driveshaft. There was a recall on petrol engined Mondeos in August 2001 when 5,500 cars were brought in to have their cruise control systems adjusted as there had been an instance when the system had failed to disengage. On the whole, the Mondeo is a quality product at mainstream prices. In bringing much of the premium estate sector’s quality down to mainstream price levels, the Mondeo should be applauded. The fact that it brings with it the best driving dynamics in its class, a worthwhile load bay and the security of the Blue Oval badge propels the Mondeo to the top. The TDCi models are probably the pick of the bunch but if you choose a well looked after car it’s difficult to go wrong.

(approx prices for a 1.8 excl VAT) A front wing costs around £95 and a windscreen just under £135. Tyres are just under £90 and a complete exhaust system (including catalytic converter) would set you back about £450.

Were it not for that Blue Oval staring back from the steering wheel boss, you might well mistake the interior if the Mondeo for a VW Passat whose owner had a penchant for showy clocks. It’s all scarily logical, although not quite perfect, especially if your hands are anything less than dainty. If this is the case, whenever you select third or fifth gear the back of your hand will change the radio station. The handbrake is badly positioned with not enough room for your knuckles or your thumb. You’ll forgive the Mondeo its minor ergonomic pratfalls when you hit the road. Most of the engines on offer were all-new at launch, the exception being the 170bhp 2.5-litre V6: fair enough – there wasn’t much wrong with that. Since then, a second 217bhp V6 has been developed for the flagship ST220, this being 3.0-litres in size. The all-alloy Duratec HE 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol units used in more humble Mondeos are superb, developing 123 and 143bhp respectively and feeling faster thanks to strong low-down torque. They’re a sack of potatoes (20 kgs) lighter than rival engines, which helps performance (sixty from rest takes 9.8 seconds in the 2.0-litre) and are very rigid, which helps to achieve Passat-levels of refinement. Whilst refinement isn’t the keynote of the 2.0-litre TDdi 113bhp Duratorq turbo diesel engine, it produces extremely decent fuel figures (up to 48mpg on the combined cycle). It’s still not the quietest unit of its kind (the Transit associations show through here) but the performance (rest to sixty in 10.6s on the way to 121mph) is some recompense. Mind you, if you really want to see a step forward in the diesel stakes, then you need to try the TDCi common rail turbo diesel unit: refined and fast, this is a far more impressive proposition and a tribute to Ford’s Centre for Diesel Excellence based in Dagenham. Whilst not as quiet as the 1.8litre TDCi unit fitted to the Focus and easy to stall when emerging from junctions, it’s otherwise a crushingly competent engine, quick, tractable and almost comically economical. As with all Ford Mondeos, the handling is beyond reproach. Whilst other rivals have made ground on the Ford in terms of interior quality, packaging and engine technology nothing in this class approaches the Mondeo’s ability to tackle a corner.


FORD MONDEO MK3 (2000 – TO DATE)

December 3, 2007

You. Yes, you lot out there. Collectively you are distinctly puzzling. The Ford Mondeo sold nearly 130,000 units during its first year on sale, back when the press wrote it off as the Mundano. Fast forward to 2001, the first full sales year for the Mark Three Mondeo, a car the press hailed as the greatest invention since the opposable thumb and how many do you buy between the lot of you? 150,000? 200,000? Not a bit of it. You rewarded the labour’s of Uncle Henry’s finest with a piffling 80,000 sales. Like I said, puzzling. There had never been a car in the medium family saloon sector that rewrote the rules quite so comprehensively as the Mark Three Mondeo. Comparison tests became academic. They were about as predictable as the outcome of the 2002 Grand Prix season. The Mondeo would win whilst the others scratched around for the minor placings. Before too long almost every new car in this sector had shamelessly cribbed from the Ford which, if one is to be brutally truthful, took a fair bit of interior design inspiration from Volkswagen to begin with. As a used car purchase it’s difficult to recommend the Mondeo highly enough.

The third generation Mondeo was launched at a time of radical shake up in the medium range family saloon market. Industry doomsayers were predicting the whole sector to go belly up as buyers were seduced by premium offerings like the Audi A3 and BMW 3-Series Compact or by mini-MPVs like the Vauxhall Zafira or the Citroen Xsara Picasso. Ford had no contender in either of these markets and Mondeo sales were taking a battering. Time to move the goalposts. Few were ready for what Ford unveiled. With the exception of the unexceptional 2.0-litre TDdi turbo diesel engine, the Mondeo barely put a foot wrong. Keen to rectify this oversight, Ford launched the state of the art common rail 2.0-litre TDCi engine in 2001 and made a series of detail changes aimed to keep the Mondeo at the top of the tree. Electronic Brake Assist, once a £250 option, was fitted as standard across the range. This reduces stopping distances by augmenting the driver’s braking effort with additional hydraulic support thus ensuring that maximum braking efficiency is reached. Tests have shown that EBD will result in a Mondeo in the hands of an average driver will stop between one and three car lengths quicker than a standard car. That’s certainly the difference between a close call and giving the dog a phone. Security was also boosted by the introduction of auto relock. If a locked Mondeo is unlocked using the remote key fob and no doors are opened within 45 seconds, the system will automatically relock itself. In addition to this, convenience features such as automatic reverse wash wipe were phased in. This automatically activates the rear screen wiper if reverse is selected whilst the windscreen wipers are on. Sounds simple, but then the most elegant technical solutions usually are. The range was added to in 2002 with the launch of the 3.0-litre 151mph ST220 sports model. Those who’d felt short changed by the Mk2 ST200 emerged metaphorically beaten over the head with a sockful of quarters after a spell behind the wheel of the ST220, an estate version of which appeared in Spring 2003. A powerful yet economical 1.8-litre SCi engine was added to the Mondeo line up in autumn 2003, alongside Euro IV compliant TDCi 130 diesel engines. Two more new engines arrived in time for summer 2004. A 204bhp 3.0-litre V6 and a 155bhp TDCi engine which was offered in the ST TDCi. Elegant is certainly a word that applies to the Mondeo’s interior. Flick the switches, then check the quality of fit and finish. Take away the Blue Oval badge and you’d probably guess at compact executive class leaders like Audi’s A4 – maybe even BMW’s 3 Series. Except, that this car isn’t compact. You don’t need a tape measure to know that. In fact, there’s as much space inside as Ford offered in its old flagship Scorpio, a car from the next class up. And all of the same gadgets, niceties and safety standards. Not that the new Mondeo looks big from the outside or feels it behind the wheel. Despite the extra 150mm in length (and a huge 500-litre boot), the latest model shrinks around you, much like an A4 or a 3 Series. Not that Audi, BMW or Lexus need worry too much. That angular new shape is pleasing enough, but it won’t get you a reserved space in the golf club carpark. Ford has given that job to its Jaguar X-TYPE and doesn’t want the Mondeo getting ideas too far above its station. Still, against obvious rivals such as the Vauxhall Vectra and Peugeot 406 the shape looks pleasantly clean and crisp. These cars represent the real battleground of course, so let’s get down to basics. There are three bodystyles – saloon, five-door and estate – spread over five familiar trim levels (LX, Zetec, Zetec-S, Ghia and Ghia X). Equipment levels include most of what you would expect – air conditioning, front electric windows, a decent quality stereo and so on. There’s plenty of stowage space around the cabin too, with perfectly-shaped homes for items like window squeeges, atlases, drinks cans, tapes, CDs, owners manuals and mobile ‘phones. Notable options include a facia-mounted CD autochanger and a DVD video system with screens mounted in the back of the front head rests: with films or linked to a PlayStation, that should keep the kids quiet on long journeys.

Prices start at around £7,100 for a 2000X registered Mondeo 1.8i LX saloon. The hatches command another £150 with the desirable estates tacking on another £750. A 2.0-litre Zetec model of similar vintage will be £7,800 in saloon guise, £7,900 in hatchback form and £8,400 if you need an estate. The 2.5-litre cars offer a beautiful V6 warble and the Ghia X starts at just under £9,100 in saloon form on the 2000X plate, £9,500 for a hatch and £9,700 for an estate. Should you fancy a diesel, the 2.0 TDdi model opens at £7,800 for an LX trim, but we’d recommend stretching that bit further and going for an ex-demonstrator or low mileage TDCi. You’ll thank us for it afterwards. The Series Three Mondeo has proved commendably reliable to date, although owners have commented on cold starting issues with the TDdi diesel engine and the occasional duff driveshaft. There was a recall on petrol engined Mondeos in August 2001 when 5,500 cars were brought in to have their cruise control systems adjusted as there had been an instance when the system had failed to disengage. On the whole, the Mondeo is a quality product at mainstream prices. Timing has a lot to answer for. Tony Jarrett would have been a national hero had Colin Jackson not been around at the same time. Likewise, nobody will remember 2001’s Academy award winning movie because of the clamour for Harry Potter. The Mark Three Mondeo is perpetually overshadowed by its illustrious junior sibling, the Focus. Had the Focus never turned a wheel, the Mondeo would make hot cakes look like a sticky product line. A used example may not be the most individual automotive choice you could ever make, but it might just be the best. When Jaguar salesmen surreptitiously inform you that the X-TYPE shares the same basic architecture as a Mondeo you know the Ford is all good.

(approx prices for a 1.8 excl VAT) A front wing costs around £95 and a windscreen just under £135. Tyres are just under £90 and a complete exhaust system (including catalytic converter) would set you back about £450.

Were it not for that Blue Oval staring back from the steering wheel boss, you might well mistake the interior if the Mondeo for a VW Passat whose owner had a penchant for showy clocks. It’s all scarily logical, although not quite perfect, especially if your hands are anything less than dainty. If this is the case, whenever you select third or fifth gear the back of your hand will change the radio station. The handbrake is badly positioned with not enough roiom for your knuckles or your thumb. You’ll forgive the Mondeo its minor ergonomic pratfalls when you hit the road. Most of the engines on offer were all-new at launch, the exception being the 170bhp 2.5-litre V6: fair enough – there wasn’t much wrong with that. Since then, a second 217bhp V6 has been developed for the flagship ST220, this being 3.0-litres in size. The all-alloy Duratec HE 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol units used in more humble Mondeos are superb, developing 123 and 143bhp respectively and feeling faster thanks to strong low-down torque. They’re a sack of potatoes (20 kgs) lighter than rival engines, which helps performance (sixty from rest takes 9.8 seconds in the 2.0-litre) and are very rigid, which helps to achieve Passat-levels of refinement. Whilst refinement isn’t the keynote of the 2.0-litre TDdi 113bhp Duratorq turbo diesel engine, it produces extremely decent fuel figures (up to 48mpg on the combined cycle). It’s still not the quietest unit of its kind (the Transit associations show through here) but the performance (rest to sixty in 10.6s on the way to 121mph) is some recompense. Mind you, if you really want to see a step forward in the diesel stakes, then you need to try the TDCi common rail turbo diesel unit: refined and fast, this is a far more impressive proposition and a tribute to Ford’s Centre for Diesel Excellence based in Dagenham. Whilst not as quiet as the 1.8litre TDCi unit fitted to the Focus and easy to stall when emerging from junctions, it’s otherwise a crushingly competent engine, quick, tractable and almost comically economical. As with all Mondeos, the handling is beyond reproach. Whilst other rivals have made ground on the Ford in terms of interior quality, packaging and engine technology nothing in this class approaches the Mondeo’s ability to tackle a corner.


FORD KA (1996 – TO DATE)

December 2, 2007

If you’ve a problem with those who fold their pyjamas or iron creases in their jeans, the choice of affordable used cars designed to suit your lifestyle is widening. At long last, the car makers have woken up to the fact that for a huge number of us, a car is as much a life statement as a means of transport. And if that sounds obvious, then take a drive around the nearest multi-storey and check out just how much automotive styling has changed over the last 20 years. You’re right. It hasn’t. Or more accurately, it hadn’t. You may want to argue, but it seems clear that Ford’s smallest supermini, the cheekily named Ka, is probably the most innovative thing the industry has produced since the Mini. And not only because its chiselled ‘new-edge design’, daring and innovative inside and out, looks like nothing else on the road. Introduced in the autumn of 1996, it’s now available on the used market but takes some searching out – examples are far harder to find than Ford’s mainstream Fiesta.

When the Ford Ka was launched in October 1996, it was to a collective gasp of surprise from the industry. Few had expected anything quite so radical from normally conservative Ford. The company’s new citycar would slot in below the Fiesta and become a fashion statement. It was offered only with the company’s faithful Endura-E 1.3-litre engine – straight from the Fiesta. In fact, this was the only thing about the car that wasn’t futuristic. Basic Ka and plusher Ka2 models were offered at launch. The Ka2 includes a height-adjustable driver’s seat, rear seat head restraint and, most importantly power steering (the latter feature standardised across the range in 1997 though it can be deleted to order). All versions came with a driver’s airbag, a stereo and tinted glass. An even plusher Ka3 version was announced in June 1997, with alloy wheels, metallic paint, a CD player and air conditioning. You may also come across special editions such as the Ka2-based Green and Copper and the Ka3-based Black introduced in 1999. There was also a garish yellow Millennium version and an upmarket Luxury version. For 2000, the Ka2 was replaced by the Collection available in bright colours with painted bumpers and in 2001 the Ka Now supplanted the Ka1. By late 2001 the trim levels had been revised still further by the addition of the Ka Style and the deletion of the Ka Now. Confused? Well, you could always opt for the basic Ka which had £500 lopped off its price. Bargain. A car only slightly smaller than an ordinary supermini but a lot more fashionable – and much better to drive. The Ka has taken small cars into a new era – pure and simple. Even those who don’t agree that Ka is individual, simple and elegant (and they seem to be in the minority) have to admit that it has a charisma all of its own.

Prices for 96P-reg to 00W-reg variants range between £2,200 and £3,500 – or £2,400-£3,800 for the popular Ka2. The Ka3 is more rare on the used scene but prices start from about £3,000 for the first 1997 ‘R’-reg examples and go up to £4,500 for a 01X. Mainly cosmetic damage (the headlamps in particular aren’t cheap). Watch for tappet noise in the engine and look for patchy paint, poorly fitted doors and rusting spot welds in the door shuts. A landmark small car. If you like the looks, you’ll love it.

(approx) A clutch assembly is around £75. Front brakepads are around £45, a full exhaust about £90, a catalyst about £200 and an alternator (exchange) around £115. A headlamp is about £70. It certainly is a great value used car… or should that be Ka!

The 1.3-litre powerplant, though freshened up for this application, is hardly the last word in engine design and runs out of puff very soon after you begin to rev it. Still, it is torquey, at its best pulling from low speeds around town. It’s also frugal (you can average up to 48mpg). Further compensation comes in the form of superbly controlled ride and handling, reminding you of a much larger car. Packaging is another Ka strongpoint. You wouldn’t believe the amount of oddment space and front legroom that the designers have crammed into the tiny cabin. The sheer size restrictions of a car 210mm shorter than the already compact Fiesta had to catch up with them somewhere however, and as you might imagine, the sacrifices have mainly been made around the two sculpted seats in the rear.


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.