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 MAVERICK (1993-1997)

December 3, 2007

The Maverick was one Ford that British buyers never really took to their hearts. It was certainly late to the 4×4 party which started in the early Nineties. Perhaps they never forgave it for that. More likely, however, a lack of image was to blame. Not even the most optimistic of Ford dealers could pretend that this was any kind of Range Rover. The sensible ones concentrated on its more hidden virtues; a rugged build, surprisingly good off road ability and a proven reliability record. These attributes make it a good prospect as a secondhand buy. And despite the fact that relatively few were sold, prices are attractive on the used market.

The Maverick was introduced in June 1993 as a joint venture with Nissan. In fact, to be more accurate, Nissan did all the work and Ford put up the cash. The feel of the car was therefore, not surprisingly, very Japanese, it didn’t help in this respect that most of the interior fittings came straight from a Nissan Primera. Right from the beginning, its identical twin, Nissan’s Terrano II, outsold the Ford handsomely due to sharper pricing and a superior warranty. Both cars shared the same engines – either a 122bhp 2.4-litre petrol unit or a noisy and sluggish 100bhp 2.7-litre turbo diesel. There was the option of either three or five-door bodystyles and you could have either of two trim levels – base and GLX. Two years later, in May 1995, the car came in for its first round of cosmetic prettying (a chrome bar was added to the front grille). The base model was re-named the Aspen and received a canvas spare wheel cover, electric windows and powered/heated door mirrors. The GLX had new seat material, an engine immobiliser and a leather-covered steering wheel. A driver’s airbag was added to both in October 1995. More significant improvements followed in June 1996 when the car was given a heavily chromed front end (supposed to engender ‘an American look’). The 2.4-litre petrol engine was ecologically tweaked, while the 2.7TD got a welcome 25bhp power hike. The Maverick was gradually phased out of production during the first half of 1998 but there were a lot of cars in stock and you’ll find a few on 99S plates. A decent family workhorse. The interior is just like that of any family hatchback. The trim quality is well up to standard and everything falls to hand easily. All the major bits and pieces of equipment are in evidence. On a GLS for example, you’ll find alloy wheels, central locking, a powered sunroof, fog lamps, headlamp washers, electric front windows and heated mirrors. Having said all that, there’s little of the class you’d expect in an up-market family saloon. Hard plastic is everywhere. Still, it’s practical. So is the reliability; Mavericks have a reputation for failing to break down – something many Vauxhall Frontera owners would kill for.

Broadly, the turbo diesel models are worth about £500 more than their petrol counterparts. The earliest 1993 L-reg base 3-door models start at around £2,800 (or £3,200 for the GLX). Add a premium of around £400 if you want a five rather than a three-door. For one of the 1995 first facelift cars (recognisable by the single chrome strip across the front grille), you’ll pay from around £4,100. Second facelift cars (with the fully chromed grille) from June 1996 onwards start from about £5,700. As with any used 4×4, check for signs of heavy off-road use. Few Mavericks will have done any more than mount a grass verge but you can never be too careful. Oil leaks and worn rear shock absorbers have been known. Apparently, some TDs suffered from a vibration in the gearbox area which required a special clutch assembly. If you sense this to be a problem on the test drive, find out if it has been done. And on the subject of turbo diesels, try and stretch to the post-1996 car if you can. Otherwise, resign yourself to the slow lane. The Maverick makes far more sense secondhand than it ever did new. A reasonably priced one is well worth having.

(approx based on 1995 2.4) As you might expect from a Ford, parts are plentiful – but in the case of this model, they’re not particularly cheap. A clutch assembly is around £215. Front brake pads are around £55, a rear exhaust about £55, a catalyst about £760 and an alternator around £230. A headlamp is about £80.

It doesn’t sway about like most 4x4s and holds the road better. What’s more, you can drive it like a car, even when towing a two-tonne trailer. The Maverick is a quieter and much more refined used car than most of its contemporaries. As already mentioned, the original 2.7TD engine is rather slow but that apart, the Maverick is reasonably driver-friendly. Though the car is obviously not designed as an out-and-out mud-plugger, it’s quite competent enough off road to stay with its illustrious rivals over any ploughed field or icy slope. Beyond that, you’d have to concede best to the more accomplished (and expensive) off roaders in the class. Having said that, what’s the point in paying for all that extra mud-plugging ability if you’re not going to use it? What would be useful is the option to use 4WD over reasonably fast road use for peace of mind in slippery conditions. Still, there is a limited slip differential to keep the wheels from spinning too much. Once you’re on the dirt, you can reach for the second gearshift lever to bring full-time 4WD into play. At that point, you must choose between high and low ratios depending on the conditions and suddenly, particularly in turbo diesel form, the impressive low down pulling power of the engine comes into its own.


FORD MAVERICK (2001-2003)

December 2, 2007

The Maverick was one Ford that British buyers never really took to their hearts. It was certainly late to the 4×4 party. Perhaps they never forgave it for that. More likely, however, a lack of image was to blame. Not even the most optimistic of Ford dealers could pretend that this was any kind of Range Rover. The sensible ones concentrated on its more hidden virtues; a rugged build, surprisingly good off road ability and a proven reliability record. These attributes make it a good prospect as a secondhand buy. And despite the fact that relatively few were sold, prices are attractive on the used market. These words were in fact the introduction to a model guide on the previous generation Maverick introduced in 1993. Eight years down the line they apply equally to the Series II model. British buyers, it seemed, could countenance a Ford supermini or family hatch but anything that resembled a 4×4 was consistently shunned. This represents a pity, as owners discovered the Maverick to be a machine with more than a few redeeming features.

Whereas the first generation Maverick was introduced as a joint venture with Nissan, the Series II version was developed with Mazda, another Japanese company but in this instance one that Ford had developed a controlling interest in. The Mazda Tribute and the Ford Maverick were offered side by side in many countries, but here in the UK Ford pulled rank and had a clear four months run at the market before the Tribute appeared in August 2001. The job was complicated by the fact that between the inception of the Series 2 Maverick project and it arriving on sale, Ford had founded the Premier Auto Group, a key component of which is Land Rover. The Maverick had suddenly become a car that was utterly redundant. What was the point in spending money promoting a car that was competing against – and if Ford were honest with themselves – didn’t stand a chance of muscling out the market leader, the Land Rover Freelander? And so it proved. Promotion for the Maverick was very low key and customer take-up was similarly underwhelming. No diesel version was ever offered and more modern rivals soon extinguished what little spark of interest surrounded the Maverick, leaving it to wither on the vine. The Maverick quietly disappeared from the pricelists towards the end of 2003. Despite its platform being shred by Mazda, the target market for the Maverick soon becomes apparent when you climb inside. The plastic slab of dashboard betrays the Ford’s US-bias more than anything else, the column-mounted automatic gearbox on the 3.0-litre car being probably the least happy aspect of the vehicle, hunting between gears and with detents on the shift that make it difficult to just drop straight into Drive. It’s also something of a shame that it’s only possible to lock the Maverick into first, second and top (fourth) gear, as third would be the ideal gear to take advantage of the Maverick’s surprisingly agility. As we’ve alluded to, the interior, though well equipped, probably won’t impress those with an eye for aesthetics. Everything works, seems well placed and well thought through, and yet feels drab, cheap and uninspiring. Interior space and luggage space is well up to the mark, the Maverick is longer than many rivals, evidence of which is instantly apparent the moment you throw the tailgate open. The rear seat is something of a shapeless bench, but the space available is excellent. Both models get ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution which works staggeringly well, plus air conditioning and an electric sunroof. The V6 also features cruise control, leather seats and an astonishingly ugly six-disc in dash CD player. It’s also the only vehicle in its class to feature side airbags and second-generation dual front air bags as standard. The exterior styling works well in a modest way. Ford were trying for a tough functional appearance and they’ve hit the spot whilst taking a big dip into the bin of generic 4×4 styling cues. The upshot of this is that unless you know what you’re looking for, the Ford Maverick won’t catch your eye, looking as it does like a morphed together rendering of a Freelander and a Honda CR-V. Nevertheless, in offending nobody and excelling in a number of areas, the Maverick, badged the Escape across the pond, notched up 75,000 orders in its first three months on sale. Few of these new owners will be disappointed with their purchase. Whilst the Maverick isn’t perfect, it’s the sheer honesty of the thing that generates a feeling of partiality towards it. How many times have we heard manufacturers of 4x4s claim that their offering drives like a car, only to find that the car they were using as a reference point would probably have failed an MoT on collapsed shocks? The Maverick is a refreshing exception to this rule, and the V6 in particular gives the Ford a level of on-road utility that few rivals could ever dream of.

Prices start at around £12,600 for a 2001 Y plated 2.0-litre XLT model with a 3.0-litre version of the same vintage retailing at just under £13,800. Insurance is decidedly reasonable; the 2.0-litre car rated at Group 9 and the torquey 3.0-litre version at Group 12. The Maverick is a rugged beast; certainly a good deal more so than many of its compact 4×4 rivals. No mechanical gremlins have been reported, as both the engines are well-respected units. Inspect the underside of the used car for off-roading damage to the exhaust, driveshaft and wheelarches if you suspect that the previous owner was one of the 7% who Ford claimed would take their cars off the blacktop and engage all-wheel drive. Although its still a little early to start banging the drum for the Series II Maverick as a genuine used bargain, the steady residuals show that owners rate them highly. It may not be the most chic of 4x4s in this fashion conscious corner of the market, but a used Maverick makes a versatile workhorse.

(approx based on 2001 2.0) In common with most Fords you’ll find parts plentiful, but in this instance they’re not particularly cheap. A clutch assembly is around £195. Front brake pads are around £55, a rear exhaust about £75, and an alternator around £200. A headlamp is about £115. Don’t visit a Mazda dealer for cheap parts as you’ll find they’re a bit pricier.

Due to its one-piece body construction and independent suspension, mention of which would have off-road purists shuddering, the Ford Maverick is the best of the current generation of compact 4x4s when it comes to blacktop behaviour. The Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Land Rover Freelander never get close to the taut, lively feel of the Maverick. It’s a testament to how far Ford have progressed in terms of ride and handling in recent years that perhaps the biggest compliment you could level at the Maverick is that it feels like a typical Ford to drive. This means a body that’s resistant to roll, deft yet safe handling all backed up by sharp and lively steering. The 194bhp 3.0-litre engine feels throaty and powerful, certainly a good deal quicker than its 10-second sprint to 60mph would suggest. In normal conditions, 100% of the drive is directed to the front wheels, resulting in an average fuel consumption figure of 22mpg. The 118 bhp four cylinder 2.0 litre unit shared with the Mondeo is better if fuel economy is a concern, averaging around 32mpg in give and take conditions. If any slip from the front wheels is detected, the Control Trac II system comes into play, a rotary blade coupling governs the proportion of drive sent to the rear wheels. If things get really slippery, a button on the dash locks the coupling, directing an even 50:50 proportion of drive to the front and rear wheels. If things get slipperier still, it’s probably time to start looking for a nearly new Discovery.
bjkl09uy


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 GRANADA (1985-1994)

December 1, 2007

Looking for a big car on a small budget? Then you’ll probably already know where to look first. Ford’s Granada offers a lot of car for the money – no question if you are looking for cheap used cars. Nor is there any lack of choice. The Granada was replaced by the questionably styled Scorpio. In its heyday, however, a trip along Britain’s motorways could easily have convinced you that the blue oval’s flagship was Britain’s best selling car. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, a Granada was a mark of faithful service for the middle management reps whose daily task was to pound around round to Potters Bar. A mild (or not so mild according to model) pat on the back for years of successful sales targets. Even today, Henry’s big saloon is a common sight. However, the drivers at the wheel are second-hand buyers who’ve bought into big car motoring for supermini money.

The ‘rounded shape’ Granada, with its flush-fitting glass, made its debut in 1985, a large five-door car with a huge interior. Initially, the engine line-up was unremarkable; underpowered 1.8 and 2.0-litre four cylinder units; 2.4 and 2.9-litre V6s. Plus a nasty, noisy 2.5-litre diesel. The 1.8 and 2.4-litre variants didn’t last long fortunately, and the carburettor 2.0-litre gave way to a fuel-injected engine of similar size in 1990, when a saloon was also added to the line-up. There was also a 4×4 option on 2.9-litre models, which lasted between 1987 and 1990. At the beginning of 1992, design specialists IAD masterminded a restyle which actually looked quite handsome. An estate was also announced at the same time and a 2.5-litre turbo diesel launched a year later. The range was replaced by the bug-eyed Scorpio (essentially a Granada with new nose, tail and cabin styling) in 1994 but you’ll find lots of 1995-registered Granadas about. A rather dowdy image but a lot of car. Arguably, the later Granadas were pretty good looking; they were certainly huge inside and very well equipped. The major drawback is the fuel consumption and high insurance premiums.

Granadas are uncomplicated cars – but that doesn’t mean that you won’t end up with a rogue example if you’re not very careful. The car has been around long enough on the used market for many cars to have gone through two or three owners. The more rounded Granada was introduced in 1985, initially only as a five-door, and vehicles from this era are priced very much on individual mileage and condition these days. You best bet is to go for the latest model possible. Prices for a 1993 K-plate 2.0-litre LX start at £800, while a 1994 M-plate Executive Estate with the same engine will be £1,100. A 2.5-litre turbo diesel from 1994 will be in the region of £1,600 and the last of the thirsty 2.9-litre petrol engined models cost around £2,000 on a 1995 M-plate. Avoid 1.8-litre and early 2.0-litre petrol cars and the normally aspirated diesel. Look out for ex-police cars and ex-taxis. The estate models are so large that many tradesmen use them instead of vans. Steer clear of high mileage examples; the odometer might lie but sagging driver’s seats and shiny steering wheel rims won’t. A lot of car for not a lot of money. If image, manoeuvrability and fuel consumption aren’t an issue, you couldn’t do much better.

(approx based on a Granada 2.9 V6) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly is around £90. Front dampers are in the region of £40 each and a set of rears around £55 each. Front brake pads are around £40, a full exhaust about £200, a catalyst about £250 (plus a £10 surcharge for the old unit) and an alternator around £150. A starter motor is just over £160 (plus a £30 surcharge for the old unit), a front wing about £115, a door mirror is around £70 and a tail lamp is about £50. A headlamp is about £160 (for vehicles with an additional beam), a radiator is about £130 (plus a £10 surcharge for the old unit) and a windscreen is around £120.

On the road, the big Ford handles pretty well for a car of its size – though potholes can be a little unsettling for it. The steering, though a little light at first, builds in ‘feel’ as your speed rises enabling the car to be hustled along with surprising pace if the need arises. Neither the two-litre or the 12-valve V6 versions are exactly balls of fire – but do more than enough to satisfy the likely demands of potential owners, the V6 reaching rest from sixty in 11.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of some 122mph. More importantly perhaps, the big Ford is user-friendly. Behind the wheel, everything falls to hand easily. In the rear passenger compartment, head and leg room remain unmatched by any contemporary rival.


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.