FORD SCORPIO (1994 – 1998)

December 5, 2007

To put it mildly, Ford’s Scorpio was one of the more unusual executive offerings of recent years. Its styling couldn’t have been more different from the conservative looks of the car it replaced, the dear old Granada. Certainly, it took both buyers and competitors in the boardroom sector by surprise. Whether this ‘blend for the Nineties’ was successful depends on who you speak to. Ford executives always maintained that production was sold out for months ahead, but were always unwilling to specify what the production level actually was. Below what Ford of Europe would have liked it to be, certainly. But that market uncertainty is good news for today’s second-hand buyer. Regardless of what you think of the looks, the Scorpio drives brilliantly and prices are tempting.

The Scorpio was introduced in October 1994, replacing the much-loved Granada as Ford’s executive flagship. Its unusual looks caused an instant furore not helped by the fact that no one at Ford admitted overall responsibility for creating them. Don’t be confused, by the way, by the new look Scorpio and the Scorpio level of specification available for top-line versions of the previous Granada. Early models were offered with a choice of four main petrol powerplants – a 2.0-litre ‘four’ – offered in either 8v or 16v forms – and both 12v and 24v versions of the 2.9-litre V6. There was also a 2.5-litre turbo diesel. Executive, Ghia and Ultima trim levels were all offered. In August 1996, the handling was improved and the range rationalised. Trim levels were now known as Ghia, Ghia X and Ultima but more significantly, a new 2.3-litre 16v engine (developed, like the 24v V6, by Cosworth) added to the range. Ford fiercely defended those unusual looks all through the car’s life but bowed to public pressure in early 1998 by reducing the amount of chrome around the bodywork. You’ll notice these rare cars by their body-coloured front grille surrounds, darkened headlights and the saloon’s restyled tail lights. The Scorpio was gradually phased out during the second half of 1998. A rather dowdy image, but a lot of car. Basically, it drives better than it looks. Scorpios always cruised well on the motorway and with the chassis improvements introduced in 1996, they also handled the twisty stuff pretty well too. The estate version is huge – but doesn’t have the option of a third row of seats. Equipment levels are high and maintenance is cheap for this used car.

Those controversial looks haven’t helped the car’s values on the used market and you may find good examples of the final ’94 and ’95 Granadas priced higher than the equivalent Scorpios. Though some dealers persist with hopeful Scorpio sticker prices, the majority of cars you’ll find – if you shop around – are fine value for money. By and large, the advice has to be to steer clear of the underpowered entry-level 2.0-litre 8v models in Executive spec. The better 16v models start at about £1,800 in Executive form on a 94M-plate and run up to just over £2,700 for 96P-reg examples. Better, if you can afford it to go for the Cosworth-engineered 2.3-litre model introduced in 1996. Prices start at around £3,000 for an entry-level Ghia and go all the way up to about £5,000 for a 98S Ultima automatic estate. Or you could have a 2.9-litre V6. The 12v models are undistinguished; try for the road-burning Cosworth-engineered 24v (from around £2,000 on a 94M-plate in Executive form). Finally, there was a turbo diesel which now costs around £2,000 on a 95M plate. Though all the figures here quoted are for Executive spec, it’s better to pay the £200-£300 or so extra it will cost to graduate to Ghia spec if you can. Ghia X and Ultima spec lie above this. And estates? Add a premium of around £200-£400 in each case. Avoid lack-lustre 2.0-litre and 12v V6 models and spurn the Executive trim level (look around and you’ll always find a plusher Ghia for not much more). Be careful if you’re buying a turbo diesel to make sure that it isn’t a high mileage ex-taxi. Check for signs of ‘clocking’. Avoid manual four-cylinder models – they’ll be difficult to sell on. Look out for clattery 2.0-litres and smoky V6s. 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. Watch out for sticking throttle assemblies due to the Scorpio’s wide front grille collecting too much road muck. Finally, ensure that all the electrical gadgets work – they’ll be pricey to put right. In the final analysis, Ford’s flagship is certainly good enough to win over buyers on its own merits. If you doubt that, try a Scorpio against, say a Rover 800, and you’ll realise that the men of the blue oval produce the better product. Even against more illustrious competition, the car still has a significant amount to offer, especially if all you really need is comfort, refinement and pace. And that styling? Well, it’s a matter of personal opinion of course. For what it’s worth, you have to admire Ford for having the courage to produce such a radical design. If nothing else, it should enable you to discover whether conservatism still reigns in suburbia’s driveways.

(approx based on 1995 2.0 8V excl VAT) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Front brakepads are around £30, a full exhaust about £620 (inc Catalyst). A headlamp ranges from about £145-240 and a windscreen is around £319.

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. The 24v V6 is really quick but the pick of the range is the 2.3-litre ‘four’, introduced in 1996. This was the most refined Ford four-cylinder engine ever made, silent when cruising but with a rather exciting growl under heavy acceleration. Pulling power and ultimate speed are excellent, with rest to sixty occupying 9.2s on the way to 130mph. You may be pleasantly surprised at the excellence of the interior, supremely comfortable and ergonomically satisfactory. In places, the quality of plastics isn’t of the best, but there’s lots of wood to compensate which, allied with the leather upholstery, gives the cabin a wonderfully opulent atmosphere. Under its distinctive suit of clothes, the Scorpio is still a Granada at heart, which means that there’s still acres of space for rear seat passengers. The seat cushions don’t adjust like the plushest rivals, but then, they’re so well angled, hugging around you like your favourite armchair, that you don’t really need them too.

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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 FIESTA RS TURBO (1990-1992)

November 20, 2007

As an example of the excesses of the bygone ‘hot hatch’ age, Ford’s Fiesta RS Turbo from the early Nineties is typical. The car only lasted a couple of years on the market and in that time, many were written off – most were thrashed. This was an affordable little Ford with Porsche-like punch. Those who could tame the peaky turbo and the wayward handling under acceleration loved them. And the same is true today.

Back in 1990, we were in the grip of the boy racer age. A ‘hot hatch’ was the thing for the up and coming to have – and the faster the better. Hence the creation in the Third Generation Fiesta of the RS Turbo. Theoretically, it was only available from specially appointed Ford RS dealers but in practice, you could pretty much buy it anywhere. Powered by a potent 1.6-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine developing 132bhp, it was blindingly quick – dangerously so in the wrong hands. The transmission was lifted from an Escort RS Turbo and the suspension was beefed up to match a sexy-looking set of RS alloy wheels and a bodykit. Inside, you had Recaro seats, a sunroof, electric windows and central locking. Only a three-door version was offered. The handling lacked the subtlety of the then class favourite, Peugeot’s 205 GTi and, in February1992, the car was replaced by the normally-aspirated Fiesta RS1800. A cheap but frantically fast runabout with Fiesta practicality and Ford ease of maintenance, makes this a cracking cheap used car!

Prices start at around £2,000 for the earliest 90H-registered cars, rising to about £3,000 for the last of the J-registered models. Accident damage. Look closely for bodged repair jobs and look for signs of theft. Steer clear of lurid extra body kits or paint jobs. Particularly avoid ‘tweaked’ examples, however tempted you are by the extra performance. A fun buy if you can find a good one – but take your time and look carefully. There are many rogue examples about.

(approx inc VAT) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £110 while front brake pads are around £20. A replacement headlamp is close to £80 and a full exhaust is about £130. A windscreen is about £150.

The Fiesta RS Turbo is a pocket rocket – no doubt about it. Mid-range acceleration is awesome. Thanks to the standard limited slip differential, it grips like a leech too. You just need to be wary of the inevitable torque steer when that turbo cuts in. Not for the inexperienced, especially in slippery conditions.


FORD FIESTA (1989 – 1995)

November 18, 2007

A small car for people who don’t like small cars. That’s how Ford have marketed their evergreen supermini, the Fiesta. In its current guise, the slogans are justified – this is the best handling car in its class. Previous Ford Fiestas, however, have had to rely on more basic virtues. Still, these have usually proved enough. Ford’s entry-level small car has remained a first choice for Britain’s private buyers since 1990. Now that the smaller but trendier Ka is selling well, the market is awash with even more good quality used Fiestas.

The Fiesta has had a long and fairly complicated evolution that goes back to the Seventies. The models dealt with here are the Third generation cars (the first shape to offer a five-door option) dating from April 1989 to mid-1995. These cars are called Mark III and had a selection of existing and updated engines. Base model cars used 1.0 and 1.1-litre engines. A new 1.3 appeared in late 1991. There was also a 1.4 and even a fuel-injected 1.6 for the XR2i. Other sporty models included the RS Turbo (notable for its multitude of fog and driving lights) and the manic RS1800i – a real boy racer. A 1.8-litre diesel and automatic versions with both 1.1 and 1.3-litre petrol engines completed the line-up. Choose a good one and you should get reliable transport that can be easily DIY maintained for sensible money. The third generation cars lack the class-leading handling of the later models but are nevertheless an acceptable drive by the standards of their day. Basic models tend to be just that but from LX upwards little niceities like tinted glass and a sunroof appear while the Ghia has central locking and electric windows. Look after one of these popular cars and it should sell on easily when the time comes to buy a new car.

Acceptable 89F Fiesta will be few and far between your best bet is to go for the latest model that you can afford. Taking 95-M platers as a benchmark, you’ll pay £1,100 for an entry level 1.1-litre Azura 3-door with the 5-door going for £50 more. The more powerful 1.3-litre in LX trim will be around £1,200 on the same plate and a 1.4-litre Si costs from £1,300. Then there’s the 1.6-litre models – £1,500 for the Si and £1,600 for the 5-door only Ghia. A quick 1.8-litre RS model will cost £1,800. Finally, a 1.8-litre diesel will cost from £1,200 on the 95M plate and that will be for entry-level Azura trim. Engines are, on the whole, reliable, but watch for signs of wear, particularly on 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6s. Excess smoke on start-up is a give-away. The cam-belt needs to be replaced every 30,000 miles on the older ‘CVH’ 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines as it may break and lead to very expensive repairs. Rust can be a minor problem on some cars as build quality varied quite a bit on the earlier models. Check the bottom of the doors, boot, front valance and the bonnet’s leading edge. Water leaking through the sunroof and boot also affected some early cars so have a look for staining on the headlining and boot carpet. The modern looking third generation Fiesta (post-`89) is a good all-rounder – no question about that. Arguably, it’s the best little small car on the market if you take into account that huge dealer network, those cheap part prices and the vast choice offered at affordable prices.

(approx based on a 1993 Fiesta 1.4 CFi) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £75 and an alternator should be close to £100. Brake pads are around £25 a set, a replacement headlamp is close to £50 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £40. A full exhaust is about £80 and a catalyst is about £200. A starter motor around is around £90, front wing is around £60, a windscreen about £70, a tail lamp about £30 and a catalyst about £200. Front dampers are around £55 each and rears around £50 each.

The ’89 to ’95 Fiesta, unlike the later models, didn’t set the world on fire with class-leading handling. It was competent, safe and predictable to drive but not really much fun unless, perhaps, you were behind the wheel of the more sporting versions. Still, the mainstream engines pulled well and the dashboard and controls were well laid out.