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.



November 9, 2007

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to be a bit superior about the Capri, the model Ford billed as ‘the car you always promised yourself’. Countless gibes about fluffy dice, Carlos Fandango body kits and references to the Capri being something of a Basildon Bullet have been levelled at the pretty coupe over the years but history is coming round to Capri logic. As a serious and successful attempt to combine the disciplines of sports car and family transport, the Capri deserves credit. No fewer than 1,886,648 rolled down various production lines during its entire eighteen-year lifespan but for the purposes of this guide we’ll limit ourselves to the quad headlamped Mk III cars built in Cologne between 1978 and 1987. Well, most of them…

Based on the Capri MkII floorpan, the MkIII model was identified by its smart four-headlamp configuration, restyled bonnet and bigger, ridged rear lights. A more elegant design than that which went before it, the Capri MkIII was initially offered in L (1.3 and 1.6), GL (1.6 and 2.0), S (1.6, 2.0 and 3.0) or Ghia (2.0 and 3.0). The Capri L was something of a duffer. being powered either by a 57bhp 1.2-litre overhead valve engine or a wheezy 72bhp single choke 1.6-litre mill. The rest of the range were far more fun, the 1.6-litre engine being an uprated 91bhp twin choke version whilst the 2.0-litre was good for 101bhp and the torquey 3.0-litre generated an unstressed 138bhp. The S was the trim level of choice, as it included lairy sill decals, checkerboard Carla fabric trim and the all-important rubber spoiler. The Ghia was the luxury model, boasting everything the suburban lounge lizard could aspire to including a mono radio cassette player and a dual tone horn. 1981 was a pivotal year for the Capri. Minority interest models such as the LS and the Calypso and Cameo special editions were launched, but it was the Capri 2.8i that was the big news. With lowered suspension featuring Bilstein dampers, uprated springs and thick anti roll bars the 2.8i meant business. A 160bhp engine provided all the tail-out action you could handle and it became an instant classic, regularly thrashing far more prestigious far in comparison tests. In February 1984 the quite astonishingly bespoilered Tickford Turbo Capri hove into view. Resembling Moby Dick after being coated in Bostik and dragged through your local branch of Ripspeed this 205bhp monster was best described as ‘of its era’. Nevertheless a sprint to 60mph of just 6.5 seconds would keep most contemporary sports coupes honest. This used car will give you ferocious performance! The Capri range was subsequently rationalised until only the 1.6 and 2.0-litre Laser models and the 2.8i remained. The 280 and Brooklands models are collectable last of the line Capri variants launched before the enduring coupe finally shuffled off this mortal coil, to be replaced some years later by the blandly competent nonentity that was the Probe. The Capri was designed from the outset to be a practical coupe. It’s a full four seater, although rear headroom is a touch cramped for taller passengers. The back seats can be folded, together or individually, to optimise luggage space. The overall load length then increases from 37 inches to over 65 inches with a maximum width of more than 52 inches. Folding the Capri’s rear seats boosts total carrying capacity from 9.3 to 22.6 cubic feet. Equipment levels vary wildly depending on which trim level you opt for, and all will seem a great deal more old fashioned than your mind’s eye perhaps recalls. The huge QUARZ (sic) clock that sat at the base of the dashboard surely must have been clunky, even in the seventies!

It’s never easy to quote values for cars this old, so we’ll concentrate solely on the 2.8i. Although bangers are available for £500, if you’re prepared to fork out around £1,800 you will, with perseverance, net a decent 1983 vintage car. Many owners retrofit the late model’s seven spoke wheels, as the early ‘pepperpot’ alloys were never particularly durable. 280 and Brooklands models start at around £4,000 and run well into the realms of silly money depending on how well looked after they’ve been. One 323-mile Brooklands model recently fetched £18,000! You may need car finance for that one! First and foremost, if you’re after a 280 or a Brooklands model, i.e. those that have become collectable, make sure you’re not being sold a pup. Fakes do exist and unscrupulous spanner jockeys can easily lever the prices up by a few thousand with the help of a bit of insider knowledge. Only 1038 Brooklands models were ever produced, so if the chassis plate looks doubtful, walk away. If not, make a note of the chassis number and check it against published identification tables. Check your Capri for rust. The front suspension mounting points, the welded front wings, the A –pillar at the base of the windscreen, the door skins and the monocoque sill sections are all especially prone to metal moth. The inner wheel arch and fuel filler neck can also succumb. The exhaust is quite a costly item, so check that it’s OK. Look for leaks on the rocker cover, the power steering rack gaiters, and the differential. Jack the car up and check for excess play in the steering and wheel bearings, but make sure you don’t jack onto the base of the McPherson strut. An old engine will sound noisy at the head and will smoke badly, especially on the over-run, the tired valve guides letting oil leak into the combustion chambers. The 3.0-litre engine suffers from piston slap and a distinctive rumble from the bottom end when it’s on its way out. The early 2.8i models often suffered high-speed misfires due to a fault in the Bosch fuel injection system. Interiors were surprisingly hardwearing and many keen owners have treated their steeds to a re-trim. The half-leather trim of the 2.8i has proved very durable, certainly far better than the surprisingly feeble Recaro seats that were fitted to the earlier S models. Remember to take the car for a good, long test drive. Good luck. Every car nut owes it to themselves to own a Capri at some point in their life. A clean 2.8-litre model offers outrageous fun per pound. Besides, if somebody sneers, just assume they’ve never heard of post-modernism. And then cover them in a fine blue mist of Duckams Hypergrade.

Capri spares prices are more a case of who you know rather than what you know. Fire up your web browser, locate your local Capri club and post a wanted ad. Alternatively, go to a meeting and be prepared to haggle hard!

The fact that you can still buy renovated Capri track cars with monster American V8 engines should give you a clue as to the enthusiast nature of a Capri. The basic cars were, admittedly, little more than Cortinas in drag, but the 2.8-litre models were a real handful. The live rear axle led to some ‘entertaining’ wet weather handling. If you’ve been brought up on a diet of traction control, anti lock brakes and stability control systems, a Capri 2.8 will be something of a shock. Able to hit 60mph in 7.8 seconds and continue on to 130mph, it’s a quick car even by today’s standards.