it looks pretty good i reakon, it will have to be cos i have heard the new barina is not bad (for that kind of car)
as for the focus, it would be awesome to have it in the regular line-up but i doubt that will happen for a while. Why the hell tickford doesn't import the new focus rs is beyond me. Im sure there are geaps of people who would want one. If I had a choice between the current T series are the RS, I would get the focus no worries. If you asked me that question in October the answer might be different.
Whats going on with the laser though...the sedan version looks crap...the hatch looks kinda like the focus....bring back the turbo TX3 I say!
Anyone else think that there's a little bit of Honda Civicneshness about those bug-eyed headlights?
If it's affordable and looks like that, then yes, I too think it would be a winner. Good looks, however, won't matter much if it's too expensive. And that's probably the main reason we won't get it unless it's assembled in Japan.
I haven't heard anything about a common platform at the moment for the 323/Focus/laser Aussie Falcon, but I have heard that they are looking to assemble the Focus in Japan for the asiapacific market.
If the car that comes out is called a Laser, but it's actually a Focus underneath, that would work just fine for me.
But the Laser is a nice piece of design work - it is a nice looking little car. If it had more Oomph behind it beyond the SR2 badge I think we'd grow to like it more.
Get used to this face – you'll be seeing it a lot more in a few months. The wraps are at last off Ford's new Fiesta, a car guaranteed a place at the top of the sales charts as soon as it hits the showrooms.
The new version of the UK's favourite small model isn't due to be officially unveiled until the Frankfurt Motor Show in three weeks' time, and won't hit the showrooms until March. But Auto Express was granted access to the blue oval's top-secret design studio to bring you this exclusive picture and the full story on the most important car launch this year.
Codenamed B256, the Fiesta will initially be launched only as a five-door, with the three-door – B257 – not slated for production until November 2002. It's the five-door which will be the 'big' seller, though – and we're talking about size as well as sales. At 3,920mm it is the biggest Fiesta ever, gaining 89mm in length over the current model, 49mm in width and 97mm in height. The all-new body has clear styling cues taken from the rest of the Ford range, with wheelarches borrowed from the Focus, and a rear end reminiscent of the Mondeo estate's. But despite the family resemblance, the Fiesta has its own style born of interior packaging necessities.
The new Fiesta was designed from the outset to have enough room for five adults and their luggage. It's the rear that sees the greatest increase, though – kneeroom has been increased by 60mm and headroom is actually the same as in the back of a Galaxy MPV. Ford also realised the rear doors needed to be big enough to load not only adults, but items such as child seats and luggage with the bench folded. The result is squarer rear openings that negate the need to stoop when getting in.
Unlike with some smaller rivals, the extra room in the passenger compartment has not been created at the expense of the boot. A capacity of 285 litres with the seat raised and parcel shelf in place may not be class-leading, but Ford says that it concentrated on overall usability rather than space.
Fold the seats forward – without having to remove the head restraints – and the load area becomes even more practical. By relocating the suspension springs into a horizontal position under the floor, the width between the turrets has been increased to a huge 980mm.
But don't worry if the Fiesta isn't big enough for you: Ford will offer yet another choice to small car buyers in the form of the Urban Activity Vehicle. This B226 model, revealed six weeks ago in Auto Express, has an MPV-like cabin flexibility and 'lifestyle' options including a shower! Another variant, the B226 Plus due for launch in September 2002, will offer off-roader styling and even more seating options.
But the Fiesta's larger shell doesn't solely mean more space – it will also help the car maintain the existing model's reputation as class leader in terms of ride, handling and driver appeal. Despite the all-new structure, the basic chassis architecture is the same, with a twist beam at the rear and MacPherson struts at the front. But several changes will improve the dynamics.
With increased distance between the wheels to give the widest 'footprint' in the class, stability and ride have both improved. In addition, the new shell is far stiffer, making a solid foundation on which to build a suspension system. The entire range will have 14-inch wheels as standard, although 15 and 16-inchers will be offered as cost-options.
When setting class benchmarks, engineers studied rivals but decided they would rather look to their own model in the sector above – the Focus. If the final dynamics are anything like those of the Fiesta's award-winning brother, small car buyers are certainly in for a treat.
Designers also acknowledged that it is impossible to enjoy driving unless you are comfortable, so have paid particular attention to the ergonomics. The taller stance means the seating position is 45mm higher than currently, but it's still very comfortable without the van-like feel of some tall-bodied rivals.
The controls' reach and positioning have been designed to suit a wide variety of drivers, and a selection of Ford employees were drafted in to try it for size. Besides having multi-adjustments which allowed these 'guinea pigs' to get comfortable, changes include a gearlever which has been stretched by 95mm. Unlike in the Mondeo, the Fiesta's cabin gets an all-new audio system, which has been bolted in place to make theft impossible without destroying the entire dash. Navigation and a built-in phone will be offered as options, while air-conditioning and climate control will be standard on high-spec models. Ford has also paid great attention to getting the right interior look and feel, with metal trim and a variety of colours which bear more than a passing resemblance to class-leading VW Group products...
Underneath that smart trim the Fiesta is packed with the latest safety features. With crashworthiness being used as a main selling point by rival Renault, Ford has made sure its newcomer can beat the Clio, the class leader in safety terms. Careful attention to the structure means heavy impacts are absorbed throughout the entire car, yet low-speed accidents can be repaired cheaply by replacing smaller parts – so reducing insurance costs. There are, of course, plenty of airbags – up to six will be available including dual-stage front bags which vary strength of deployment according to the size of the smash. Full 'curtain' inflatable structures will protect in rollover or side impacts. Ford is sure the Fiesta will get a class-leading four-star rating in the NCAP crash test, but sadly a third three-point rear belt is available only at extra cost, and back headrests are kept for high-spec cars.
However, the firm isn't playing safe with the engines. Base models will be powered by a Duratec 1.3 – a heavily revised version of the ancient 8v unit used in the outgoing Fiesta and Ka. Producing 65bhp and 108Nm, it's been reworked for better low-down torque and economy, but the 16.0-second 0-60mph time and 99mph top speed don't impress, even in this market.
Next in the petrol line-up is the 1.4-litre Duratec 16v – expected to be the range's biggest seller. Identical to the unit seen in the Focus, it produces 80bhp, can hit 60mph in 13.5 seconds and goes on to 103mph. Combined fuel economy is claimed to be 46mpg.
At the top of the range – until the 2.0-litre ST150 appears in 2003 – is the 1.6, again borrowing its engine from the Focus. This 100bhp motor gives figures of 10.8 seconds for the 0-60mph sprint and 115mph, while returning an average of 42.8mpg. If this isn't frugal enough for you, there is a new diesel, too. The Duratorq TDCi, a 1.4-litre four-cylinder, is the first product of a joint venture with Peugeot-Citroen, and will also be used in the 206 and C3. The hi-tech common-rail unit is 50 per cent lighter than the 1.8-litre normally aspirated Lynx motor currently used in the Fiesta. It is also 20 per cent more fuel efficient giving 62.8mpg, but power output falls from 74 to 68bhp and it's slower, too. Yet it is said to be light years ahead in terms of refinement, and an 89bhp TDCi version is currently in development.
Three transmission options will be available, but initially only a five-speed manual will be offered, followed by a sequential shifter. The latter is similar to the Vauxhall Corsa's Easytronic and will debut in the three-door in late 2002. A CVT auto with a 1.6-litre engine will appear shortly after launch.
By offering more choice than ever in terms of engines, gearboxes, trim levels and bodystyles, the new Fiesta is sure to appeal to a wider audience. Add dynamics which promise to match the excellence of the Focus and Mondeo, and it's clear that the baby Ford, in all its guises, deserves to continue as Britain's best-loved supermini.
Ford's new baby may lack the visual impact of a Ka or Focus, but it is certain to hit rivals hard. It's set to be the most spacious, comfortable and practical car in its class, with unbeatable safety. Engineers also promise even better dynamics than the current model – a car whose ride and handling have yet to be beaten! We must wait until the end of the year to see if they're right but, on paper at least, it seems like the Fiesta's on track to keep its place at the top of the supermini league