Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tale of two Fords

This article comes from my experience with the two Fords that I drove recently.

The first one was KT’s aging Ford Ikon 1.3 Clxi. An 8 year old vehicle, it has still aged pretty gracefully. Not like a Honda or Toyota but still decently. KT doesn’t bother to lock it as he feels no other creature can afford to maintain it or run it. He reckons the body has borne the onslaught of city traffic with a couple of nicks and scrapes; the only thing reliable about this car is mileage. Since day one, it has consistently given 7-8 Km/litre. However, I find a lot of other things built solid as well. I’ll get back to that later but at first let’s have a look at the issues present in the car. The most striking one is the engine dying whenever an attempt to accelerate above 2000rpm is made. Usually, this happens in 2nd gear. I suspect that in all probability there’s a problem with the fuel lines or the delivery system. High revving proves that the filters are just fine.

Nevertheless, the engine sounds just fine. Another impressive thing to note is the rear suspension. Hyundais, Marutis: as reliable they may be; or Opels: as German as they want to be: cannot match the robustness of a Ford. Just recall all the aging Astras, Esteems, Accents you may have seen with a funny bent rear. A lot I’m sure. Load them a lot and the suspension takes a hit with time. Yet, KT’s Ford stood proudly: upright and attentive.

The second one was the Ford Fiesta 1.6. Relatively new; having served just 2 years, the expectations were high. And the moment I switched on the engine, a racy note greeted me. A marked improvement over its predecessor 1.6L (found on Ikon 1.6 and the old Fusion) instills a lot of excitement. Brilliant: beyond doubt. Torque could have been improvised as the acceleration still could improve to live up to the 101 horses. You have to think for a moment before touching the accelerator. The car pounces forward. With the superbly distributed weight, it seems all the more spectacular accelerating.

Now the problems started. The steering seemed to have a mind of it’s own. Sudden jerks tried to turn it by a degree or two. I know that’s hardly anything but this can be very painful on long drives. You could make out the rack and pinion system meshing on the teeth. Fluid leak? Electronic over assist? Can’t nail the problem.. The lights are operated by a knob rather than a switch. This has been very smartly hidden on the little space between the right of the steering column and the driver’s door. Dropping sarcasm for a while, I wonder why something so necessary needs to be so impractical. The label also said ‘hey! I have ABS!’ But in spite of all my efforts, I was unable to find the switch to disable it.

I suggested that the steering column be checked at the dealership and I see faces smiles morphing to frowns. Ford dealerships are a rarity in any city. Quality of service is not up to the mark and the whole affair is mighty expensive. Owners are also not happy that why after so many years in India has Ford failed to adapt to the right hand side drive? The indicators are on the right panel. Does it prove Ford’s apathy towards local markets? The Japs are ready to rebuild the instrument cluster for the Americans Nissans & Toyotas, then why can’t Americans serve the Asians better?

Point proven. Fords may not be necessarily reliable or top notch on the quality front. Yet, I love Ford. Not sure if I’d like to own one but I certainly respect it a lot. Hard to explain. It’s a lot of factors coming together: the history, the Mustang, value for money and the durability. Some might question the durability so let me be specific: I love the durability of the vital components that make a car. Both the Fords discussed here had superb engines and chassis. However, they were let down by other components. The real substance of a car is what Ford focuses on. Solid build, weight, apt cornering, well mated tyres are an integral part of the Ford DNA. Ford Mondeo: though a flop, is still considered the ultimate driving machine in the second hand market.

That is why I am confident that of the Detroit’s big-3, Ford will be the first to bounce back. While GM cars are feature intensive, they have to work a lot harder to get their engines right. Remember the Opel Corsa, the Aveo and even the new Captiva? Harsh engines screaming for refinement..

So here’s wishing the new Fiesta, the Figo and the new Focus platform the very best. May we see a lot of blue ovals in the near future.


  1. Dude.. You should be either in Top-Gear or in some other Indian Automobile show.. What level of detail and insight.. Wrong Profession I say.. Will say no more..

  2. wow.... u made my mind clear!!!

  3. Awesome yaar :-) :-) that's some great insight :-)