Tag Archive | "Ford"

Ford B-Max Mini MPV Review: A Good Car for the Money

What do you get when you cross the Ford Fiesta platform with the size and the styling of the Ford Focus? The B-Max Mini MPV, Ford’s strongest entry in the European minivan market. The B-Max was originally introduced as a concept car at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show as a way to display the company’s revolutionary B3 platform. It has done very well since being introduced to the consumer market in 2012.

The 2015 B-Max is everything you would expect from this car, and then some. Its strongest selling point for families is a combination of its price point and practicality. You get a lot for your money with the B-Max, although you will probably not win any style points for driving a sleek and sexy sport sedan. That is why the B-Max is really designed for families with young kids.

A bonus for families is that used versions of the B-Max are available through manufacturer-approved schemes such as Ford Direct. Choosing one that is a model a year or two older is yet another way to get an excellent car for not a lot of money.

The Positives

We like the B-Max, first and foremost because it answers one of the most annoying features of most minivans: barely accessible rear seats. Ford designers got rid of the centre pillars to create an open system that makes it easy to get the kids in and out. Believe it or not, child seats have never been easier to use in a minivan. No other minivan offers 59 inches of open space between side doors.

The use of the hatch in the back is another significant positive. Owners have easy access to the rear of the vehicle for loading everything from luggage to groceries. That said, there is not a whole lot of room in the back when the passenger seats are in their normal position. Travelling a long distance with a lot of luggage probably means using a roof-mounted luggage rack or a trailer.

Lastly, the fuel economy of the 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol model is excellent. Ford says you can get 55 mpg if you are careful not to drive aggressively. That’s not hard to do with the 1.0. You may have more difficulty getting mileage that good with the 1.4-litre engine. You will, however, get more punchy performance.

The Negatives

Despite the amount of space afforded by the removal of the central pillars, we cannot help but think that the B3 design presents a safety issue in the event of a side impact crash. Nevertheless, crash tests have resulted in a five star rating for the B-Max in the States. The Euro NCAP also gave the B-Max a five-star safety rating for the 2012 model.

There is not a lot to be impressed about with the comfort level of the B-Max. It is adequate, in the sense that it is not an uncomfortable car, but it is not as smooth and gentle as we would expect a family car to be. Some have described the ride as ‘firm’. It needs to be that way in order to give owners the handling they expect in a car of that size and shape.

Lastly, the design for the interior can be a bit annoying until one gets used to it. The dash seems overly generous while all of the gauges and user controls are compressed into a tiny area. It seems as though Ford could have done a better job of spreading things out a bit. Nonetheless, perhaps the dash arrangement was designed around the overall theme of more room to work rather than valuable space being taken up by unnecessary features.

Where to Buy the Ford B-Max

The Ford B-Max has done very well in a UK market that is heavy on fuel economy and low price point. It is available from most Ford.co.uk dealers in the UK as a brand new model and there are no real stock restrictions, some sites have strong special offers such as JenningsMotorGroup.co.uk. There is no reason it should not continue to do well for the foreseeable future. It is a minivan worth looking at for young families that need space for the little ones. In short, it is a good car for the price.

For a quick part exchange valuation then webuyanycar.com is a good bet or alternatively direct from a dealer against a car you are interested in http://www.jenningsforddirect.co.uk/cars/ford/b-max/

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Death Of A Falcon

Whilst the idea of ‘world’ cars makes a lot of economic sense it was only going to be a matter of time before it had an adverse effect somewhere. This time it is Australia and the end of Ford production on that continent.

The backbone of Australian motor sport has got to be the V8 Supercar Championship which is a sort of ultra-butch touring car circus. Originally only for Aussie built Ford Falcons and Holden (GM) Commodores, it has in recent years introduced other makes but it is the two indigenous brands that Australian race fans have taken to their hearts. Supporters are dyed-in-the-wool Falcon or Commodore devotees. There can be no middle ground. Blows are often exchanged.

Now all that is going to change. The Ford Motor Company has outlined its strategy for shutting down production completely. This means an end to the Falcon name as this will be retired along with the Melbourne factories. It brings to an end ninety years of production and signals the loss of some 1200 jobs by the time production stops in 2016. For Australians it is the end of an era.

It can’t be said that Ford haven’t tried, to be fair. They have reviewed and restructured their business and curtailed production but it hasn’t worked, despite huge subsidies from Government. Curiously, the locally built cars have consistently lost money whilst imported Fords make a profit. In April the company recorded their lowest sales of just 717 Falcon products. Holden sold twice that many. Very few cars get exported.FAL2 Death Of A Falcon

A strong Australian Dollar has meant that imports have become more attractive to buyers as home production costs have risen exponentially. At the end of the day it’s just business. Australia has annual sales of around a million vehicles but this is made up from sixty five brands and some 365 models. This has made the country one of the most crowded and competitive markets in the world. Something had to give. It’s just a shame it had to be this venerable local product.

It is not yet guaranteed but Aussie muscle car fans may have to settle for the new and ‘global’ Ford Mustang, expected in 2015 but, as many supporters are already saying, it won’t be the same. No doubt there will be a run on the final production cars as Falcon aficionados strive to keep the name going. One good thing is that second hand Falcon values are sure to rise as they become part of Australia’s automotive history.

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Ford’s Breakthrough Customer Programme

In the interests of gaining new customers and hanging on to the ones they have already got, motor companies have been upping their customer care packages of late. This is good news for hard-pressed car owners with family and household budgets to consider.

Of course, car manufacturers are not stupid and they understand that with modern technology and build techniques their cars are inherently much more reliable and long-lasting than they used to be. Thus the chances of being caned for expensive after-sales problems are greatly reduced.

Ford are the latest to come out with an extensive programme of customer care enhancements with their new range of services under the ‘Ford BlueService’ banner. The company already have the biggest dealer network – 650 to be precise nationwide – and this will be rolled out over the coming months across them all. The really good news is that it covers Ford’s of any age subject to certain conditions.FORD2 300x200 Ford’s Breakthrough Customer Programme

BlueService includes a free electronic vehicle health check (eCHECK). Benefits include fixed pricing for parts, servicing and other jobs. They will also offer security and operating system upgrades. Ford Assistance offers free roadside cover if clients have their car correctly serviced by the dealer.

That’s a good deal as it saves having to compare the various third-party companies. All aspects of accident management can be handled through a central point by calling just one phone number. A one stop shop as it were.

This sort of service is worth considering. Given the reliability of today’s cars it is doubtful that Ford will be overwhelmed with customer problems and complaints but it does seem like a good idea to have everything covered in one place.

It is yet to be seen how good the value for money will be against shopping around for all the various features on offer from this plan. On the other hand, on the basis that it is one less thing to worry about, cost may not be at the forefront of peoples’ considerations when the convenience is taken into account.

Many car makers now offer longer warranties and better after-sales service. Ford’s BlueService seems pretty comprehensive so it is probably a good idea to check with your local dealer for the full details. Ford’s make some extremely good cars so even if you don’t currently own one this sort of customer care may just influence the next purchase.

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New Cars, A Concept – And A Gearbox

Not so long ago Motor Blogger detailed the FIAT 500’s bigger brother, the 500L and assumed that was it, for now at least. Not so, apparently, because the larger car has clearly been at the steroids and morphed into the 500XL – a seven seat leviathan that is now production ready. There it is in the picture.

The car maintains the family resemblance from nose to C-pillar but the rear overhang is longer and rear quarter lights bigger. Like its siblings, it’s a good looking car. No details have been revealed yet although the 500XL will probably offer the same engine line-up as the 500L. We’ll see it officially at the Frankfurt Show in September with order books opening shortly thereafter. The name is possibly up for changing so as not to confuse buyers with 500X, a crossover version due next year.

Rolls Royce have confirmed that there will be a convertible Wraith within the next couple of years but they have, they insist, no plans for an SUV type vehicle. What is likely though is that the ageing Phantom may well be replaced by a new model although the time scale is vague. More than three years away allegedly. What is interesting though is that it is likely to be a plug-in hybrid. Who’d have thought it? RR can clearly see that hybrid is the way to go, particularly as restrictions in city centres may well require an electric only option at some future time.

Ford have revealed a new concept in the form of the Fiesta eWheelDrive utilising in-wheel hub electric motors. Right now it is just a test bed but is an intriguing prospect if it should come to fruition. The two motors are in the back wheels. Right now the batteries are under the bonnet but the plan is to house them under the floor in later versions.

By configuring the layout in this way the space under the bonnet becomes superfluous. The thinking is that the car can be the same size as a two-seater whilst continuing to seat four. The concept, it is hoped, will lead to improvements in urban mobility and parking through the production of smaller, more agile vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, the steering design could allow for moving sideways into parking spaces.

The only issue that we can see is that dreaded word ‘urban’. When are car companies going to realise that not everybody lives in the city. Before getting too clever with the technology how about developing an electric vehicle that will suit the needs of country folk too?

Finally, Volkswagen are in the process of developing a ten-speed gearbox and the question is often asked as to why. How many gears are enough? In fact there are very good reasons for eight, nine or even ten gears. More gears give engineers more spread to work with. First gear can be shorter for improved acceleration from rest while the higher gears can improve fuel economy. This greater spread means that smaller, more economical engines can be used in bigger vehicles. Clearly an auto ’box will be essential.

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Ford And GM Collaborate On Gearboxes.

Across the pond in the USA – Michigan to be precise – the Ford Motor Company and General Motors have been putting their corporate heads together to come up with a deal to develop a new generation of automatic gearboxes for cars, SUV’s and commercial vehicles. The interesting thing is that these transmissions will have nine or ten ratios and there will be variants for both front and rear-wheel drive. The thinking is that these gearboxes will enhance the search for continuing improvement in both performance and economy in the vehicles of the not too distant future.

The design and engineering work is already underway and builds on the previous collaborations by these automotive giants. This will be the third time in the last ten years that the two companies have worked together on transmissions, most recently on a shared six-speed FWD (pictured) which is found in many of the popular products from both manufacturers. Each company will assemble their own but will use shared components.

This cooperation will help Ford and GM to maximise efficiencies and develop economies of scale – a concept that is increasingly occurring in the motor industry as the new ideas go global. This benefits customers, not only in terms of economy but also in value as sharing technology and parts in this way helps to keep prices competitive and shareholders happy.

The question is – do we need ten speed gearboxes? How many ratios are effective within the limited rev range of the average engine before they all start getting in each others way? Drivers with experience of seven speeds – the VW DSG ’box for example – are finding that, around town at least, they can be a bit irritating as they shift about in auto mode.

Certainly in the wide open spaces and long, straight, empty highways of America a ten-speed might make sense but in the UK and much of Europe we don’t have that luxury. Road and traffic conditions can change dramatically in the space of a few miles on this crowded island and a gearbox that is perpetually hunting around for just the right ratio might begin to grate.

However, few technical details and applications have been revealed to date. Both Ford and General Motors have said that more information will be forthcoming nearer launch time, so we’ll all have to wait and see just how good these transmissions are. Certainly there is no doubt that many of the technological advances made to new cars in recent years have benefited motorists greatly, but is there a limit to how far these advances can go?

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Shelby Mustang Delivers More Muscle

The New York show has revealed some more new cars coming to a dealer near you but for this article we’ll stick with just one of those cars which is so daft as to be highly desirable.

Despite all the trials and tribulations of modern motoring the yearning for a proper American muscle car still beats strongly in the hearts of true petrol heads. There are at least three digital channel TV programmes on right now dedicated to the repair and renovation of historic models; and even today car manufacturers continue to build new vehicles with the muscle car legacy in mind.

Probably the most iconic name in the muscle car history of the USA is Carroll Shelby. Sadly, the great man himself died last year and left behind a name that is synonymous with old school performance cars. Give the man a bog standard Mustang (the greatest of the American ‘pony’ cars) and he would most recently have given you back a Shelby GT500. A good car becomes great.

Shelby may have gone but his name lives on and the company continues to push the boundaries of performance as he would have liked. At last year’s New York show an enhanced GT500 was offered in a limited edition but this time packing 1100bhp! No, that’s not a typing error. The Shelby 1000 delivered over 400 horses more than the base car. This year the Nevada based company have decided to refresh that model and have shown the Shelby 1000 S/C on the basis that what we really want is 1200bhp. That’s quite a lot of grunt.

Power comes from a stripped down 5.8L V8, beefed up by a massive supercharger and many other performance parts. Shelby reckon that this car will out-perform anything on the market. Mindful of the criticism that yank tanks can’t go around corners the company have fitted adjustable suspension and huge brakes. They insist that the car now tracks as it should and corners with grip and a minimum of body roll. This of course depends on what you call a corner.

Lucky buyers of the limited edition one hundred that will be built will get all this power for a measly $154k plus a donor car. That’s incredibly good value in the scheme of things and is probably because in the American tradition the car is simple. No banks of computers or fancy downforce effects here, just raw power. Hopeless in the UK obviously. Can you imagine the sound of your insurance agent’s voice and the size of the premium once he picks himself up of the floor? For most of us cars like this are just a pipedream but isn’t it great that they still exist?

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About Time For A Fiesta ST

It’s Fiesta time, folks. Originally, the word ‘fiesta’ referred to a religious festival or celebration so, since cars are something of a religion for us, we’ll accept that as a link, however tenuous. The Ford Motor Company obviously felt they were on to something with that name and so it has proved, because the Fiesta has been with us successfully since 1976.

The current 6th Generation car has been on the market for about four years and it has proved immensely popular, remaining consistently on the best-seller lists. Small yet roomy, very good looking and great to drive, the car has something for everyone except perhaps out and out performance. We are all familiar with the hot ST version of the evergreen Focus and fans of the smaller car have been clamouring for a similar badge on the Fiesta. This year Ford have obliged.

Order yours now and you can expect delivery in March, depending on the order book, which is likely to be bulging. Priced at around £17,000 depending on preferences, buyers will probably want the ‘Molten Orange’ paint job. Alternative choices are ‘Spirit Blue’ and ‘Rado Grey’.

The ST is powered by the very fuel efficient 1.6L EcoBoost engine developing 180bhp which helps the car to do the 0-60mph sprint in 6.9 seconds. Despite this only 139g/km of CO² are emitted from the discreet twin tailpipes and Ford are still claiming over 47mpg, so clearly you can have your cake and eat it.

The car is 15mm lower than the standard version and sports Ford’s cutting edge Torque Vectoring Control for precision handling and cornering. The ESP system is especially interesting as it has three settings. These are ‘On’; ‘Wide-slip’, which turns off the traction control module, and finally ‘Off’ and you know what that means – no intervention whatsoever thus affording the over-ambitious driver with the spectacle of his own rear-end going past the window.

It’s three door only with a black trapezoidal grill, a big roof spoiler and the inevitable red brake callipers, just in case anyone is in any doubt that this car means business. A blissful addition is that Recaro seats are standard. A real bonus.

There’s a generous amount of the latest technology including Ford’s SYNC system that controls your music and ‘phone with voice commands. The car is also offered with the MyKey system which enables performance limitations in case you lend it to your kids. Seriously; as if.

Ford have done it again. The Fiesta has always been a good car and the current model is the best yet. The ST goes one step further and that’s a true religious experience.

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The Monte Carlo Rally in the WRC

Once again, this most famous of motor sport events will, in a few short days, kick off the 2013 season of the World Rally Championship as befits its iconic status. It is the longest running competition of this type in the world and sees its origins go back to 1911 when entrants were encouraged to ‘rally’ – that is to say, meet – at this historic venue. Slightly longer than last year, there will be 468 competitive kilometres of adrenalin fuelled action, run over eighteen special stages. The high spot as ever are the runs up the dreaded Col de Turini (pictured) which include a night run. Memorable.

Famous for the twisting asphalt mountain roads and an unpredictable weather mix when ice and snow are never too far away means that this is not an event for the faint-hearted. It is made worse by fans to will deliberately throw extra snow onto clearing roads to ratchet up their excitement and the driver’s fear.

This will be an especially good year as aficionados will see a new World Champion begin to emerge from the bunch. Now that the legendary Sebastien Loeb is curtailing his rallying activities after successfully securing the world crown nine times, someone else will get a look in.

The otherwise successful M-Sport team will no longer have factory backing from Ford – who decided to pull out, although they are allegedly having second thoughts – but will still mount a full campaign thanks to funds from the Qatar organisation of Nasser al Attiyah. He is presently on Dakar Rally duties. This year they are going for youth with a very strong first team line-up of Mads Ostberg, Thierry Neuville and Evgeny Novikov, three stars of the future.

It is also good to see the return to the WRC of Volkswagen, who are fielding a full factory team of Polo’s with three experienced pilots – Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier. The car is unproven but Volkswagen’s commitment to the sport is unquestionable.

The experienced Citroen team will be back with last year’s runner-up Mikko Hirvonen and the talented Spaniard Dani Sordo. We may well also the first run out for the new Hyundai team who are intent on running a full factory team in 2014. It is good to see manufacturers coming back to this top echelon of rally sport and may well account for Ford’s second thoughts. This change of heart is however mostly down to the fact that the WRC have this year gained full sponsorship from the mighty Red Bull organisation.

All this renewed interest and high anticipation does not seem to have rubbed off on British television. At the time of writing there has been no announcements from any station about possible coverage, even though an experienced broadcast company will be covering all the events. It is very sad that this most exciting of motor sports does not get anything like the UK coverage it deserves, alas. Keep your eyes peeled on the TV schedules. This year we are in for a treat.

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Thirteen For 13

Are you superstitious? Would you be entirely happy with the number 13 on your car? Well, unless you can find a way around it – as suggested by Motor Blogger last year – you are just going to have to lump it. Our unwavering government have no intention of ditching this year’s series just to please the likes of you.

Never mind. At least there is going to be a fantastic selection of new cars that you could attach to the back of your new number plate. Honda, for example, are planning a new SUV in line with current trends that will be pitched into the gap between the Civic and the CRV. An interesting point is that it may feature Honda’s next-generation hybrid technology.

If you’re feeling flush with cash you could push the boat out and treat yourself to Jaguar’s forthcoming F Type. This may well be the most anticipated car of the year; full of lovely supercharged goodness. Too tame for your wallet? Fair enough. How about the long-awaited replacement for the Enzo, the F70. Or will it be the F150? We’ll see what Ferrari decide although Ford America won’t be too happy as that’s the designation for their new pick-up!

Back in the real world Fiat are offering the 500L. We’ve mentioned this before. Basically it’s a 500 on steroids. Presumably this is designed to rival the giant Mini and word has it that this could be one of the year’s best sellers. As indeed could the 500 Coupé , a cheeky 2+2 version of the perennial favourite. Meanwhile over the border in France, Citroen’s successful DS3 is taking it’s top off, or at least rolling it up – a feature that really suits this star car.

For hot hatch fans Ford will be selling the long awaited Fiesta ST, sporting at least 180bhp. If a suitable family car is more to your requirements then there’s a new package with the latest Kia Carens SUV (pictured) – the words on the grapevine are ‘surprise’ and ‘delight’. Not content to settle for one new car, the same company will present their first hot hatch in the UK. The Cee’d GT. Boasting a muscular 200bhp it looks like a rival for the ST.

Winner of this year’s daft name award is the mighty Maserati Kubang. Effectively a Ferrari powered Jeep in an Italian designer frock it’s a new departure for a company that is slowly resurrecting its image. The trouble is – is it a car too far for a company noted for beautiful design? The official Kubang website is showing a wonderful old and evocative short film called ‘A story that will overcome time’. Worth a look.

Mazda’s 6 is a good and popular choice, especially if you are not badge conscious but now they’ve produced a coupé version that’s a real looker. Let’s hope it gives a boost to this underrated manufacturer. If you do like a badge then Mercedes are refreshing the E-Class. Not earth-shattering in itself but the company are saying it will be packed with cutting edge technology under the banner ‘intelligent drive’.

In fact, there will be something like sixty new or updated cars being sold or announced in the coming year, but in this brief article there is only one car that can finish of the list. Will we finally be able to get our hands on the Alfa Romeo 4C? Live in hope.

So there you have it – thirteen cars for 2013. So don’t worry your heads about the reputation of the number 13. You know what they say – lucky for some!

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New Kuga Covers All The Bases

Can one single car be all things to all men? This may well be the thinking behind the concept of the Sport Utility Vehicle that everyone is so keen on these days. Pretty much all manufacturers have an SUV in their range on the basis that if people can only afford one car it might as well be capable of doing everything. This is fine but does it make the SUV a jack of all trades but a master of none?

Well Ford thinks the new Kuga can be the master of everything except the universe. The old Kuga was good and deservedly popular but there were still niggles. Hopefully they will have been sorted in the new car. The company believe they have cracked the dilemma that a car can be green, useful, high-tech and safe on the roads whilst still being good to drive.

Not all extras are on all versions but with careful selection the prospective buyer can choose what’s right for him or her. There will be a two-wheel version but it seems to make sense to go for Ford’s ‘Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive’ system that includes something called ‘Curve Control’. The 4×4 continually assesses the road conditions and sets up the vehicle accordingly. The beauty of AWD is that, especially at low speeds, it can govern traction making the car safer in dodgy weather, for example.

Curve Control is interesting because it apparently deals with the age-old problem of understeer which is what you get when entering a corner too fast in a front wheel drive car. Understeer is instantly sensed and the car adjusts braking and engine torque to aid steering out of the problem. This is a seriously good idea as many drivers don’t understand the phenomenon. Couple this with another gizmo called ‘Torque Vectoring Control’ a feature – also found on the dramatic Focus RS – which enhances vehicle dynamics and cornering control. Add to this package the usual safety features like ABS and a lot of the drama can be taken out of bad weather driving which is great for the family.

The tailgate has the option to be opened by means of waggling a foot about beneath it. This is, of course, pretty pointless unless you’re carrying many bags but, if we’re honest, that just makes it an absolutely essential addition: but what if it’s someone else’s foot? Haven’t thought of that have they?

EcoBoost engine technology has arrived on the Kuga which means there’s a versatile selection of motors to suit. Fuel consumption has been much improved for both petrol and diesel.

There are many options available, too numerous to list here but it looks like Ford have truly engineered this car to be kind to the environment, very versatile, good to drive and safe on or off road; and it looks good too. So that really is the complete package then –  a single car to suit everybody. You can’t say fairer than that.

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