Ford Escape SUV

Price range

$28,990 – $28,990

Overall

Good: Now in its ninth year of sales in Australia and Ford Escape is still selling decent numbers, so that must say something. Good price, pretty roomy & pretty simple.

Not so Good: It’s ageing – it looks and feels a generation behind today’s best Compact SUV’s. Only average fuel economy.

Design and Engineering

Good : The latest facelift sees the Escape receive a fresh ‘nose’ and a front bumper now more in line with Ford’s larger Territory…

Not so good : The Escape arrived here waaay back in early 2001 and has had to make do with facelifts in 2006 and 2008; meanwhile, competitors have launched fresher, more competitive offerings. We’re praying that Ford will release their excellent new compact SUV (the Kuga) here soon, as it is a class-leading player in Europe.

Interior and Styling

Good : Comfortable seats. They’ve updated the Escape’s dash with new controls for the audio and ventilation systems, which brings a splash of life into the cabin.

Not so good : The overall design now looks at least one generation behind the times; which it is. The Escape is essentially a rebadged Mazda Tribute. The Mazda Tribute was retired from Mazda’s Australian showrooms back in 2006 when they released the far superior CX-7.

Performance

Good : The Escape isn’t the heaviest of Compact SUV’s, and although it’s not the most high-tech of engine offerings, the vehicle does not feel underpowered – at least not in an urban environment anyway.

Not so good : The official Combined Fuel Consumption of 9.8L is by no means impressive for a naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder powered Compact SUV. Combined with the fact the 2.3L Petrol unit only produces 109kW is yet another sign that this is an ageing product…(sorry, we seem to harp on about that don’t we?)

Ride and Handling

Good : Relatively high profile tyres no doubt contribute to the relaxed ride. The overall handling is pretty good, and we certainly prefer it compared to the previous V6 engine option – which with its added weight over the front wheels was less comfortable on twisty roads.

Not so good : A generation behind the best Compact SUV players of today.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Escape is priced competitively for the features included. It’s relatively roomy inside, and since the model has been similar for a while now – spare parts are likely to be available and inexpensive (relatively speaking).

Not so good:  If you can wait until Ford releases the Kuga – you’re unlikely be disappointed.

Ford Falcon Sedan

Price range

$37,235 – $56,235

Overall

Good: With excellent ride and handling, high levels of standard equipment the Falcon is a refined, proudly Australian-built rear-wheel drive sedan. The XR6 Turbo is brilliant.

Not so Good: Fuel consumption isn’t the greatest when compared to a number of diesel options on the market. The ‘common’ brand perception – blame the historically high number of Falcon’s being sold as fleet & taxi vehicles.

Design and Engineering

Good : The current shape Falcon was released in Australia April 2008 and received a number of tech changes along the way. In July 2011 the range was joined by a new ECO LPI variant that improved overall fuel consumption, later in the year the entire range received a facelift and massive price reductions across the board.

Changes to the design include: redesigned front bumper, a smaller upper grille and a larger lower grille, revised headlight and fog light assemblies.

Not so good : Although the Falcon range received a facelift in December 2011, you’d be hard pressed to see the difference, there were changes made to the front of the car but the rear remains unchanged since 2008.

Interior and Styling

Good : The centre console is of a sound design with all the controls in a logical layout. The eight-inch colour touchscreen found in mid and top spec models is vibrant and easy to use.

The well padded driver & front passenger seats are comfortable, sufficient space for five adults and a large boot (Non ECO LPI models) are also pluses.

Not so good : Entry level XT interior is relatively plain (with far too much grey!). The drivers seat is comfortable but doesn’t offer enough seat adjustment especially in sports models where it’s needed most. The EcoLPI model has a very cramped boot, because the gas tank is under the car the full size spare sits in the boot (we had to remove the spare wheel in order to make full use of the boot space).

Performance

Good : The inline six-cylinder loves to rev! The 5-speed auto (on entry to mid-level grades) may be missing a gear compared to a number of competitors; however don’t worry as this is one smooth gearbox, and the 6-speed auto on higher grades is even nicer again. XR6 Turbo is seriously fast (it’s significantly quicker than Ford’s V8 XR8 or Holden’s SS Commodore).

There is also the option of the 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder EcoLPi engine that runs solely on gas. The LPG engine manages 198kW of power and an impressive 409Nm of torque.

The EcoLPi engine is quite good and offers up plenty of performance (you’d hardly know its on gas).

Not so good : With the XR6 Turbo’s serious amount of performance Ford could afford to re-upgrade their already upgraded XR6 front brakes!

Ride and Handling

Good : Excellent handling on all grades (with the XR6 Turbo being our personal favourite – you may have gathered that by now, sorry if we harp on about it…) Overall, the Falcon has a firm ride, yet is never uncomfortable; the steering is also great on all grades. The luxury grade G6E is a very quiet car at highway speeds…

Not so good : However this is still a Large family-sized vehicle so don’t expect it to keep up with a Lotus Elise down a twisty mountain pass.

Buying and Owning

Good : 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engine has decent fuel economy for such a big vehicle and the EcoLPI features more power and torque. For a large family sedan the Ford Falcon range is great value for money.

Not so good : Low resale rating on entry-level grades – blame the fact that the vast majority of Falcons are government fleet buys and too many end up at auction three years later when it’s time to upgrade…

Ford Fiesta Hatchback

Price range

$15,825 – $22,525

Overall

Good: Fantastic styling; class leading handling, sharp steering; super frugal ECOnetic grade.

Not so Good: Interior finish is one notch below the class best; steering did adjust for rake and reach but now only rake (mid life facelift change).

Design and Engineering

Good : Launched in Australia in January 2009, the current generation Ford Fiesta is a fantastically designed, truly modern supermini. Under the fancy sheet-metal the baby Ford shares much of its platform and underpinnings with the Mazda 2 (a great place to start), yet there’s no mistaking it’s the Fiesta that wears the more ‘WOW’ factor styling.

The environmentally friendly ECOnetic grade followed in December 2009 and thanks to a range of engineering tweaks (including intelligent weight savings, low rolling-resistance tyres, a lower ride height and aerodynamic tweaks including air-deflecting hupcabs!) and a 1.6L turbo diesel engine with taller gear ratios it boasts a Toyota Prius beating official combined fuel economy figure of only 3.7L per 100kms.

The mid-life facelift arrived earlier than expected (October 2010).

Not so good : The Fiesta’s petrol engine misses out on new technology specs such as direction injection and turbo charging (however this technology is still uncommon in this price led segment, so Ford is by no means lagging behind the competition).

Interior and Styling

Good : The funky styling continues inside. We like the mobile-phone inspired audio and connectivity controls with an easy to read central information screen, the decent sized glovebox, the storage compartment between the front seats with clever segments and cuppy holes and the generous amount of space for two occupants up front.

Comfortable and supportive driver’s seat and all grades feature steering wheel mounted controls. The boot is reasonably sized.

Not so good : Whilst the interior is above class average, the Fiesta cannot match the premium feel of the Volkswagen Polo as there are too many different textures and colours fighting for your attention. The rear seats offer less space than a number of more roomy supermini’s and the rear seat-back unfortunately has not been trimmed in carpet with the metal exposed. That aside the boot is well trimmed.

From October 2010 (when the facelift arrived), the previous soft-touch plastics on the upper dash have been replaced with a cheaper, hard-touch plastic that reduces the overall perceived cabin quality. The steering wheel now only adjusts for rake (up and down), previously it also featured reach (in and out) adjustment.

Performance

Good : The Fiesta is available in either petrol or diesel power. From October 2010, the 1.6L petrol produces a healthy 89kW of power and 151Nm of torque when linked to either a five-speed manual gearbox or the new six-speed dual-clutch sequential (fancy automatic) transmission. With the manual box the Fiesta is one of the perkiest players in the Supermini segment.

Whilst happy to cruise in traffic at low revs it’s at higher revs (even above 6000 revs) where it comes to life – offering real zest and bringing a smile to every one of our testers.

A 1.6L turbo diesel is fitted to the ECOnetic grade, offering 66kW of power and a very healthy 200Nm of torque. Even with the tall gear ratios (which helps achieve the amazing economy) the ECOnetic produces sufficient acceleration. It is also a surprisingly quiet engine, both when idling at the lights and at highway speeds. The maximum torque figure is achieved at a low 1,750 revs so it pulls easily off the lights even with four adults aboard.

From October 2010, Ford also offers this diesel engine in less expensive LX and Zetec grades.

Not so good : The five-speed manual gearbox is easy to use but is less enjoyable to shift than our favourite manual gearboxes. The 1.6L petrol engine can get a little noisy at highway speeds.

Ride and Handling

Good : Against the competition the Fiesta’s ride and handling is number one. The chassis is superbly tuned, it sits nice and flat when cornering and the steering is sharp and feelsome. Equally enjoyable to drive in the urban grind or along a twisting backroad. The Fiesta also rides comfortably over most surfaces.

Not so good : Not much at all. The ride is a touch firmer than most Supermini’s, but apart from the rare thump over sharp corrugations and the occasional steering kickback on rough roads the Fiesta holds its head very high.

Buying and Owning

Good : Ticks the safety box with Electronic Stability Control standard across the range. All grades are generously equipped with the entry level CL grade coming standard with air-conditioning, remote central locking, a CD player and six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control.

The ECOnetic grade’s fuel economy beats the hybrid Toyota Prius and the MINI Cooper Diesel yet is priced way, way less than either of these ‘green’ competitors.

Not so good : The three diesel grades are only available with a manual transmission, so if you’re after super-frugal motoring but don’t wish to change gears yourself…

Ford Fiesta Sedan

Price range

$17,490 – $20,290

Overall

Good: NOTE: DISCONTINUED IN AUSTRALIA JULY 2013. The Ford Fiesta incorporates good design, huge boot space and a great diesel engine. All the grades are economical and fun to drive on account of the handling and steering..

Not so Good: Styling can’t match the sexy Fiesta hatch, interior plastics are disappointingly hard, and the diesel engine is not available with the excellent six-speed dual clutch transmission.

Design and Engineering

Good : The sedan body style Ford Fiesta arrived in Australia in December 2009 around the same time as the Hatch, which in this generation arrived Down Under almost two year earlier, received a cosmetic facelift.

The design is one of our favourite of all the Supermini sedans on sale. It’s no easy feat with a Sedan’s rear overhang, but somehow Ford has managed to make the Fiesta appear more Naomi Campbell-like than Serena Williams from the back.

Under the metal, the Fiesta shares much of its underpinnings with the Mazda 2 which is no longer sold as a sedan in Australia. The Fiesta is now sourced from Thailand and with this change of origin comes a number of engineering improvements including a stiffer body, more soundproofing, improved door seals, quieter tyres, upgraded rear suspension and a reduction in road noise.

Not so good : As with every other Supermini sedan on sale, the Fiesta just doesn’t look as cohesive as a sedan as it does with the hatchback body style. This is an especially tough ask though, as the Fiesta hatch is a class leading design in so many ways. Also keep in mind that design is subjective and as we said above we think it looks better than almost all of the competing Supermini sedans.

Interior and Styling

Good : As with the hatch the sedan features mobile-phone inspired audio and connectivity controls with an easy to read central information screen. This styling works well – all of the controls are arranged logically, and bluetooth connectivity with voice control is standard on all grades as is an auxiliary in-jack connection for your iPod. Another very cool and standard feature here is that you can change the radio station by voice control, however the steering wheel mounted audio controls are more likely to be used. The six-speaker sound system is above average and the front seats are comfortable and supportive.

The rear luggage space is very impressive. The boot holds 430 litres which is approaching that of a Holden Commodore, and with the rear bench split folded down an even larger space is available.

Not so good : The shift of production to Thailand at the end of 2010 resulted in more old school hard plastics appearing in the Fiesta’s interior. Whilst functionally this is no problem, visually it creates a cheaper feel and there is a more than pleasant variation in the colours of plastic around the doors. The steering wheel no longer adjusts for reach (in and out) but rake (up and down) adjustment does. There is no cruise control however this is far more common than not in the supermini segment.

In the second row, head room is only average (but only tall teens need beware).

Performance

Good : The 1.6-litre petrol produces a healthy 89kW of power and 151Nm of torque when linked to either a five-speed manual gearbox or the new six-speed dual-clutch sequential (fancy automatic) transmission. With the manual box the Fiesta is one of the perkiest players in the Supermini segment. Whilst happy to cruise in traffic at low revs it’s at higher revs (even above 6000 revs) where it comes to life – offering real zest and bringing a smile to every one of our testers. It also stays relatively quiet and smooth over a range of terrain, and notably at highway speeds it’s still relaxed in manner. The six-speed ‘auto’ is quick to shift gears and significantly more economical than the traditional 4-speed automatic transmission still offered in many competing superminis.

A 1.6-litre turbo diesel offers 66kW of power and a very healthy 200Nm of torque. This is an excellent engine and will happily pull up hills with four adults aboard.

Not so good : The 1.6-litre petrol and automatic transmission combination isn’t quite best in class, however it’s definitely above average. In traffic driving, the transmission can be a touch jerky and the engine suffers a little from lack of torque, most evident from below 2000 revs. The impressive turbo diesel is only available with the manual transmission – we’d love to see it matched to the six speed ‘auto’ gearbox.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Ford Fiesta’s ride and handling are very refined and it easily soaks up all but the very biggest of potholes. For the price, the handling is outstanding and the steering is very impressive with excellent weighting. If there is any difference between the hatch and sedan in this area, the sedan may even come out on top thanks to the extra weight over the rear suspension.

Not so good : Not much counts against the Fiesta’s ride and handling. The ride is a touch firmer than some Superminis, but apart from the rare thump over sharp corrugations and the occasional steering kickback on rough roads, the Fiesta holds its head very high.

Buying and Owning

Good : With Electronic Stability Control standard across the range, the Fiesta confidently ticks the safety box and all grades are generously equipped. Even the entry level CL grade comes standard with air-conditioning, remote central locking, a CD player, six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control.

Not so good : Head, chest and knee airbags are unfortunately a $600 cost option on the entry level CL grade, however most competitors can’t offer this at all and the number of airbags goes up from two to seven and the ANCAP safety rating from 4 to 5 stars. A spare wheel is an option – standard is a ‘mobility kit’ which does not quite enough to keep some drivers as mobile as they’d like, and the three diesel grades are only available with a manual transmission, so if you’re after super-frugal motoring but don’t wish to change gears yourself…

Ford Focus Hatchback

Price range

$20,290 – $38,290

Overall

Good: Ride & handling especially the razor sharp ST variant; Sharp European exterior design; Wide range of variants; Fuel efficiency on the diesel engine; Awesome sports interior ST variant.

Not so Good: Button overload on centre stack; Jerky automatic transmissions; Poor turning circle on the higher grades fitted with the bigger wheels (ST included).

Design and Engineering

Good : Ford released its third-generation Focus in Australia in August 2011, available in both, four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, across a wide range of grades.

The radical new design of the Focus is modern and edgy; the front of the vehicle features a large gaping mouth with two air vents at either side while the front grille has been squished into a slimline design.

The side profile of the Focus is sleek and aggressive; the Focus Trend (entry model) is fitted with 16-inch alloys while the Focus Titanium gets 18-inch alloys and the truly insane Focus ST also gets a set of 18-inch alloys that fill the wheel arches nicely.

At the rear the Focus features some rather unique tail lights that start from the boot and wrap their way around and onto the side of the vehicle.

The Focus ST features a more aggressive design that sets it apart from the rest of the model line-up. Featuring a sporty front bumper with a low air vent and ST badging, sport side skirts, rear window roof spoiler and a sporty rear bumper with an integrated centre exhaust tip.

Exterior fit and finish is top notch with minimal panel gaps around the entire vehicle.

Not so good : Unlike the ST, the rear bumper design on lower grades don’t match the radical design of the rest of the vehicle, instead Ford have used a conservative design with straight, flat lines.

Interior and Styling

Good:  Ford claim that they have improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels and I tend to agree. The interior is very quiet; with minimal road and wind noise present in the cabin. The Ford Focus features a very modern looking interior; the dash is finished in soft touch plastic that is black with touches of alloy look highlights on the door handles and centre console (Titanium model).

The Focus also features some pretty comfortable seats that offer up good levels of support; however they could do with a little more side bolstering as you tend to slide while pushing through corners at speed.

Stepping things up, the Focus ST features some of the best looking and most snug Recaro sports bucket seats going around. Each model features colour coordinated highlights that best contrast with the exterior colour of your car.

If you choose get your ST finished in Colorado Red or Tangerine Scream the seats will actually match the exterior colour.

Not so good : While the Focus looks and feels premium, it comes across a little fussy, there is a s*#load of buttons on the centre console, the information display is also complicated and not very easy to navigate. Anyone over the 70kgs threshold will feel a bit claustrophobic in the ST’s Recaro bucket seats.

Performance

Good : The Ford Focus comes with the choice of four engines three petrol and one diesel.

Kicking things off is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that manages 92kW of power and 159Nm of torque when matched to a five-speed manual or 6-speed automatic (optional).

Next is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that manages 125kW of power and 202Nm of torque when matched to a five-speed manual or 6-speed automatic (optional).

And, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine produces 120kW of power and a massive 340Nm of torque.

We saved the best till last, powering the Focus ST is Fords 2.0-litre turbo petrol EcoBoost engine that has been dialled up to 184kW of power and a whopping 340Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission.

The 2.0-litre petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel we drove; were both fitted with a 6-speed Sports Automatic Dual Clutch transmission. The 6-speed automatic is definitely setup with the driving enthusiast in mind as the auto box changes gears quickly and aggressively.

While the smooth shifting 6-speed manual in the ST has a well weighted clutch allows for quick gear changes. The ST features plenty of torque that is available from 2000 – 4500rpm, engine pick up and throttle response is very good.

Not so good : Because the 6-speed automatic is set up for quick shifting the car tends to jolt during low speed manoeuvres and city driving.

Ride and Handling

Good : Ride and handling is top notch; the Ford Focus is a solid performer. The chassis feels tight and ready for action; pushing the Focus through some twisty country roads you notice very minimal bodyroll and in the ST bodyroll is non existent.

The solid and direct steering wheel feel gives great driver feedback, the ST feels like a go-kart, the steering feel is really sharp, this gives the ST great driving dynamics that allows you to change turning directions in the blink of an eye….well maybe not that quick, but it’s quick.

The Ford Focus certainly inspires driver confidence with a good level of grip, smooth and responsive handling.

Not so good : The larger 18-inch wheels fitted to the Titanium and ST grades really hampers the turning circle and low speed maneuverability.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Ford Focus is a great package and a solid performer. There is the choice of four engines across four different variants. The 2.0-litre diesel is a great engine that is smooth, quiet and refined, while the 2.0-litre turbo EcoBoost has a roar when putting your right foot down.

The turbo surge that you get from the ST is truly addictive, plus the high levels of grip and handling make this one hell of a hot hatch that has what it takes to mix it with the best of them.

Not so good : Does the freshly styled Ford Focus have what it takes to go up against the likes of Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Holden Cruze, Hyundai i30 or Volkswagen Golf? Only time will tell.

Ford Focus Sedan

Price range

$20,290 – $32,990

Overall

Good: One of the best handling small family cars on the market; Plenty of interior space; Punchy engine line-up; Great European styling.

Not so Good: Button overload on centre stack; Jerky sports automatic transmissions; Poor turning circle on the higher grades fitted with bigger wheels.

Design and Engineering

Good : The Ford Focus sedan arrived here in Australia August 2011, the third generation Focus comes in the choice of four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, across a wide range of grades.

The four-door sedan is available in Ambiente, Trend, Sport or Titanium specification level, with both petrol and diesel options.

The four-door sedan looks great, with its sleek European styling. The sedan shares the same front end as its hatch counterpart, featuring a large gaping mouth with two air vents at either side while the front grille has been squished into a slimline design.

From side on, the Focus sedan is quite sleek featuring a sloped rear end.

Not so good : To our eyes the hatch does look better than the sedan. From the rear the Focus sedan seems to be a little bland for our liking.

Interior and Styling

Good : The steering wheel has both tilt & reach adjustment and all the controls are clear and simple to use. There’s a pretty decent amount of space inside (especially for second row passengers) and a surprisingly large boot – 372 litres with a full size spare.

Not so good : The cabin feels a little gimmicky, there is a whole bunch of buttons that seem to crowd the centre dash.

Performance

Good : The Ford Focus sedan comes with the choice of three engines two petrol and one diesel.

Kicking things off is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that manages 92kW of power and 159Nm of torque when matched to a 6-speed automatic as standard.

Next is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that manages 125kW of power and 202Nm of torque when matched to a 6-speed automatic as standard.

And, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine produces 120kW of power and a massive 340Nm of torque when matched to a 6-speed automatic as standard.

The 2.0-litre petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel are both fitted with a 6-speed Sports Automatic Dual Clutch transmission. The 6-speed automatic is definitely setup with the driving enthusiast in mind as the auto box changes gears quickly and aggressively.

There is no complaints are far as power delivery, the Focus sedan is a solid performer.

Not so good : Because the 6-speed automatic is set up for quick shifting the car tends to jolt during low speed manoeuvres and city driving.

Ride and Handling

Good : Excellent chassis dynamics, class-leading steering and precisely the right level of road feedback. The Ford Focus sedan is definitely up there in the top performers when it comes to overall handling.

You won’t be disappointed sitting behind the wheel of a Focus sedan or hatch for that matter.

Not so good : Our only complaint is road noise in the cabin; not quite as refined as some of its competitors in this respect.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Focus Sedan is competitively priced for the Small car segment. There is a great range of vehicles on offer with a good mix of engines to choose from.

Not so good : There is a lot to choose from in the Small car segment, with the likes of Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Holden Cruze, Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf. But, the Ford Focus sedan is also a great alternative.

Ford Kuga SUV

Price range

$27,990 – $47,740

Overall

Good: Powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine; ‘Intelligent’ All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system; European Styling.

Not so Good: The 1.6-litre turbo petrol can be a little thirsty; Manual transmission only available on entry variant.

Design and Engineering

Good : The latest generation Ford Kuga arrived down under in April 2013. Featuring a more dynamic product range at a more competitive price.

The Ford Kuga offers up a smaller SUV choice for those that don’t feel the need for the larger Territory.

The exterior design of the Ford Kuga is compact and sporty. Up front the Kuga features a large air vent, fog lights and a slim line front grille. The bonnet features a unique design, the A-pillars run down and form part of the bonnets character lines, in the middle of the bonnet are two bold lines that start from under the window and run their way down the bonnet giving the Kuga an aggressive look.

From the side, the Kuga features a very angular design, the roof line slopes from the front to the rear; there is also a crease line that runs through the centre of the vehicle that complements the sharp angular design.

Not so good : Although the Kuga looks quite compact, the rear end of the vehicle looks a bit bulky. We think this is the least attractive angle for the Kuga.

Interior and Styling

Good : Inside the Ford Kuga feels premium and is quite attractive to look at. There is three variants on offer, the entry spec Ambiente, mid spec Trend AWD and top spec Titanium AWD.

The new Ford Kuga is 81mm longer, 4mm narrower and 8mm lower. Although the Kuga is 4mm narrower Ford say there is added space in the rear for passenger compartments and luggage area to ensure the SUV is a complete family vehicle.

Slipping into the very comfortable seats occupants can be adjusted to best suit your needs. The Titanium grade gets fully adjustable electronic and heated seats.

Soft touch plastics dominate the dash while the bottom of the dash, door trims and highlights are finished in hard plastics. However, the overall look is quite premium.

Sitting in the centre of the dash is a Sony CD audio sound system that produces a crisp sound via 8-speakers. There is also Bluetooth mobile phone and audio streaming, USB and iPod connectivity.

Not so good : Our pet hate with all Fords fitted with the Sony audio system is the overkill of buttons on the centre dash.

Performance

Good : The Ford Kuga range comes with the choice two turbocharged engines, one petrol and one diesel.

First up is a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 110kW of power when matched to 6-speed manual transmission and 134kW of power when fitted with a 6-speed sports automatic. Maximum torque remains the same at 240Nm for both transmissions.

The 2.0-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel produces 120kW of power and a massive 340Nm of torque when matched to a 6-speed sports automatic.

The Ambiente 6-speed manual is a solid performer, the 6-speed is a slick shifting unit and the clutch is well weighted, there is also plenty of torque across the rev range so you’re not forever down shifting.

We really enjoyed our time in the 2.0-litre turbo diesel fitted with the 6-speed sports automatic, this combination works really well and provides stress free driving. The diesel is also quite refined with minimal engine vibration noticeable at idle.

Not so good : Although the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol provides plenty of power and torque you have to push the engine harder to get the same results as the diesel. The 1.6-litre can be a little thirsty compared to the 2.0-litre diesel.

Ride and Handling

Good : The great thing about compact SUV’s is that you sit higher than the average sedan; this allows you to see over traffic which is great for inner city driving. The Ford Kuga feels solid on the road, there is minimal body roll when cornering and the suspension makes short work of any bumps or potholes in the road.

Not so good : Because this is a compact SUV don’t expect sports car handling characteristics. If you drive the Kuga too hard into a corner it’s not quite as forgiving as some smaller cars on the market.

Buying and Owning

Good : The great thing about owning a Ford Kuga is that it looks tough next to its competitors with a less sporty and masculine design.

A lower starting price and more variants on offer, make the Ford Kuga a much more appealing option than the previous generation.

Not so good : As we mentioned before the 1.6-litre petrol can be a bit on the thirsty side when you start to push higher into the rev range.

Ford Mondeo Hatchback

Price range

$31,490 – $48,490

Overall

Good: European engineered = fantastic road handling; Economical 2.0-litre turbo diesel is impressive; High performance 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine is fantastic.

Not so Good: The 2.3-litre petrol engine is average in class performance and fuel economy; Rear vision could be better.

Design and Engineering

Good : The Ford Mondeo hit Australian shores in October 2007, this smart European designed and engineered medium player looks fantastic.

Ford of Europe are well known for producing top notch driver’s cars so we expect no less than near segment best ride and handling from the Mondeo. There were a number of minor tech changes along the way before the Mondeo received a facelift in November 2010 and received another notable tech change in July 2011 when Ford released its 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine that is available on Mondeo Zetec and Titanium hatch models.

Not so good : Nothing to note here, we think the new sharper styling of the Ford Mondeo is fantastic.

Interior and Styling

Good : The Mondeo comes with a great range of features across the line-up: a modern-looking interior, easy to reach controls, comfortable seating position and good view of the vehicle’s surroundings. Ford has packed the Mondeo with loads of safety equipment and as a result receives a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

Not so good : All grades are covered with a fake aluminium-look trim on the centre console, dashboard, steering wheel, door trims – everywhere! Whilst it looks kinda sporty and some of our review team gave it the thumbs up, others thought it looked fussy and a bit over-the-top.

Performance

Good : There is three four-cylinder engines on offer – a 2.3-litre petrol with 118kW of power and 208Nm of torque tied to a six speed automatic gearbox (LX hatch or Wagon only), a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 120kW power and 340Nm torque linked to a six-speed dual-clutch sequential automatic gearbox called Powershift and last but not least the 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged direct injection petrol engine pumps out 149kW of power and a jaw dropping 300Nm of torque when matched to the six-speed dual-clutch Powershift transmission. Our pick of the three engines is the turbo diesel. It’s a willing performer when required yet is refined and quiet at standstill and below 3000revs (even compared against petrol engines). The Powershift gearbox is very good, gear changes are smooth and you get the fuel economy benefits of a manual gearbox with the convenience of an automatic.

Not so good : The turbo diesel becomes more vocal above 3000revs however some of our reviewers quite liked the vocal note from the exhaust at higher revs. The 2.3-litre petrol is a reasonable engine that is more than happy when driven at a moderate pace. However, ask it to accelerate quickly (especially at highway speeds) and it can struggle at times, especially compared to the impressive turbo diesel and EcoBoost engine.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Mondeo’s handling is right towards the top of the medium segment. It’s an enjoyable wagon to drive over a twisty road, the ‘firmish’ suspension stays settled over a wide variety of surfaces. Small undulations on bumpy roads in the Mondeo are dealt with a maturity uncommon to this segment of vehicle. The steering is natural and intuitive, with an excellent willingness to change direction.

Not so good : The level of tyre noise over Australia’s rougher surfaced bitumen, the chunky, coarse-chip stuff used on many country roads is higher than ideal and not a match against the locally designed and built Ford Falcon.

Buying and Owning

Good : There is three levels of trim, the entry level LX, the mid range Zetec and the range topping Titanium grade. It’s Good to see that Ford has ensured every Mondeo wagon ticks the safety box (seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, Anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control all come standard). The combined official fuel economy of the LX TDCI grade (the turbo diesel) is an impressively low 5.9-litres per 100kms. The Mondeo’s sloping hatch body has only a few competitors in the medium segment especially compared to the traditional three-box sedan and offers packaging and load space advantages.

Not so good : The fuel economy of the 2.3-litre petrol engine is 9.5-litre per 100kms – the petrol Mondeo is one of the least efficient medium segment players. We’d prefer a full size spare wheel over the temporary ‘space saver’.

Ford Mondeo Wagon

Price range

$33,340 – $48,490

Overall

Good: Roomy yet stylish interior; Strong safety credentials; Frugal yet powerful 2.0-litre turbo diesel; Excellent ride and handling.

Not so Good: 2.0-litre petrol engine is a little thirsty; Busy looking centre console with too many buttons; No touchscreen technology.

Design and Engineering

Good : Whilst the current shape Mondeo Hatchback arrived here in October 2007, the wagon (with its significant extra cargo carrying capacity) didn’t go on sale until July 2009. It shares the same length wheelbase as the hatch however a 5 cm longer rear overhang contributes to extra load space.

The August 2010 update saw the introduction of the frugal 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine with a six speed sequential automatic gearbox, and the mid-life facelift in November 2010, freshened up the range.

Not so good : The Verdict team gives the new sharper Mondeo design two thumbs up. But what do you guys think?

Interior and Styling

Good : The modern looking dash layout features lots of nice soft-touch plastics and quality fabrics. Overall fit and finish is impressive, plus the front seats are comfortable. There is no lack of storage space up front and generous levels of second row legroom in the back.

The large rear cargo space – 542 litres grows to an impressive 1733 litres when the rear bench is folded down. The cargo area comes with a luggage cover, shopping bag hooks, tie-down straps and a number of 12 volt outlets. The load lip is nice and low and the tailgate is wide for a big entry space. Cabin noise is impressively low for a wagon, even at highway speeds.

Not so good : The shiny silver finish all over the centre console is almost approaching ‘bling’ standards and the button overload clutters the centre dash.

Disregarding this choice of finish the overall quality of materials in the Mondeo is very good and a notch higher than in the brands larger Falcon (which is by no means poor).

Performance

Good : Three four-cylinder engines on offer – a 2.3-litre petrol with 118kW of power and 208Nm of torque matched to a six speed sports automatic.

A, 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 149kW of power and 300Nm of torque tied to a six speed Sports Automatic Dual Clutch.

Or, a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 120kW and 340Nm linked to a six speed Sports Automatic Dual Clutch.

Our pick of the three engines is the turbo diesel. It’s a willing performer when required yet is refined and quiet at standstill and below 3000 revs (even compared against petrol engines). The Powershift gearbox is very good, gear changes are smooth and you get the fuel economy benefits of a manual gearbox with the convenience of an automatic.

Not so good : The six speed Sports Automatic Dual Clutch can be a little jerky in stop/start traffic. And, the 2.3-litre petrol just feels underwhelming compared to the other two engines on offer.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Mondeo’s handling is right amongst the best of the medium segment. It’s an enjoyable wagon to drive over a twisty road, the ‘firmish’ suspension stays settled over a wide variety of surfaces. Small undulations on bumpy roads in the Mondeo are dealt with a maturity uncommon to this segment of vehicle. The steering is natural and intuitive, with an excellent willingness to change direction.

Not so good : Not much really. Compared to the Mondeo hatch the Wagon moves around just that little bit more when being pushed – but we’re talking small degrees here. Less brilliant is the amount of tyre noise over Australia’s rougher surfaced bitumen (the chunky, coarse-chip stuff used on many country roads), in this aspect the Mondeo can’t match the Australian designed and built Falcon.

Buying and Owning

Good : The turbo diesel engine is offered in three levels of trim, the entry level LX, the mid range Zetec and the range topping Titanium grade whilst the petrol wagon is offered in LX and Zetec trim.

Good to see that Ford has ensured every Mondeo wagon ticks the safety box (seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, Anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control all come standard). The combined official fuel economy of the diesel grades is an impressively low 6.2-litres per 100kms (especially for a passenger car with such a large cargo area).

Not so good : The fuel economy of the 2.3-litre petrol engine is 9.5-litres per 100kms – the petrol Mondeo is one of the least efficient medium segment players.

Ford Territory SUV

Price range

$39,990 – $62,740

Overall

Good: It’s got excellent, class-leading handling and proves to be decent value for money. A proven full size SUV…

Not so Good: Average fuel economy (petrol engine); Aging exterior design; Interior room isn’t class leading.

Design and Engineering

Good : The Ford Territory received its second ‘facelift’ in April 2011 and with it saw a new front-end look – plus, they added new tail lights to ensure the Territory adopts Ford’s current ‘Kinetic’ design. Ford also introduced a range of TDCi diesel models.

Not so good : Re-wrote the rulebooks when it was launched back in May 2004 and rightfully achieved huge leading sales figures for the first few years – however it no longer has this advantage over the competition in design or sales. Ford have only introduced minor facelifts since the ’04 launch so the Territory’s lines are starting to date…and we’re not so sure about the look of the new ‘gaping’ lower grille design against the rest of the Territory body.

Interior and Styling

Good : A well-padded driver’s seat combined with both a tilt & reach adjustable steering wheel and adjustable pedal height ensures most people should be comfortable behind the wheel this also ensures good front & side visibility. Clever interior packaging with sufficient room for five adults in the first two rows and an additional two kids in the third row (optional on some grades). Plenty of useful storage compartments where both the second and third row seats can fold down to create serious amounts of cargo space and maximise its utility.

Not so good : If you choose a Turbo grade – you’ll have to put up with some engine noise in your functional and spacious interior.

Performance

Good : Enough pace for the school run and more than enough for the holidays when loaded with surfboards and camping equipment.

The 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine, produces 195kW of power and 391Nm of torque. All models fitted with the petrol six-cylinder engine are only available in rear-wheel drive.

There is also a 2.7-litre TDCi V6 turbo-diesel engine, available in both rear and all-wheel drive. The turbo-diesel produces 140kW of power and 44oNm of torque.

Both engines come fitted with six-speed automatic transmissions across rear and all-wheel-drive models.

We found the both engines had plenty of power and torque on tap. Steep inclines and standing starts where not a problem with both engines performing quite well.

Not so good : The 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine can be a little thirty but fuel economy has been improved with the addition of a six-speed transmission.

Ride and Handling

Good : Still provides class-leading levels of handling combined with a comfortable ride, so both driver and passengers are kept happy. The truly excellent steering feel inspires driver confidence, and as an Australian-developed car the ESP (electronic stability control) works well on our roads.

Not so good : It’s a ‘soft roader’ so we wouldn’t recommend taking it for some serious off-roading (BUT a ‘serious’ 4×4 will never drive as nice around corners on the road as the Territory – so it depends on what you’ll truly use this car for most!?).

Buying and Owning

Good : The RWD (rear-wheel drive) grades are much cheaper and lighter (they do without the heavy all-wheel drive hardware) – smart buying in our eyes. All grades come with electronic stability control (an important safety feature).

Not so good : If you can manage it we say fork out the extra cash for the turbo diesel as the petrol engine is a tad thirsty.