Have you driven a Ford lately?
Ford Motor Co doesn’t always let loose with their stable of cars for reviews, so they’ve managed to put tougher a group flog this week in Los Angeles for those of us that would like to see what Ford’s done lately.
As we, Leah and hearing dog and I, were on our way to LAX for a trip to Chicago and the Route 66 NHRA Nationals, we decided to stop in on the way to check out of a few of these delectable and tasty-looking rides. There wasn’t enough time to test them all (drat), but we did manage to get some time in five cars before getting stuck in traffic adjacent to the airport.
First up was the Ford Fiesta 1.0L. A friend advised us to drive one and so we did: dressed in lime green and in hatch format (my fave), the 1.0L inline 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine is a direct-injected, turbocharged power plant that’s both fuel efficient without forgetting how much we love to mash the loud pedal. It has 123 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 125 lb-ft of torque at 2500, where you can use it. Yummy.
Only available with a five-speed manual transmission, that was just fine with us, but I did note the shifter felt kind of spongy. The electric power steering isn’t terribly vague and the disc/drum braking is quite effective, as we discovered the traffic. Going up Signal Hill to the very top where you can see all of Long Beach’s shoreline wasn’t a chore for the engine or transmission and this little 3-cylinder just loves to rev. It uses regular unleaded in the 12.4-gallon tank and is rated at a nifty 21/43/36 mpg by the Feds.
Next up was the powerfully wonderful Fiesta ST with its 1.6L inline four-cylinder turbocharge direct injection EcoBoost engine mated to a 6-speed, close ratio gearbox, also manual. Ah, that felt good.The Recaro seats were just my size, the power and balance perfect for cut-and-thrust mid-day freeway work and the trip up Signal Hill was, obviously effortless, as you’d expect with 197 horsepower at 6000 rpm (close to redline) and 202 lb-ft of torque at 4200. The shift linkage is much more precise than the 1.0L’s and gear spacing was just lovely for letting the ST find its legs. What a great package!
So where do you go from there? How about a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle (it’s close to being a minivan but nobody, nobody wants to talk about stuff like that, right? The Ruby red C-Max Enegi is a plug-in hybrid and, when we left the lot it had a full charge, which in less than 20 minutes was close to being depleted. Somehow I managed to get it back near halfway with braking and other specialized tricks I know, but I will say the Atkinson cycle 2L inline four-cylinder engine does its work when there’s no plug-in power remaining.
This is no lightweight at 3,899 pounds, particularly when equipped, as this vehicle is, with everything from soup to nuts, navigation included, along with a foot-activated power lift gate and active parking assistance. I guess some people need all these options to get from point A to B, but I”m not one of them – although I’m always appreciative of a good navigation system.
After the C-Max Energi, it was time to try out the large Fusion sedan with its 1.5L engine. How could this thing possibly get out of its own way, I asked myself? The answer is “quite nicely, thank you.” With 181 horsepower at 6000 rpm from the EcoBoost direct-injected inline four-cylinder, this sedan can get 23/36/28 mpg on regular unleaded fuel. That’s sweet! And curb weight isn’t all that bad at 3438 pounds, so the Fusion sedan feels peppy, happy and is very serene inside. Leah the hearing dog liked it best because I didn’t pound the corners quite as hard as I did in the two Fiesta cars. (She liked the C-Max Energi as well
Finally we drove the Focus ST hatch, which was like saving the ice cream sundae for dessert. Not too spicy (although I didn’t floor it, hoping to keep myself out of traffic school for the first time in a decade) or even jail. It worked, but I’m sure on a race track this car must be chocolate decadence cake in a mechanical package.
What did I like? The 2L direct injected EcoBoost inline four=cylinder giving up 252 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 2500, right where it’s useful. Track-tuned suspension with variable ratio electric power rack-and-pinion steering is precise and the suspension is perfectly tuned for an avid driver. Loved the brakes, adored the Recaro seats, listened to the engine more than the audio system and Leah went from one side of her Recaro to the other on our quick jaunt. With 3223 pounds of road-hugging weight to the road, this hatch can’t be caught. Only hitch? You’ve got to use 93 octane fuel in the Focus ST, which is a small price to pay for a perennial grin.
After this it was off to the airport, only to discover a lock-down on the route to the parking garage. Used all our wiles to get around it, to the gate in time to make the flight, which was held for half an hour due to weather problems in Chicago. Now that was a letdown.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit
(apologies for the photos from my iPhone)