It is no secret that Ford is the dominant manufacturer in the UK in terms of small, family cars. They are also one of the top sellers of sub-compacts, compacts, and family vans in Europe. Now the company is investing heavily in trying to build its market share in the crossover and 4x4 arena. They do well enough in the States, but can Ford really compete in Europe?
The European SUV, crossover and 4x4 market clearly belongs to Nissan/Renault and their very popular Qashqai SUV. Other major players include Opel/Vauxhall, Audi, and BMW. All of the major competitors have long established reputations for putting out robust vehicles capable of withstanding considerable punishment. The big problem Ford is up against is not one of matching the quality and pricing of the competition; it is one of perception.
Ford has long been considered a master of the family car. What's more, they are the preferred nameplate for family cars that are reliable yet affordable. Trying to compete in the higher-priced crossover and 4x4 market could be challenging. For 2016, the company is pushing hard with the Edge, Kuga, and EcoSport. The latter two are in the midst of major facelifts to improve their ‘sex appeal’.
The BFGoodrich All Terrain tyre is an iconic favourite for many 4x4 enthusiasts. The great news is that it has just got better, and we have had an exclusive opportunity to test the latest version, the KO2, across some of the roughest tracks and trails in Baja Mexico.
Japanese motor manufacturer Nissan has made a significant commitment to its business with Russia. Announced at the recent Russian Motor Show were no less than nine new models, including what was claimed to be that country’s first affordable hybrid model. At present Nissan holds 6.5 per cent of the Russian car market, and the company aims to increase this to 10 per cent over the next three years. Included in these new models is the brand new Pathfinder. This is the fourth-generation Pathfinder, and from initial photographs, for 4x4 enthusiasts at least, probably the most disappointing. The model is presently built in St Petersburg, and while the new model is claimed to remain an ‘all-road’ vehicle, fitted with Nissan’s recognised intelligent 4x4 system and X-tronic transmission, it looks like… well, you decide. It looks like a bigger Qashgai, or do we mean X-Trail? To be honest it’s hard to tell.
Suzuki’s Vitara was unveiled some 25 years ago, and it’s fair to say that it was one of the most significant modern 4x4s ever built. It very cleverly appealed to a completely new group of enthusiats and created a vehicle for the then named ‘leisure market’. Looking back today, it is certainly a very idiosyncratic design; slab sided, with a huge flat front windscreen. Times change and it ceased production, with only the larger Grand Vitara SUV remaining. At this month’s Paris Motor Show, the Vitara returns to the Suzuki range. Based on the iV-4 concept, the Vitara will be available in the UK in the spring of 2015, fitted with the company’s ALLGRIP intelligent four-wheel drive system and the range will include both diesel and petrol engines. Customers will be able to personalise their own Vitaras by choosing different colour and trim options. We will have more details on the new Vitara in next month’s issue.
Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV completed the recent Asia Cross Country Rally, finishing first in class and a creditable 14th overall. The Rally was used by Mitsubishi as a platform to confirm the hybrid vehicle’s reliability in difficult conditions. The PHEV is modified for competition use with the drive battery mounted higher to allow for better ground clearance, and it gets competition spec suspension. Add underbody suspension, a snorkel and the rest is left very much ‘standard’. We have a feature on the PHEV, matched against the company’s first Jeep on page 46 of the November 2014 issue - buy it here.