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~ ~ Ever since old Henry Ford made the Model-T into one of the world’s first popular mass-produced cars, Ford have never been too far from the top of the manufacturer’s league. Today they produce a range of vehicles of all sizes and types, which they market internationally on every continent and in nearly every country on the planet. So it hardly comes as a surprise that here in the UK and Ireland Ford is the car of choice of literally millions of motorists. There are more used Fords on the second hand car market than any other marque, and it is these I am going to look at briefly here, in the form of a type of “guide” to what is available, and what are the “best buys”, that I hope will possibly prove of some use to anyone considering buying a used Ford.
~ ~ The Escort first came onto the market as far back as1968. It’s very first advertising slogan was “The Small Car That Isn’t”, and is considered by many as a legend of the motoring world. The last model came of the production lines last year, and there are no plans for it to reappear in any future reincarnation. The Escort was never the last word in either refinement or performance, although it was a favoured buy of “boy racers” for a time with its “XR3i” performance model. What it always offered, and still does, is simple, straightforward, low-cost motoring. The most recent late 1990’s models are fairly well appointed and comfortable, and since it has now been discontinued, a late version can now be picked up at a very good price, provided you don’t allow yourself to get your fingers badly burned by an unscrupulous main dealer. A 2000 “V” registration can now be purchased for under £5,000. The best of the different models is probably the 1.6 LX, but be wary. Always try to verify the car’s service record, and look out in particular for noisy engines (this shows “hard” use), and worn suspensions, which are expensive to replace. Ensure as well that the electrical systems are in good working order, as this is another common fault with this car.
~ ~ The Fiesta was one of the first ever “super-minis”, and has been a best seller for Ford ever since it was first produced. There is a very good reason for this. Quite simply, it is a fine little motorcar, and terrific value for money. Many motorists started of their motoring lives in a Fiesta, as they are cheap to buy, maintain, and to run, and don’t cost an arm and a leg to insure for the younger driver, especially the smaller-engined versions. The most recent models are very well appointed, many with extras that are normally only to be found on much larger cars. The ride quality and handling is excellent, as is the finish and trim, but they fall down a little on interior space, the back seat passengers in particular being a bit “cramped”. The best of the used models are probably the ones fitted with the peppy Ford “Zetec” engine, in either its 1.25-litre, or 1.4-litre versions. Again look out for heavy use, poor maintenance, and dodgy electrics. Also try to avoid the automatic gearbox versions, that have proved very unreliable. Because of their popularity, there is always a surfeit of good used Fiestas on the market, so be prepared to shop around for the best bargains. A good used Fiesta will cost you anything from about £2,000 (1995) up to the £6,000 plus mark for last year’s model.
~ ~ The Puma first hit the showrooms in 1997, and is a nippy and agile two door coupe, that is a “drivers” delight, with two engine sizes, the 1.4-litre and the far better performing 1.7-litre. Both use the Ford “Zetec” engine, but the engines used in the Puma are unique, and are not to be found in any other of the Ford models. The Puma is actually based on the same platform as the Fiesta, but here the similarity ends, apart from a few tell tale signs in the interior finish. Both versions, both the 1.4 and the 1.7-litre are agile and quick, with good ride quality and sharp and precise handling. But producing 125bhp, the 1.7-litre really knows how to shift, with a top speed of 126mph, and a 0 – 60 mph time of just 9.2 seconds. Again, look out for any signs of hard use, and as this is a “sporty” car that encourages fast driving, also check for tired and worn gearboxes, that may have been subject to much abuse, and for dents and dinges on the body trim and alloy wheels. A used Puma can be bought for about £6,000 for early 1997 models, up to about the £10,500 mark for current models.
~ ~ On the scene since about 1996, the Ka produced a real stir when it first appeared, due mostly to its very radical and extrovert “rounded” exterior. This is a smart little “mini” car, but despite its peculiar looks, it has a totally bog-standard 1.3-litre Fiesta engine (from the older version Fiesta), that makes it very practical to both run and maintain. The Ka is now in its third version (Ka3), and it’s a pleasant and comfortable car to drive, with good economy from its small engine, and adequate performance. The top speed is 96mph, with a 0 to 60mph time of 14.3 seconds, and you should manage a bit better than 40 mpg. Its major drawback is a very small boot, and very little room for rear seat passengers. There is no automatic gearbox model manufactured, and be wary of early versions that didn’t have power steering fitted as standard. Look out also for “ex-driving school” cars, that tend to have been abused (especially gearboxes) by learner drivers. Best value for money is probably a late model “Ka2”. Prices start at about £2,000 for an early model, up to about £5,000 for last year’s version.
~ ~ The Scorpio was the new name Ford gave to its somewhat outdated Granada when it was re-launched in 1994. Now out of production since 1998, its rather dull and dated exterior hides an engine of pure gold, especially the 2.3-litre and 2.9-litre V6 versions, which will zip you to 60mph in under 8.5 seconds. These cars were the “flagship” of the Ford range in their time, and while never very popular or high selling, they make an excellent second-hand investment, as they come equipped with nearly every extra under the sun, like air-con, ABS brakes, and traction control. These cars are real “cruisers”, and are extremely comfortable and very well appointed, with good handling and ride quality. The manual versions are much better than the autos, which tended to give trouble. The Scorpio was/is a very popular car with taxi-drivers, because of its comfort levels, large yet fairly economical engines, and many extras. So look out for “ex-cabs” that have been “clocked” when buying used. Be wary also of seat-covers, which are often used to disguise well-worn and tatty seating on ex-taxis. Also avoid the 2-litre version, which is underpowered for the size of body. These cars are a real bargain, and an early 1994 model can be had for about £2,500, with even the later 1998 models only costing a mere £6,000 to £7,000.
~ ~ This car, a two-door coupe based on the US version of the Mondeo, (the Ford Contour) looks both elegant and sporty, and should have been yet another success story for Ford. That it actually turned out to be a bit of a flop on the European market is probably attributable to the fact that the US suspension system simply wasn’t well suited for British road surfaces, giving it a sluggish ride quality. Its 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre V6 “Zetec” engines were lively enough though, and if you can live with the somewhat cramped interior and soft ride, then it isn’t actually that bad a car, with a very “sporty” look. Launched in 1998, it went out of production last year, and used versions can be bought for about the £8,000 to £11,000 mark. It would be fair to say that this wouldn’t be one of my favourite Ford’s, but look if you must, and make your own mind up.
~ ~ This is the model that Ford launched last year to replace its ever-popular Escort It is, in fact, a far superior product in every way to its predecessor, and is fast becoming one of the most popular cars that the company produce. It is extremely well equipped, has an excellent level of refinement, and drives and handles like a dream. It is very agile, with even the basic1.4-litre model giving you a 0 – 60mph time of 14.4 seconds, a top speed of 106mph, and a return of 43mpg. The top of the range 2.0-litre, fitted with the “Zetec” engine, is much swifter, taking you to a top speed of 125mph and from 0 – 60mph in a mere 9.6 seconds. The Focus comes in dozens of different versions, and with a diverse range of both engines and extras, from diesels to hatchbacks and estates. It is cheap to tax, maintain, and insure, and is a more than worthy successor to the old Escort. There aren’t that many used versions around just yet, with it still being a relatively new model, but with used car prices very depressed at the moment, you will probably find a good, clean 2000 model at about the £9,000 mark if you are prepared to scout around a bit. Only things to really look out for here when buying used are ex-rental models from the likes of Hertz and Avis, and non-UK spec models that have been “bought in” from the Continent (not you Hans!!) by dealers, specifically for resale to unsuspecting punters.
~ ~ The Mondeo has been around in various guises and versions since the early 1990’s, and is arguably the best car in the Ford stable at the present time. From the very earliest versions up to the newest, they have always been renowned for excellent handling and good ride quality. Performance varies from adequate to exhilarating, depending on the model and engine size, with the top of the range 2.5-litre V6 charging you to a top speed of 141mph, and from 0 – 60mph in only 8.7 seconds. Equipment levels also vary enormously from version to version, so be prepared to shop around for the best buys. Interiors are comfortable and spacious, only being let down a little by slightly cramped leg room for rear seat passengers. The boots vary from capricious to enormous, and the all in package has led to the Mondeo being one of the most popular family cars on the market. Things to look out for when buying second-hand again include used taxis, and cars without full service records. Common faults on this model include worn steering (look out for excessive “play” in the steering wheel) and “sticky” valves on some early engines. A good early Mondeo can be had for as little as £1,000, and even last year’s model is now selling at about the £6,500 to £8,500 mark, depending on the model.
~ ~ Ford also produce three other models, the Maverick, Explorer, and the Galaxy, but as these fall into the 4 x 4 and People Carrier brackets, I don’t intend to include them in this review. Well, that’s it folks. Cujimmy’s comprehensive guide to used Fords. Hope this proves useful to you if you are looking to buy a used Ford in the near future.