Car reviews - Ford - Laser - LXi 4-dr sedan
Compact dimensions, fun to drive, refined and comfortable interior, zippy and economical engines
Room for improvement
Cabins can be too dark, 1.6 auto combo with air and a full load needs a firm right foot
7 May 2003
THE Laser started off as a tremendous success story for Ford. Introduced in 1981, it replaced the unloved Escort from Europe and quickly ruled the small car roost for a decade. Over the years it underwent many changes and refinements to always be amongst the dynamic benchmarks, even if it lost its way a little when the ugly KF came out in 1990.
A significant difference from the original series is that the Laser was once the baby of the Ford fleet, with the Telstar the medium-sized car. In its latter years the Laser moved into the small/medium segment and the baby became the patchy Festiva until the far-better Ka replaced that in 1999.
But back to the Laser. Underneath it really is just a rebodied Mazda 323 although over the years Ford has stylised the car sufficiently to make it distinctly different, aided by Italian styling guru Ghia.
The KJ model under review here is cleanly styled with a high boot line and attractively rounded bumpers.
Models range from the LXi in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback and choice of 1.6 or 1.8-litre engines, the Liata (same engines but hatchback only) and the Laser Lynx, a three-door hatch with a higher equipment level.
Our subject car is the LXi four-door sedan with 1.6-litre engine.
The Laser's engine is the well proven Mazda 323 unit, which is also used in the sporty Mazda MX5.
The engine is a twin overhead cam, 16-valve unit with multi-point fuel-injection. It is quiet and smooth, particularly at higher revs.
The engine is mounted transversely and drive to the front wheels is through a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox.
The suspension is independent all round by struts, coil springs and anti-sway bars.
Brakes are vacuum power-assisted discs front and rear, and steering is power-assisted rack and pinion.
Interior room is excellent with adequate seating for five adults. Head room for tall occupants is very good.
The seats are comfortable and there is plenty of storage space with glovebox and door pockets.
Instrumentation includes tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges housed in a central binnacle.
Power steering, anti-theft system and a four-speaker radio/cassette are standard. Options include air-conditioning, airbags and metallic paint.
Anti-lock brakes, central locking and electric windows are not available.
On the road, the Laser is a delight. Firm, almost sporty handling combined with the willing engine performance make it a pleasure to drive.
The basic handling characteristic is mild understeer with the front turning into corners well. Handling is aided by the large 185/65 x R14 tyres. The ride is well balanced and the brakes are powerful and fade free.
Fuel consumption is excellent due to the efficient engine, smooth body shape and light weight.
Normal city and suburban driving should give about eight litres per 100km, increasing to 6.5L/100km on the highway.
The long life span of the car is a benefit to customers as bugs from earlier models have been progressively rectified. The Laser is virtually fault free and if there are problems, there is a large dealer network to call on.
The Laser LXi is an excellent choice as a small family sedan or semi-sporty car with good accommodation. The design is well proven, road performance good and the standard of finish high.
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