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Beijing show: Ford’s Aussie-flavoured Escort imminent

Chinese puzzle: This camouflaged left-hand-drive car, believed to be the new mid-sized Ford Escort for China, was captured on Melbourne roads by a reader.

Ford Australia puts finishing touches to Chinese Escort ahead of Beijing show launch

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Ford logo26 Mar 2014

FORD Australia’s latest international design and engineering handiwork will go on display in Beijing next month in the form of a mid-sized sedan called Fu Rui Si – that’s Escort to you.

The Blue Oval company is set to spring the four-door vehicle at the 2014 Beijing motor show starting April 20 ahead of Escort’s showroom debut in China in the second half of this year.

Although the Chinese-built car is officially the result of an international development project – including Ford’s Chinese team – these pictures of the disguised Escort in Australia are proof positive that Ford Australia’s engineers are knee-deep in it.

Snapped on roads around Melbourne and Geelong, these test ‘mules’ are involved in shakedown testing for the new model which is expected to sit between the Focus small car – Ford’s top-selling vehicle in China – and the Mondeo sedan.

The disguised prototypes have also been spotted inside Ford’s You Yangs proving ground in Victoria being benchmarked against Volkswagen Golfs – a move that indicates Ford’s lofty engineering targets for the Escort, even though it is a budget sedan.

The concept version of Escort was shown 12 months ago at the Beijing show’s alter ego, the Shanghai motor show, making next month’s event in the Chinese capital perfect for the debut of the 2014 production car that is expected to start rolling down the production lines of Ford’s joint-venture partner, Chang’ an, in Chongqing, western China, in the second half of this year.

Reviving the Escort name after about a decade, the four-cylinder car is aimed at developing markets such as China and – if a right-hand-drive test vehicle spotted by GoAuto is any guide – possibly India where Ford Australia’s previous budget car design and engineering effort, the Fiesta-based Figo, has been a roaring success, both domestically and in numerous exports markets such as South Africa.

Like the Figo, the stripped-back Escort is not destined for western markets, including Australia.

And like the Figo, the Escort is likely built on a superseded Ford platform such as the former Focus, to keep the costs down.

The production Escort is expected to be largely faithful to the concept design, with the same new Ford family trapezoidal grille that was pioneered on the North American Ford Fusion and which is spreading across the global range.

The test cars in these photos reveal the same silhouette, including tell-tale rear window and C-pillar treatment that appears identical to the concept.

Although Ford is remaining tight-lipped about details of the Escort until the Beijing show publicity bandwagon gets rolling, expect the car to be about 4700mm long, or about 150mm longer than the Focus sedan.

Among Escort’s target rivals in China will be the Hyundai Mistra – a China-only medium sedan built in partnership with Chinese partner Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC).

That car – a re-working of the previous-generation Sonata – was launched in China about six months ago after making its public debut at the Shanghai show last year, just down the hall from the Escort concept.

The Mistra offers a choice of 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engines – a likely indicator of what can be expected in the Ford equivalent.

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