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Detroit show: Vertrek signals Ford’s small SUV future

Coming soon: Ford says its Vertrek concept is close to production.

Near-production Vertrek concept points to 2012 Escape replacement for Australia

Ford logo11 Jan 2011

By TERRY MARTIN

IT MIGHT be dubbed a concept, but the Ford Vertrek unveiled at the Detroit motor show this week is a clear indication of the US auto giant’s next-generation global compact SUV.

Representing the next-generation Kuga, a replacement for the Escape in North America and a long-overdue successor for the struggling GF-series Mazda 626-based Escape sold in Australia, the Vertrek has emerged in near-production form and is expected to hit global markets in 2012.

Although it was designed primarily in Europe, the Focus-based Vertrek bears the new kinetic design language for SUVs that Ford Australia’s Broadmeadows-based design centre has created with the soon-to-be-released facelifted (and local Falcon-based) Territory, as shown in official preliminary sketches released last month and subsequent spy photographs snapped of the vehicle in final testing.

Australian designers also had a hand in the Vertrek’s striking interior design, while the final production version is a strong chance to be sourced from Thailand – a country with which Australia has a free-trade agreement and which could also supply this market with the current Kuga, ahead of the new-generation model previewed here.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Vertrek concept. Below: Ford group vice-president of design and chief creative officer J Mays.

In Detroit, Ford executives confirmed the vehicle signals the direction the company is taking for a new global small SUV based on its C-segment architecture, which replaces three current regional platforms and will spawn at least 10 new models including the redesigned Focus due here late this year and the C-Max people-mover – which was shown in Detroit in hybrid and plug-in hybrid form.

Power for the Vertrek comes from a 1.6-litre EcoBoost direct-injection four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which for the first time is paired with economy-boosting idle-stop technology and regenerative braking.

The so-called Auto-Start-Stop feature is said to make a five per cent dent in fuel consumption in mixed driving conditions, with peak-hour traffic eliciting savings of up to 10 per cent.

An upgraded 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi engine will also be available, delivering a claimed seven per cent reduction in CO2 emissions over the current unit.

Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions will be used across the range.

Ford claims the Vertrek’s “sleek, modern design” still manages a generous cargo volume, with 828 litres available behind the back row or 1879 litres when the rear seats are folded. This is up to a 20 per cent improvement over the current Kuga, and on par with the boxier Escape sold in North America.

Passenger space also increases compared to the current Kuga, while technology takes a leap forward with systems such as ‘active park assist’, a blind-spot information system (with ‘cross-traffic alert’) and ‘intelligent access’ with push-button start.

Ford describes the cabin as ‘sporty and sophisticated’, pointing to unique shapes and forms of the (leather-trimmed) instrument panel and wing-like span of the dash that extends into the door areas.

There is some striking neon red/orange fluorescent detailing, satin-tinted platinum tones on the dominant centre console and slimline seats trimmed in ‘velour leather’. Handcrafted woven leather floor materials are also used in lieu of conventional carpet.

While some of these will not make it to production, Ford’s group vice-president of design and chief creative officer J Mays has confirmed the concept is not far from production and said consumers were ready for a radical new interpretation of the compact SUV.

“The world is changing and consumers are looking for a new compact SUV,” he said. “They work hard, play hard and desire a vehicle that reflects that outlook and stands out.

“Vertrek concept brings new excitement to the global crossover and compact SUV arena and is our vision of how kinetic design can redefine this increasingly popular segment for Ford globally. The very name Vertrek signals versatility and capability, typifying the personality of the revolution in this market.”

Ford’s group vice-president of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, said: “Vertrek concept is a no-compromise solution we feel utility vehicle customers will embrace around the world.

“It is a revolution compared to what is typically seen in this segment in North America and is a stylish evolution compared with products outside North America. This new design is sleeker and more fuel efficient and delivers the capability, including people and cargo volume, customers demand globally.”

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