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Crossroads: Suzuki's SX4 (left) and VW's Concept-A (right).

Ford looks set to launch a new crossover wagon as European demand surges

31 Mar 2006

AS ITS prestige division Land Rover prepares to launch a new-generation Freelander, Ford is believed to be developing its own small 4WD wagon based on the same C1 Focus platform.

Due to be shown at the Paris motor show in September this year in concept form, it will appear alongside the production version of the second-generation Freelander to prime potential European buyers to the idea of a Ford-badged compact 4WD.

If it gets the green light as predicted, the Ford 4WD will be built at the Focus production facility in Germany.

A European on-sale date of late 2007 is likely, with Australian deliveries possible from around late 2008 or early 2009.

While refusing to confirm the existence of such a vehicle, Ford Australia has already said that it is extremely keen to expand the Focus range in this country.

"We are already on the record as saying that we are looking at Focus diesel and we are looking at Focus coupe-convertible," Ford Australia spokesperson Sinead McAlary told GoAuto this week. "And we won’t say no to anything without investigating the business case for any vehicle first." The small 4WD should feature both petrol and turbo-diesel engines, with the latter including the new 320Nm 2.2-litre TDCi four-cylinder range-topper co-developed with PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

It is also believed that a variation of the Haldex clutch – which apportions drive to the rear wheels as needed – will be employed. A similar set-up is used on the Volvo S40 and V50 AWD models that are also off the same platform base.

If Ford’s new small 4WD wagon does get the production green light as anticipated, it will sit below the American-developed Ford Escape small-medium 4WD shared with Mazda (Tribute).

The ageing Escape, sold in Australia in 108kW 2.3-litre four-cylinder and 152kW 3.0-litre V6 guises, suffers in Europe because it is not available in a turbo-diesel model variant.

27 center imageLeft: Opel Antara GTC concept

Ford is keen on a slice of the small 4WD cake in Europe, which is about to get a whole lot larger. While 4WD sales are showing signs of stabilising in Australia after years of growth, and actually falling in the US, in Europe they are on the verge of a new product-driven surge.

Industry analyst CSM Worldwide in Frankfurt is reportedly predicting up to a 33 per cent jump over the next five years, from 743,000 4WD sales last year to almost 1.1 million units forecast for 2010.

Fiat and Suzuki have been first with the Hungarian-built Sedici and SX4 twins, a compact 4WD wagon based on a stretched Swift platform.

PSA is following suit with the Mitsubishi Outlander II-derived Peugeot and Citroen 4WDs also due at the Paris show this year.

General Motors has already unveiled the Daewoo-developed and produced Opel Antara and Chevrolet Captiva, heading here soon as a Holden, while Renault is believed to be developing a Nissan X-Trail-based vehicle with its Samsung subsidiary in South Korea.

Volkswagen is in there too, having unveiled the Concept-A vehicle at this month’s Geneva motor show, which is the precursor to the 2008 production model spawned off the Golf/new Passat platform.

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