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Laser gains sporty spice

Hotshot hatch: The Laser SR2 gains a body kit, fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels and a chrome exhaust tip.

Ford aims to spice up the Laser range with a new performance leader

9 Apr 2001

FORD has introduced an updated Laser range spearheaded by a sporty SR2 variant.

The new lineup goes on sale in mid-April, with pricing starting at $20,415 for the base model LXi sedan or hatch, rising to $29,178 for the range-topping automatic SR2.

While changes to the lesser models are minimal, the SR2 gains a 2.0-litre engine, stiffer suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, chrome exhaust tip and an aggressive body kit.

It is more or less identical in concept and execution to its Mazda 323 Astina SP20 cousin, with which it shares its underpinnings. Although the SR2 is available only in hatchback form for now, Ford has not ruled out a sedan version further down the track.

Ford says the performance flagship retains the practicality of its lesser siblings but will appeal to customers looking for a "hot four".

"SR2 will appeal to a whole group of buyers within the traditionally termed light car segment," Ford Australia passenger vehicle marketing manager Stephen Kruk said.

"These people don't buy their cars purely for economic or other 'sensible' reasons. They buy them for the feelings they inspire.

"They buy them because they love to drive. They buy them so they can have a true sporty feel to their car as well as a sporty look." In addition to the performance upgrades, the SR2 also features white-faced dials, air-conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, central locking, remote keyless entry, illuminated entry, map lamps, a single-slot CD player and front driver and passenger airbags.

The 2.0-litre engine cranks out 98kW of power at 6000 rpm and 178Nm of torque at 4500 rpm.

Ford says the SR2's extra performance is kept in check by increased body rigidity (across the revised Laser range) - which minimises body roll and vehicle pitch during cornering and braking - and beefed-up suspension.

The revised Laser lineup also features structural resin foam inserts at the top of the B-pillars for improved vehicle safety and reduced NVH (noise/vibration/harshness).

In addition, the SR2's ABS braking system incorporates a new Electronic Brake Distribution system that differentiates between a light load with no passengers and a heavy load with passengers and accordingly allocates the ideal hydraulic braking pressure.

Meanwhile, the Laser lineup also includes an SR variant that features a similar bodykit to the SR2's although it has a 1.8-litre engine and 15-inch alloy wheels. Standard features include central locking, a single-slot CD player, two-tone interior trim, and a driver airbag. Air-conditioning, power steering and an engine immobiliser are also standard.

A passenger airbag is also standard in the GLXi, SR and SR2, and available as an option with ABS on the LXi hatch.

Additional enhancements to the Laser range include lidded cup-holders, new fabrics, a front passenger seat back pocket, brushed silver centre dash in GLXi, SR and SR2, and improved layout and operation of climate controls.

Laser pricing: LXi hatch and sedan, 5-speed manual - $20,415 (plus free power-pack) LXi hatch and sedan, 4-speed auto - $22,203 (plus free power-pack) GLXi hatch and sedan, 5-speed manual - $23,600 (plus free alloy-wheels) GLXi hatch and sedan, 4-speed auto - $25,388 (plus free alloy-wheels) SR hatch, 5-speed manual - $23,490 SR hatch, 4-speed auto - $25,278 SR2 hatch, 5-speed manual - $27,390 SR2 hatch, 4-speed auto - $29,178.

Laser SR2 drive impressions: FORD'S Laser SR2 could be viewed as a modern-day interpretation of the defunct Nissan Pulsar SSS.

The vital ingredients are all there: five-door hatchback body, punchy 2.0-litre engine, subtle cosmetic upgrades and sporty suspension settings.

The on-paper specifications are enticing, but does it deliver the goods on the road? In a word, yes.

The SR2 provides a rewarding driving experience in a taut package that copes well with most situations - stop-start traffic, twisty roads and highway cruising.

Its 2.0-litre engine is a free-revving unit that does not mind being worked hard, yet it has ample reserves of torque that negate the need for frequent gearshifts - even though the slick shift quality makes this a pleasurable a pleasurable experience.

Pushing the car hard through corners yields understeer at the limit, but this is easily checked by backing off slightly and allowing the front wheels to bite.

Ride quality is acceptable, remaining unflustered over most road surface irregularities.

Overall, the Laser SR2 is an enjoyable, practical package that seems to represent good value at just over $27,000 in manual form.

GoAuto can help you buy a new Laser

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