We're also noted for

being more than a little car mad, and perhaps this was aggravated by the somewhat

restricted choice available to us during the isolation years. Now, rampant globalisation

has given us an unprecedented array of choices, not only of makes and models,

but of entirely new ways of providing for transport needs - typified by

the Ford Ikon. Originally conceived for India, emerging from decades of homebrewed

vehicles based on '50s technology, the Ikon was also seen as having the

potential for success on other markets. There is a South African connection,

too: its RoCam engine is produced at Ford's Struandale plant at Port


The South African Ikon is assembled at Ford's Silverton plant using

a kit of CKD - completely knocked down - parts sourced from Europe,

Brazil, India and SA. About one-third of the total components (by cost) originate

locally, and about a quarter from India. Suppliers for the suspension, driveline,

power steering, air-conditioner, shock absorbers and front-end are all as for

the Fiesta.

Rather than going for a clean-sheet design, Ford's Small Vehicle Centre

went the route of using an existing model as a basis. The result is a car based

on a stretched Fiesta; the little Ford hatchback's platform has been

given an extra 40 mm in the middle. Doesn't sound much, but when every

last cubic centimetre of room counts this sort of thing can be a godsend. The

result is plain to see: the Ikon really is quite roomy - hard to believe

that this can be said of a car in this class.

But more than one manufacturer, and not only recently either, has found to

its cost that in the long run the South African buyer will not be fobbed off

with just basic transport. This dynamic may change as the emerging "previously

disadvantaged" market begins to exert an effect on buying patterns, and

ultimately, of course, costs will begin to squeeze. But as of now, it seems

that many would still rather buy a cheaper "name" brand than a

similarly specced car from, say, Korea. Ford certainly is one of those big names,

yet in South Africa at any rate the blue oval has struggled to emerge from the

doldrums. Escort and Mondeo have made little impact, the Fiesta is not exactly

causing sales-chart rivals sleepless nights, and the biggest-selling Ford is

the elderly previous-generation Tracer and its Mazda Sting twin.

Will the Ikon succeed where the others have failed? In its favour, not only

does the option of a boot allow Ford to nibble at the sales of other small three-box

saloons, it will also capitalise on South Africans' seeming preference

for this body shape over the hatchback.

Viewed from the front, the Ikon is pure Fiesta, with a plastic "chrome"

central slat in its air intake. More striking and sharper-edged than the pre-facelift

lugubrious oval maw, it clearly illustrates Ford's "edge"

design as evidenced in the Focus, with sharp cutlines, angled headlights and

bonnet flutes echoed in the chiselled edges from the C-pillar rearward towards

the wrapover rear lights. Although technically a notchback, with high rear deck

typical of the breed, it has a general harmony to its profile that doesn't

shout "Fiesta with a boot tacked on".

Adding some visual interest, as well as aiding practicality, are black plastic

mouldings on top of the front and rear bumpers, with styling continuity along

the flanks in the form of rubbing strips. Close inspection of our test vehicle's

attractive, lustrous metallic blue paintwork revealed a generally good, unblemished

finish. Exterior features on the range-topping CLX include front foglights,

alloy wheels and roof-mounted antenna.

Key-operated central locking is standard, with locking on the interior accomplished

by pushing in a doorpull. As on the outside, styling is Fiesta-familiar, but

the colour (black) and texture of the plastics chosen not only clash with the

grey plastic and cloth trim of the doors, but suggest a downmarket ambience.

A glaring overall shininess, possibly courtesy of a cosmetic facia polish, only

aggravated things. Fit and finish could stand improvement too, particularly

around the instrument binnacle area, where some trim was coming loose. An area

of concern about the mechanicals was the unacceptably juddery windscreen wiper


The CLX package includes radio/CD frontloader, air-conditioning and powered

front windows and mirrors, in addition to features such as power steering and

immobiliser, which are standard across the range.

Front airbags are optional. It's a thumbs-up for the effective air-con,

and qualified enthusiasm for the sound system, whose high-mounted rear speakers

dominate. Tweeter housings (not fitted with drive units, though) form part of

the front doorpull mouldings.Our test team had little difficulty making themselves

comfortable at the wheel, despite one or two problem areas. The high rear deck

does inhibit rear visibility, making reversing into tight parking a case for

some guesswork, rearward travel of the front seats is not exceptional, and there

is no left footrest. However, headroom and legroom are good, and the sporty

front seats provide good side bolstering around midriff and thighs. Rear headroom

is very good. A mild step in the roofliner more or less at the car's

midpoint helps achieve this.

In addition, the rear roof goes reasonably far back to protect heads from the

sun. With front seats set for medium-sized occupants, rear kneeroom is good

thanks to scalloping of the front seatbacks. Toeroom is good, but you might

bump your shins.

The front head restraints adjust, as do the front seatbelts. Rear vestigial

moulded integral head restraints are useful for children only, and may in fact

aggravate the "hockey stick" whiplash effect whereby in a front

or (more particularly) rear impact, the head is thrown backwards and the head

restraint should stop it, but where the restraint is set too low it clouts the

back of the neck instead and the head bends backwards over it, with possibly

dire consequences.

It was initially a little confusing that the air-con and recirculation switches

are separated by quite a distance from the standard fresh-air vent controls

lower down. However, as a result, the auxiliary switches are easier to see and

reach for. They are grouped with the rear demister and foglight switches.

Oddments space is provided for by hollows in the centre console, front door

pockets, and a cubbyhole at the driver's right knee. A sort of cupholder

in the centre console is supplemented by two more moulded into the glovebox

lid. Other convenience features include grab handles for three passengers, each

with a coathook, and interior lights front and rear. Opening the boot requires

use of the key, which is secure, but inconvenient. The boot is relatively deep

both front to rear and vertically, albeit with a fairly high load sill, and

swallows up a total of 328 dm3, measured by our ISO block method. What may be

seen as a big drawback is the lack of a fold-down rear seatback. Trimmed with

carpet and a fairly substantial board base, the luggage area has bare painted

metal at the tail end (some competitors use plastic cladding) and is therefore

vulnerable to scratches; chipping was already evident.

Out on the test strip the Ikon's RoCam power-unit lived up to its high-torque

billing. Peak twist comes in at just 2 500 r/min, but even so it was not shy

to spin freely up to the cutout just beyond 6 000 r/min. We had already noticed

when winding the car up in the gears on our way to recording top speed of 187

km/h that it accelerated eagerly in fourth and fifth. It was clear that our

standing-start sprint strategy would have to include some attempts using short-shifting

instead of running it to the red line. The Ikon cracks the 100 km/h mark in

third gear, helping it to a best of 10,92 seconds and on to the kilometre marker

in 32,2 seconds. We were particularly pleased by the gearshift quality. Light,

positive and free from slop, the lever provides a reassuring "plugged-in"

feeling. Fuel economy is outstanding too, with steady-speed consumption of 100

km giving a fuel index of 8,23 litres/ 100 km - class-leading stuff. On

the downside, we noted what seemed to be excessive engine rocking under acceleration.

According to Ford's PR department, the Rocam name is a contraction of

"rotary camshaft". The engine has its roots in the 1980s-era CVH

engine of unblessed memory; the present eight-valve unit uses roller cam followers

- itself not out of the ordinary these days - and also features a plastic

inlet manifold, and split coolant flow through head and block for quicker warm-up.

Bearing in mind the Fiesta's justifiably praised handling and roadholding,

we were particularly interested to see whether the change in major dimensions

and bodywork had made a big difference. Our team found the steering to be quick

on turn-in, as on the Fiesta, with very good grip. However, the steering seems

to be stodgy and imprecise notably around the straightahead position, with generally

poor self-centring. Responses feel dulled, with power-on and lift-off in corners

inducing less change in the cornering line than the Fiesta exhibits. It is benign,

and undoubtedly safe, but somehow the charm of the Fiesta appears to have been

watered down. By small-car standards the Ikon rides exceptionally well, and

thanks to the refined engine it is a generally effortless high-speed cruiser.

Wind noise does intrude, though.

Braking turned out to be a puzzling affair, at least as regards hard braking

from speed. In our 100-to-zero routine the Ikon pulls up adequately, although

not brilliantly, but there is a distinct lack of bite. Almost from the outset

of our 10-stop regimen we could stand on the brake pedal without locking up

the wheels. More responsiveness might well result in shorter stopping distances,

but then there is the possibility of less experienced drivers provoking a skid

by jamming on the brakes in panic stops.

Original article from Car