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
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
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