Moun­tains of prac­ti­cal tal­ent

ROAD TEST/ The lo­cally built Ford Ever­est now of­fers plenty of ve­hi­cle at a lower price, writes Mark Smyth

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Ford is quite rightly be­ing lam­basted at the mo­ment over its han­dling of the Kuga fires is­sue. Re­cently, it also an­nounced a re­call cam­paign on the Fi­esta ST, which uses the same 1.6 en­gine as the Kuga, al­though own­ers will have to wait an un­ac­cept­ably long time, un­til the fourth quar­ter, for the re­me­dial parts.

While all this has been go­ing on the com­pany has con­tin­ued to sell its other mod­els in vast num­bers. This is no sur­prise be­cause burn­ing is­sues aside, Ford is mak­ing some su­perb ve­hi­cles at the mo­ment and show­ing many of its ri­vals the way for­ward when it comes to spec­i­fi­ca­tion, in par­tic­u­lar in the realms of mul­ti­me­dia and en­gine tech­nol­ogy.

We were hugely im­pressed with the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Ever­est when it was launched, but sadly the im­ported model, with its high spec­i­fi­ca­tion, sits at the up­per end of the spec­trum — with a price tag to match. Then the com­pany an­nounced it would pro­duce the Ever­est lo­cally, at its plant out­side Pre­to­ria, and the range would in­clude some lesser mod­els at lower prices.

We had to wait a lit­tle while to get our hands on one of th­ese South African-built ver­sions, though, as Ford di­verted its com­pany fleet to Kuga cus­tomers. Was it worth the wait?

Def­i­nitely. With a price tag of R501,900, the 2.2 XLT still has most of the styling fea­tures of the more ex­pen­sive mod­els, with that bold over­all look and doses of Amer­i­can truck-like at­ti­tude up front.

Its big-ve­hi­cle looks are no il­lu­sion ei­ther, with plenty of space inside and a third row of seats pro­vid­ing to­tal seat­ing for seven. The rear­most seats fold neatly into the floor, un­like the rather odd side-fold­ing seats in its big ri­val, the Toy­ota For­tuner.

The qual­ity ap­pears to be good, in spite of some hard plas­tics on the dash. It has a feel­ing of so­lid­ity about it, which places it above some other ri­vals — at least when it comes to in­te­ri­ors. Equip­ment lev­els are also good. The XLT has a mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, plenty of menus in the dig­i­tal display in the cen­tre of the in­stru­ment clus­ter and our test model was fit­ted with the great Sync touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem.

Ac­cess to all the con­trols is ex­cel­lent and the driv­ing po­si­tion is good, pro­vid­ing de­cent vis­i­bil­ity all around even with those large chrome-cov­ered wing mir­rors. Then there is the en­gine. I am quite sure I have said this be­fore, but how is it that Ford en­gi­neers know some­thing that Volk­swa­gen and Toy­ota en­gi­neers do not? I am talk­ing here about turbo lag. The Toy­ota is not too bad but VW and Audi tur­bod­iesels are like wak­ing up a teenager in the morn­ing.

Push down on the ac­cel­er­a­tor in the Ever­est and it re­sponds im­me­di­ately, pro­vid­ing ef­fort­less ac­cel­er­a­tion through the range all the way to the red line. Even with the auto ver­sion we had on test, it rarely screamed at higher revs, al­though it does sound a lit­tle trac­tor-like at lower revs.

On the road the Ever­est suf­fers from a fair amount of body roll, par­tic­u­larly in back road cor­ners, but it re­mains com­posed and com­fort­able most of the time.

With 118kW and 380Nm it has ad­e­quate low-down power avail­able, but it does lack some of the over­tak­ing grunt nec­es­sary at high­way speeds.

The 2.2 XLT is not a 4x4 model, but with its ground clear­ance of 225mm it proved more than ca­pa­ble when we took it off the high­ways and by­ways and tra­versed some rock-strewn tracks north of Joburg. The rear wheels pushed it ef­fort­lessly through tall grass and over loose up­hill ter­rain with barely any ef­fort.

For most peo­ple this will be more than ad­e­quate to al­low them to do a bit of ex­plor­ing from time to time.

This is the Ever­est we were an­tic­i­pat­ing, the one that is able to make ri­vals a lit­tle ner­vous. With great looks, a spa­cious and com­fort­able in­te­rior and a su­perb en­gine, it eas­ily jumps to the top of our list as the one to buy in the seg­ment.

The Ever­est has plenty of at­ti­tude in its de­sign.

Left: The in­te­rior is su­perb, with lots of space and equip­ment. Even in 4x2 guise, the Ever­est tack­led some mild off-road ad­ven­tur­ing with ease, be­low.

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