Cossie boy, eh?’ I muttered to John Lonsdale, pointing towards the new Ikon, as he raised his eyebrows in surprise. He looked at me slightly confused and probably wondered if I was a pirate from Somalia, who last drove a car in 1991. Back then, the Ford Sierra Cosworth was capable of leaving a Honda NSX with its exhausts between its legs. Of course, around a twisty set of B-roads. But then, the Ikon isn’t a Cosworth, so Ford India’s veep-product development didn’t lead his team to bring back the ‘josh’ in the Ikon with a turbocharged four-potter – instead they decided to go diesel.
You’ve read that right, the Ikon has gone diesel with the Fiesta’s 1.4 TDCI. And the Cosworth reference was the new nose that the Ikon TDCI will sport. And Ford India are quick to add that with the Ikon diesel weighing in some 145 kilos less than the Fiesta equivalent, the nine-year old sedan has found a new lease of life. I know what you are thinking – Ford Ikon + diesel engine = lots of white cars with T badges. Granted, but look at the Ikon TDCI this way – Ford have priced it so competitively, you now get a diesel three-box for the price of a Maruti Swift diesel hatch.
Back To The Future
‘The josh machine’, the planning department of the then Hindustan Thompson Associates called it. HTA was never off the mark with its positioning, and the josh machine campaign worked like a charm. So what if it was powered by a slightly archaic 1.3 pushrod petrol and a 1.8-litre diesel? There was always the 1.6 Rocam that pulled people into Ford showrooms. Today, the 1.6 no longer warms bellies and the 1.3 became the lucky recipient of the Rocam acronym. So what better than to plonk the one engine that can help the Ikon circumnavigate on a cupful of diesel? The 1.4 TDCI Ikon became a natural choice, what with Ford’s small car project still some two years away from fruition. Besides, Ford have just put up a state-of-the-art diesel engine plant at Chengalpattu, so they need to justify their investments – and quick. So the Ikon diesel acts as a stop gap – a strategy even General Patton would be proud of. War Of The Worlds
Even if the Sierra Cosworth lineage was purely unintentional, the new Ikon has lost some of its charm. Ford has tried to bring some of its international Kinetic design philosophy on to the Ikon, with mixed results. The smallish central grille, the block-ish headlamps and dog bar and bumper seem to add bulk, if not aggression, to the front end. The rest of the car still looks the same, and apart from the new clear lens tail lamps, and the missing side strips (Ikon CLXi owners finally have company!), there’s barely anything new. There are the optional alloy wheels, but overall the car is showing its age, facelift or not. On the inside too it’s just a wee bit different, with lighter shade materials and a new instrument cluster. You still sit higher up and the steering isn’t adjustable for rake. Ford could have done a Fiesta-like job and made it more spunky around the cockpit, but chose not to. For something costing as much as it does, the materials aren’t top notch and the finish is somewhat low-rent. Functional yes, aesthetic no.
To understand the big changes, let’s go under the hood. The 1.4 Duratorq in the Ikon produces identical power and torque, so there isn’t much to complain about. It’s still a fairly refined and frugal unit. For the Ikon, Ford made some minor changes. The ECU software was recalibrated for driveability, performance and efficiency. It also has a new air intake that’s located higher up in the engine bay for water wading purposes, new mountings, a new degas exhaust and cooling system. The drive axles have been uprated to handle the 16.3 kgm of peak torque, while the IB5 transmission has also been strengthened with the same final drive ratios of the Fiesta. And with a kerb weight that just measures in a wink above a tonne, there’s a healthy power-to-weight ratio to look up to.
Gone In 60 Seconds
Okay, so it doesn’t go like a Cosworth, but you can’t deny it feels fairly sprightly. The 1.4 Duratorq’s refinement, coupled with a low kerb weight, makes this car move forward with a spring in its step. The bottom-end and mid-range is quite healthy and if you step on the gas, it reaches 120 kph in no time, before weaning off somewhere a shade above 150 kph. The long-throw gearbox feels like a throwback from a certain era and it’s a tad notchy too. The steering feels compact, but the material surrounding it doesn’t make you all tingly either. On the arrowshot roads around the plant, there was no way of determining if the Ikon does handle as well as its petrol sibling, though we think it shouldn’t have degraded by much. Ford have also made some changes to the steering rack to accommodate the heavier engine, so we expect it to turn-in just as quickly. The high-speed ride gives the car a planted feel, so if you are going to spend most of your time on the highways, this car might make good sense. The well-spaced out ratios and the relaxed nature of the engine make for an ideal cruiser, if you can raise the volume on the stereo and drown out the engine hum. Built to a cost also means less sound deadening and as much as Ford’s NVH engineer on the drive tried to convince me otherwise, it can get quite tiring on long drives.
Wag The Dog
Is it too little, too late for the Ikon? It certainly isn’t if Ford is looking at selling an inexpensive diesel saloon at under Rs 5.19 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). It might make life difficult for the Tata Indigo, Mahindra Renault Logan and even the Swift diesel/Dzire to an extent, though whether the customer bites the bait to buy a car that’s nearly a decade old remains to be seen. This Ikon might not be tearing up back roads anymore, which is why Ford have dumped the ‘josh’ tagline for ‘sensible bhi, crazy bhi’. So if you are looking for something that’s purely functional and is astonishingly fuel efficient, make some space in your driveway for this car. But if you are still looking for that new-gen Cosworth, I suggest clogging John Lonsdale’s inbox.