21 February 1996

CHUNKIER LOOKS

AND IT GOES BETTER TOO

Back in June, Ford and Nissan produced revamps of their joint 4×4 venture. Andrew Pearce tries Fords version for size

ALTHOUGH an easy drive and so spot on target for its intended market – car drivers moving across to 4wd – the original Maverick

/Terrano was not the roaring success that Ford and Nissan presumably hoped for. So theyve done something about it, bringing more power, chunkier looks and extra luxury into a simplified model range.

Ford customers can now choose between short and long wheelbase (three- and five-door) alternatives with petrol or diesel power. All are dubbed GLS, though there are spec differences and you can browse among a long options list. We tried the top-line five-door with a 2.7-litre turbodiesel up front, which even in standard seven-seat form still comes home for a reasonable £20,980.

Its not huge, this Ford, taking about the same road space as a Mondeo estate and weighing in at 1875kg. How does the now-intercooled Nissan powerplant push it along?

Engine, transmission

The answer is not quite as well as you might expect, given the motors above-average 125hp and 205lbf ft torque.

Though the latest Maverick goes substantially better than the old one, it lacks bite and wont change pace particularly quickly. Despite this, the engine is just fine over most of its band, pulling smoothly and very quietly through the motorway limit and settling happily at 80-85mph with plenty still in hand. On smaller roads a 50-60mph cruise is really relaxed.

Towing capacity reflects the Mavericks moderate size at 2.8t, a load the engine should handle comfortably as long as its kept spinning – for its not too enthusiastic under the 2000rpm torque peak. On economy the indirect-injection unit is so-so, returning 26.6mpg over 850 very mixed miles.

A light clutch and fingertip-pressure shifting confirm Fords intention to make car drivers feel at home. Two-wheel drive is the norm, with high range 4wd only available after stopping to let the automatic front hubs sort themselves out.

Interior

Its all light greys and cloth inserts in here, with the generous optional sunroof (£470) lifting midwinter test-time dullness.

Plenty of Nissan-sourced bits decorate a clear dash, whose curves and bulges come much closer to car practice than the usual 4×4 mishmash. All the interior bits and bobs fit together well, though ugly moulding lines on many plastic parts and a noisy fan confirm that this is no Mercedes.

Security is potentially boosted by a standard drivers airbag and side impact beams, and judging by the plethora of grab handles, Maverick drivers are clearly expected to boldly go.

Wide front doors give on to front seating thats soft for long-run comfort and offers fair lateral support, but you wont see over many hedges as the pews themselves are set too low for a true "command" driving position. One row back, passengers get good head and legroom and can rest their backs at a comfortable angle. Pity the poor soul who draws the middle spot, though, as this straddles both the 50:50 split seat and a low transmission hump.

Back further still, a clever folding arrangement provides a perch for two small bodies. Fold it flat, fold it up with gas strut help for maximum clear floor area, or lift it right out. Load area is surprisingly big with this seat forward, non-existent with it in use.

Ride, handling, brakes

Plenty of softly damped body movement marks out the Mavericks ride, which cossets without disconcerting. Plenty of roll in corners is matched by plenty of dry-road grip, and the light, largely numb steering is direct enough to keep the show on the road. Fast travel is thus possible but you wont do it for the thrills. Brakes – with optional ABS for the test cars discs and drums – stop the car progressively and without drama, albeit through a squishy pedal.

Off-road

Theres good articulation from the rear beam axle/coils, less from the fronts independent wishbones/torsion bars.

Underbody clearance is OK in this long wheelbase version and the soft-sprung underpinnings keep everything supple on rough tracks, but watch out on sharp drops – theres not much clearance under the rear end. Grip is pretty good and the standard limited slip back diff can usefully save the day, although it tends to slide the car sideways across climbs.

The verdict: If the Maverick was a toy, it would be a teddy bear. The new one is still a simple, non-threatening drive and the body pump-ups make it look less gawky than before. Performance is better, comfort and refinement are excellent and interior space is used well.

Clever third-row rear seat folds forward, leaving good load space behind. Roof aerial unlikely to last.

Left: A new grille, wider arches and fatter wheels give the Maverick more presence.

Below: A symphony

in greys? Mavericks interior is as close to a cars as youll get. Instruments are clear, switchgear feels good though stalks are over-complex, gearbox and clutch are light to use.


MAVERICK DATA


&#8226 Model: Ford Maverick GLS lwb, five-door.

&#8226 Engine: 2.7-litre turbodiesel.

&#8226 Power: 125hp at 3600rpm.

&#8226 Torque: 205lbf ft at 2000rpm.

&#8226 Transmission: Five-speed manual.

&#8226 Drive: Part-time 4wd.

&#8226 Brakes: Disc/drum.

&#8226 Suspension: Independent torsion bar front, beam axle/coils rear.

&#8226 Weight: 1875kg (4130lb).

&#8226 Towing capacity: 2800kg (6170lb).

&#8226 Warranty: 12 months, unlimited mileage.

&#8226 Price: £20,980.