Paul Horrell11 January 2011

Detroit 2011: Ford Vertrek concept

New mid-sized crossover will replace our own Kuga and the American Ford Escape

Detroit 2011: Ford Vertrek concept

At the Detroit show Ford is trying the difficult trick of building a common mid-size crossover that will reconcile tastes of American and European drivers. Meanwhile VW is doing exactly the opposite, by admitting it's been a losing battle to do the same with a saloon.

So Ford showed the Vertrek concept which will produce a single car to replace both the Kuga and the very different American Ford Escape. And an hour later VW launched the US-made Passat, which is entirely different from our one.

The US-market Escape is a boxy old crossover that sells big but is boring and cheap-feeling. Our Kuga is more stylish and far better to drive, but quite a bit smaller than the Vertrek. Replacing them with one car is a risk. Will the Americans pay more than they do for a more premium car, and will the new style frighten them? And will British and European Kuga buyers be willing to go up a size?

Ford is betting they will in both cases. Apparently Kuga owners moan that the boot isn't big enough, and the Vertrek has a definitely more ample rump. And in the US, Ford has Found people will pay more if it gives them a better car. F'rinstance, small Fords were pretty cheap and hopeless, but now the fine new Fiesta is here, people are prepared to stump big dollar for it.

The Vertrek is a concept but it's very close to the real thing if you can ignore the show-car lights, wheels, mirrors and exhaust tips. And the lack of door handles - they'll find some of them in time.

See more pics of the Ford Vertrek

Sadly the interior won't make production. The seats are wrapped in the leather from Lederhosen, and the floor's woven leather too. There will be a three-body rear bench in production, obv, rather than the concept's two chairs.

As the front-end style implies, the Vertrek is based on the new Focus platform, though its wheelbase is longer than the hatchback. In Europe we'll get the excellent 1.6-litre turbo EcoBoost petrol engine and the TDCI diesels up to 163bhp. FWD and 4WD will be available.

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