Thursday, November 24, 2005

T#6: Tor's Escort

Been a hectic week already, so here's one I prepared earlier...

Tor's Escort

What on earth have I let myself in for. I realized it was going to be bad — they do have a reputation, after all — but I hadn’t expected borrowing my sister’s car for the day to be quite as awful as this. To be fair, it was suffering a disadvantage from the start — I mean, my daily driver didn’t cost much but it’s a decent car. This, on the other hand, is a MK5 Escort; horrific enough — but one that’s also had the dubious honour of being thrashed by my younger sibling for the previous year and a half. On the plus side, its speedo works, so following a close-shave with a camera van, I talked her into letting me borrow it. I was willing to be open-minded, but then unfortunately I actually had to get in it and drive.

Things don’t actually start off too dismally. Finished in cosmic black, the metallic paint on the late-in-the-line body style, combined with chrome details such as the number plate surround on this edition, makes for a pretty smart looking automobile. The wheels aren’t alloys, but the plastic trims are quite nice… There’s a slight scuff on the front bumper, and it’s not very clean, but visually it’s all going fairly well — until you get round to the passenger side and notice that the wing-mirror is held on by gaffer tape.

Never mind, in we get. I’ll ignore the dashboard plastics — you know they’re appalling. The oval analogue clock’s a nice touch, though, if somewhat out of place. It does have my old Kenwood stereo rather than the stock Ford item, which is an advantage. Obviously I can’t do much to adjust the nearside mirror — but fortunately adjusting the seat position, a simple enough task with the under-seat lever, means it’s still a usable item. Twiddle the little knob to set the one on my side, fiddle with the rear-view, insert the key and off I go.

The world of the MK5 Escort driver is an interesting one. My sister loves this car. But I rather suspect that’s mostly out of stubbornness. The clutch is horrible, with an extremely long travel that ends when your knee bangs the steering wheel, while the other pedals like to trap your feet under the dash. Heel and toeing verges on the impossible, as the brake is so far above the accelerator I keep getting my foot caught under that as well. Visibility is sound, though, as you’d expect from a Ford hatchback — useful given its reluctance to actually stop. Fortunately, the 1.6 supposedly-16v Zetec engine is so lethargic and wheezy it doesn’t really encourage you to press on.

Then there’s the handling. It doesn’t seem to mind turning-in, in spite of the recalcitrant power-steering, but you don’t really feel what’s going on — until the front wheels start tram-lining. The ride manages to wallow and crash at the same time, and you’re never entirely confident about what’s going on at the back, but assuming you won’t really want to go quickly means you’re unlikely to become an accident victim as a result.

A final word on ergonomics: terrible. You want specifics? Well, the pedals are too close and the steering wheel is too far away an Italian driving position, sadly the only trait this car shares with the exotics that coined the term. I tried adjusting the reach on the wheel using a lever on the column, and promptly released the bonnet while moving. Oops.

Forced to say something positive about it, I’d highlight the fuel economy, which is an improvement on my own 24v straight-six. But that’s all I’m going to say — at least until I need to borrow it again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

CJ Hubbard - I have only just read this article about my car, you're very wrong and you shouldn't moan about having the option of a second car to drive when you get done for speeding in the other one!

10:47 am  

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