Ford Endura Canada's finest

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A brief stint of off-roading on a rocky hillock behind Alexandra showed it's a decent enough all-wheel-drive set-up. Photo: David Thomson

Ford's ruggedly family-friendly Endura continues a century-long motoring connection with maple-leaf country, writes Richard Bosselman.

Kiwis tend to associate Ford product with America first, then Australia, and maybe England and Europe. Really, though, Canada deserves attention when discussing our Blue Oval heritage.

It's probably little-known that Ford's Model T, the car that put the world on wheels more than a century ago, was our first maple-coated volume car.

When Ford officially staked New Zealand as a territory back then, this ground-breaker first came to us not from Detroit but a sister Ford plant across the Great Lakes in Ontario, Canada.

That none of the initial batch of Model Ts created for NZ can be found here is simply explained: They only made it halfway across Lake Superior before the ship carrying them foundered. My late step-father owned a 1913 brass radiator car from the replacement shipment. Until 1936, Fords came here in boxes, to be assembled in ports all around the country.

When Henry Ford decided to centralise assembly and distribution of cars (and tractors) by establishing proper assembly plants, it gave the job to Ford Motor Company of Canada.

It seems New Zealand also periodically took Canadian- built Ford cars, in right-hand-drive, from the 1930s until the early 1970s. The arrival of the Endura might revive interest in this link, given this five-seater sports utility sources from a Ford plant in Ontario.

f so, our supplier has immediately made a more positive start that first time round from Canada, insofar that Enduras from the first shipment made it here in fine order and with dry feet.

With the Endura, Ford regains a presence in the medium-large SUV segment that it has lacked since the popular Australian-designed and built Territory bowed out a year ago. That's hugely important, as the medium-large SUV sector is the second strongest sales segment for passenger cars. The ST-Line Endura here now will begin the process of reconnection with the Territory-aligned customer base; a broader family of two more mainstream (potentially Trend and Sport) and less expensive versions are set to arrive around Christmas. Like the Territory, the Endura is car-based (off the Mondeo rather than the Falcon). It has similar performance traits, is also capable of some limited off-road operation and has lots of nuggety family-friendly design flair.

But whereas the Territory could seat seven, the Endura in right-hand-drive strictly formats with five chairs. The mechanical formula zeroes in on a single drivetrain, a bi-turbo four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel that operates through a six-speed dual clutch transmission and on-demand four-wheel drive.

A brief stint of off-roading on a rocky hillock behind Alexandra showed it's a decent enough all-wheel-drive set-up; the front to four-paw power transition can be just a touch tardy on loose surface ascents but is perfectly fine on gravel road.

At 1949kg this is a fairly hefty car, yet the engine seems "right'' for it. A little lethargic on the kick-off, it recompenses with decent low to mid-range oomph.

What really impressed on this first drive was how suave and silent it is. There's not a lot of clatter at idle and, on the move, it smooths right out. The absence of an overtly mechanical note is probably not just down to the engine itself.

The Endura has been treated to some snazzy noise-cancelling technology and in all likelihood has also picked up a lot of sound-proofing, too. ST-Line styling is sporty, for sure, and this edition has big wheels, low profile rubber, lowered ride height and firmer springs than standard, yet while it demonstrates good grip and balance, it's not overtly performance-minded in dynamic feel.

As much as it was untroubled holding a tidy and grippy line on those winding sections, with body roll being kept in relatively decent check, too, the overall sense from this first excursion is that it seems a car slightly better suited to relaxed driving than racing.

It is probable that the future variants, which seem to have more modest rubber and softer tuning, will be more cosseting, still. Comfort has certainly been a high priority for the designers. The chairs are big and form-fitting and, as such, very decent for long-distance driving. The driver's chair is set higher than in Ford's road-bound cars, perhaps in an effort to achieve the "command'' position that is expected of SUVs.

With 10-way power adjustment, it's not hard to achieve a good driving position. The cabin is a bit like that in the Focus, but on a larger scale. There's a big touch screen featuring Ford's latest Sync 3 system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fit and finish is impressive, the quality of some plastics a bit less so. Expect the CD player to be a short-term feature. Within this category there has been some shift towards petrol, but Ford NZ is comfortable keeping the model with just a diesel engine for now. Still, they're not saying that petrol is completely out of the picture.

Ford has some four-cylinder options and provides a twin-turbo petrol V6 Stateside. What definitely won't change is the overall name. Around the rest of the world this car is called the Edge, but that's a name Toyota uses in this part of the world. So Ford has opted for Endura as a purely Australasian convention.

Ford Endura Canada's finest
At a Glance

FORD ENDURA

SPECIFICATIONS
Price: $73,990
Engine: 1997cc four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel, maximum power 
154kW@3750rpm, maximum torque 450Nm@2000-2250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic
Brakes and stability systems: Front and rear disc brakes, ABS, ESC, TC, 
lane keep, FCA
Safety: NCAP five star
Wheels and tyres: Alloy wheels, 245/55 R20
Fuel and economy: 5.9 litres/100km, capacity 68 litres
Emissions: 152g of CO2/km
Dimensions (mm): Length 4808, width 1928, height 1707