Americans and Europeans may have markedly different tastes in automobiles, but it seems they can agree on one point: a compact SUV or crossover should be small, efficient, and above all, stylish. Ford’s Vertrek concept, unveiled this morning at the 2011 Detroit auto show, promises to be all three.
It also promises to be both the next-generation Escape and Kuga, for that matter. Rumors have long suggested one vehicle, built from Ford’s global C-segment platform, could replace both models — and the Vertrek, which Ford says envisions a future C-segment spin-off, seems to fit that bill.
“Customer demands are converging globally toward a compact sport utility vehicle that is stylish and great fun to drive,” notes Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of global marketing, sales, and service. “In the U.S., these are considered small cars, while in Europe, they are considered midsize cars. No matter how you classify it, this segment is vitally important, and only those manufacturers who demonstrate leadership in design, customer-focused technology, capability, and fuel-efficient performance will succeed.”
It’s hard to comment on the latter two points, but Vertrek certainly has the looks to lure prospective buyers. The four-door CUV, styled primarily in Europe, continues to use the so-called kinetic design language that is increasingly seen on new Ford products. Although handsome, the concept isn’t exactly revolutionary; the nose reminds us of past Iosis concepts, while the bodywork aft of the A-pillars is a blend of C-Max and current Kuga.
Ford installed its new turbocharged, 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 underhood, but notes a number of different engines could potentially reside within the Vertrek’s engine bay. In theory, any powertrain utilized in other C-platform models could appear in the Vertrek. Ford suggests the recently upgraded 2.0-liter DuraTorq turbo-diesel I-4 could tailor the model for European markets, but the hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric drivetrains recently launched in the C-Max and Focus, respectively, could theoretically be adapted for the small SUV. Finely honed aerodynamics, along with start/stop systems, promise to further improve fuel economy on gas and diesel models.
We rather like the Vertrek concept, but we’re especially heartened that nothing presented within this package (apart from the lipstick-style camera mirrors and a few additional flourishes) seems too abstract as to prevent it from reaching production.
Ford’s own press materials note the Vertrek concept allows the automaker “to hear directly from consumers about trade-offs they are prepared to make…as we look to deliver a future production model that brings to life all these attributes.” Expect a finalized version to appear late in 2012 as a 2013 model, with U.S.-bound examples built within Ford’s revamped Lousiville, Kentucky, assembly plant.