Four models get the axe
For decades, sedans ruled America’s roads. They were the standard, the norm, and simply represented cars in the broadest sense. Every automaker had multiple sedan options targeting varied market segments, and for most drivers, they just worked — coupes were for sport, trucks were for utility, and wagons and vans were for hauling your family. For everything else, you got a sedan.
But in recent years there’s been a paradigm shift away from this tradition. Crossovers have come to dominate the market, and car buyers seem to prefer small SUVs over sedans or hatchbacks. Their extra space and higher ride might work for everyday drivers, but less for enthusiasts who seek style and fun.
Regardless, money talks, and automakers are responding. Ford dropped a bombshell in April when they announced the cancellation all of their cars — that is to say, models that aren’t crossovers, trucks, or the Mustang. This may seem shortsighted, but the truth is that Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engines make large vehicles more efficient, and their small vehicle market share is being eaten up by other manufacturers. That means we’re losing some famous cars, so let’s take a look at the models Ford has placed on the chopping block.
When it comes to sedans the Taurus is a legend. It’s been in near-continuous production since 1986, and at one point was the best-selling car in America, thanks in part to an available wagon version. Over six generations Ford integrated interesting technology and features, and while it’s never been a super stylish whip, the Taurus built a following on user friendliness and low cost of ownership.
Ford spiced up their bread and butter sedan with the Taurus SHO — the Super High Output. Initially packing a five speed stick shift and revvy V6, the SHO later got its own model-specific V8, though retained its front-wheel drive architecture. The current and final Taurus SHO is a sleeper, with subtle looks hiding all-wheel drive and potent 365 horsepower twin-turbo V6. Regardless of trim level, Ford’s decision to kill the Taurus means the end for an icon.
The Fiesta is a tiny car that sells huge in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Ford brought it to North America in 2010, where it earned praise for being stylish, fun, and great bang-for-the-buck. But America ain’t like the rest of the world, and Fiesta sales weren’t worth throwing a party over. It made a sensible city car, but for most of the country it wasn’t enough, and faced competition from more established competitors.
Still, the Fiesta packed some cool engines. The smallest was an unusual 1.0 liter turbocharged three cylinder. While far from fast, it churned out a whopping — for its size — 148 lb-ft of torque, and embodied the adage that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. You could thrash it and still get 35 mpg.
On the other end of the spectrum was the Fiesta ST, with a 197-horsepower 1.6 liter turbo four, six speed manual, and sub-2800 pound weight. Brake-assisted torque vectoring further sharpened the grippy and zippy chassis. To drive the Fiesta ST is to smile, and seeing it go is cause to frown.
No big brand can survive on premium vehicles alone, so Ford created the Focus. It helped Ford draw in new demographics and lower their corporate average fuel economy. Since the year 2000 it’s sold reasonably well, but never offered anything special to driving enthusiasts.
That changed with the Focus ST, a sport-tuned hatchback. It shared features with its Fiesta ST sibling, but the Focus ST got a more powerful 252-horsepower 2.0 liter engine. An aggressive body kit and center exit exhaust helped it look the part too.
As if the ST wasn’t enough, Ford blessed speed freaks with the Focus RS. This hottest of hatches was significantly reworked from other Foci, with a 2.3L turbo four sending 350 horsepower through a six speed manual and all four wheels. It launched to 60 in 4.6 seconds and notoriously had a drift mode (for track use only) that made the RS purely rear-wheel drive for major powerslide potential. It’ll be remembered for its ridiculous performance and bright Nitrous Blue paint.
Interestingly, the next-generation Focus is the only hatchback that will live on in Ford’s lineup, albeit in crossover-esque form. Ford threw on a minor suspension lift and tough-looking body cladding and dubbed it the Focus Active. It might help drivers feel like they’re ready for off-road adventure, but an F-150 Raptor it is not.
It seems like an inopportune time to cancel the Fusion, because it’s only just getting good. Its current iteration is a sleek machine, with angular lines that make it look more expensive than it is. Barely a year ago Ford launched the Fusion Sport, a 325-horsepower twin-turbo family sedan meant to add pizzazz to the lineup. Still, in year-over-year sales the Fusion has seen a major decline, while Ford’s crossover models are on the rise — hence the decision to axe it.
Rumor has it the Fusion may live on, though in name only. Ford could slap the badge on a new, upcoming wagon-type vehicle. That remains to be seen, but a new wagon offering to balance out today’s glut of crossovers would surely be welcome by enthusiasts.