Making its global debut at the 2010 Beijing Auto Show, the Ford Start Concept is more than simply a design exploration into the feasibility of a small car. It also demonstrates how Ford will extend the promise of its EcoBoost engine technology story even further – previewing a fuel-efficient petrol Ford EcoBoost engine with just three cylinders and 1.0 litre of displacement, yet the power of a larger, 1.6-litre I4 engine.
Start Concept was inspired in part by a growing global trend toward mass urbanisation. The world's top 20 mega-cities are home to consumers whose needs, attitudes and expectations may have more in common with mega-city dwellers in other nations than with their own countrymen. While these consumers share the challenges of living in an urban society, they also increasingly seek out product solutions that bring the best the world has to offer.
These insights inspired Ford designers to envision a future sporty, small-car package geared to their needs and urban mindset.
Today, more than 50 percent of the world's population lives in an urban area. By 2050, that number is expected to skyrocket to more than 70 percent. Already, congested highways, space for parking, concerns over fuel efficiency as well as the availability and price of fuel are driving automakers to look at vehicles and personal transportation more differently than ever before.
“Our ambition with the Ford Start Concept was to design a car that transcends the practical realities of commuting in these mega cities and goes beyond just dressing the technology. We wanted to design a car you would also love,” explained Freeman Thomas, design director.
Living in the mega city poses unique challenges and inspires unique lifestyles and attitudes. Just as traffic congestion issues are common in these geographic areas, the answers to solve the issues of a new generation of future small cars for these urban markets may also be found in the Ford Start Concept.
“The team has delivered a concept car which reflects a decidedly playful take on Ford kinetic design and builds on our fun-to-drive DNA, yet addresses real issues that everyone will be facing in the future of car design,” said Martin Smith, executive director, Ford Europe and Asia Pacific Design.
As Ford has found with its global ONE Ford strategy, what was once a regional or individual market issue, is now global. Across the world, more consumers are confronting issues including “green” technology, more efficient use of available space, recycling and asking if big is necessarily better. It's an attitude that unites urbanites around the world.
Searching for efficient power, using lightweight materials that can be recycled and optimising interior space with a small exterior footprint are some of the challenges designers explored.
Could Ford deliver on these challenges, while also creating a concept that would enhance Ford's fun-to-drive DNA?
At the forefront, Ford has introduced some very real technology in the Start Concept to address fuel efficiency, reduce the use raw of materials and minimize carbon the footprint of a car.
Equipped with a powerful new Ford EcoBoost 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine to maximise fuel efficiency and meet lower emission standards, Ford's latest concept car includes technology that is class leading and will come into production in the near future. With CO 2 emissions of less that 100 g/km, the petrol engine has power and drivability comparable to an I4 powerplant.
Ford Start Concept also introduces a MyFord Mobile Concept that pairs with a smart phone to allow occupants to perform a multitude of in-car functions, all wrapped in a Sub-B design concept that uses lightweight material and aerodynamics.
“It may be small with a minimal amount of features but we haven't ignored the basics like delivering more “traditional” driving characteristics including sporty handling, a simple analogue interface and an interior that is pure and authentic like early sport cars from the 1950s,” Thomas added.
“With the Ford Start Concept, we didn't set out to design some sort of utilitarian appliance to save the world, nor were we interested in following the competitive trend toward an overly noisy design language. What we did set out to do was design a personality driven car that exudes warmth, charm and aspiration…to design a car worth bonding with,” said J Mays, group vice president Design and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company.
Crisp highlights are incorporated into a smooth exterior shell constructed with lightweight composite body panels.
Ford's trademark kinetic trapezoidal grill moves upward onto the rounded, sleek form, reducing the number of prominent openings from two to one and creating a face that's both sporting and efficient.
The entire exterior surface of the Ford Start Concept has been designed with flush-mounted aerodynamic features designed to cheat the wind – providing a minimal amount of drag while achieving maximum fuel efficiency.
Efficiency also is evident in the teardrop silhouette and ground plan, in the full aerodynamic underbody and in the reduced cross sectional area.
Flush, stamped aluminium wheels and a subtle fin on the roof, which also houses the centre high mounted stop lamp, complete the aerodynamic detailing.
Slim, laser-cut LED headlamps provide high-intensity light through trapezoid tubes. Two sets of running lamps, including a pair located in the headlamp design and a pair of lower running lamps, provide nighttime illumination.
The long, thin upper headlamps sweep from the centre of the fascia into the side of the fender. “digital pulse” turn indicators are housed in the lower running lamp.
The innovative hybrid aluminium, high-strength steel body construction features a lightweight aluminium safety cell that provides a rigid attachment structure for the glass and roof, as well as housing side curtain air bags. All exterior body panels are made from deformable, pre-coloured recyclable composites.
The roof appears separated by glass from the overall body and immediately evokes images of sleek, sporty hardtop designs while providing full panoramic visibility for the driver.
As an added feature, the composite roof panel also is designed to snap fit on the vehicle and could easily be removed and exchanged by the owner as a customised accessory.
All glass is flush mounted for minimal wind resistance, trimmed tightly with brushed steel to accentuate the crisp lines included in the form of the greenhouse. Visibility and driver safety are optimised by recessed B-pillars and see-through C-pillars, plus a wraparound rear window allowing for a 180-degree view.
Like the front fenders, rear quarter panels have a minimal amount of overhang with just 629 millimetres from the rear wheel centre to rear bumper. Rear wheel arches are pronounced and contribute to the overall solid stance of the Ford Start Concept from every angle.
Mirroring the laser-cut front lamp treatment, the LED tail lamps sweep into the decklid and are depressed into a pocket that cuts into the body surface. Included in the rear lamps are integral turn signals with a sequential feature that moves outward from the centre of the lamps when the indicator is applied, providing a sweeping effect.
The rear of the Ford Start Concept is equipped with a traditional boot. The backlight is fixed.
A centre-mounted, cast aluminium tip is fitted to the exhaust pipe to provide a finishing touch.
The flush, aerodynamic wheels designed for the Ford Start Concept are pressed aluminium measuring 17-by-6.5 inches, fitted with exclusively designed Michelin Green X 205/45R17 tyres. A unique tread design combines to minimise noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) while providing reduced rolling resistance for better fuel efficiency.
To help minimise the aerodynamic inefficiencies found in various pockets and intrusions under the car, the Ford Start Concept is fitted with a full underbody belly pan. The one-piece pan provides an effective solution to reducing drag from air flow passing under the vehicle. Coarse road noise also is dampened.
The concept is based upon a chassis with a wheelbase that is 2300 millimetres and an overall length under 3700 millimetres. The width is 1672 millimetres with height at approximately 1400 millimetres.
The minimalist approach extends into the interior of Ford Start Concept with a simplistic, twin cockpit, “tub” design that provides seating for up to four occupants. The tub interior provides a unique appearance, higher quality and reduced cost through its simplified, one piece construction.
The instrument panel includes a pod-type cluster that easily converts to both left- and right-hand drive versions.
The sweeping instrument panel and console are constructed with a single modular trim piece that starts at the base of the windshield and flows through the bottom of the centre console.
The five-speed manual transmission shift lever is centrally located up high in the console. Window switches and the push button start feature are located in the centre console and provide easy accessibility for either right- or left-hand drivers.
Seats, while simple, have been ergonomically designed to provide maximum comfort, personal flexibility and easy access to the rear. A mono-rail seat pedestal allows fore and aft movement and allows for access to the rear seats. Constructed with a composite shell to reduce weight, moulded seat inserts are designed to snap into the seat shell and are interchangeable to suit driver preference.
The rear seating area also is constructed with a one piece mould and includes a removable seat insert.
Moulded rubber is used on the floor, consistent with the simplified approach to the interior. The mat is durable and can be cleaned easily.
Rails and pillars throughout the interior are constructed of aluminium and fitted with side curtain airbags.
HMI – Human Machine Interface
Located at the top of the console is a port to connect to the MyFord Mobile concept technology, which provides a seamless driver interface conducive to safe driving practices with personal handheld devices.
Without a smart phone, car-related functions including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), engine diagnostics and passenger airbag on/off function can be easily viewed and adjusted while driving through either voice activation or toggle and scroll controls located on the console. A wide, six-inch screen provides visuals.
As an added feature, when the driver inserts a smart phone in the docking station when the vehicle is in motion, access is available via the MyFord Mobile Concept to phone contacts and navigation tools through voice activation, as are all messaging, direction and communication features.
If the smart phone device is docked and the vehicle is parked and powered off, both the vehicle functions and icons from the user's device are available via the MyFord Mobile Concept. Icons are displayed on the large screen through Bluetooth transfer. Car functions and the speaker system also are controlled through voice activation.
MyFord Mobile Concept restricts certain functions, such as texting, while driving.
To help owners keep up with the latest trends and developments in personal electronics, the MyFord Mobile Concept is intended to be flexible, and can be adapted to suit changing mobile phone technology or driver preferences.
Ford Start is equipped with Ford EcoBoost engine technology to maximise power and fuel efficiency from a future production 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine.
Consistent with Ford's long-range goals to provide more power though sophisticated turbocharging and spark-ignited, direct-injection fuel management systems, the petrol 1.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine delivers power and torque comparable to a normally aspirated 1.6-litre I4 powerplant. It is expected to have CO 2 emissions under the 100 g/km threshold.
This engine is coupled with a five-speed manual transmission which permits gear spacing to deliver performance without sacrificing fuel economy. The transmission easily handles the higher torque levels of the 1.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine and together with the sporty handling of the Ford Start Concept, delivers the fun-to-drive characteristics that are at the core of the Ford brand DNA.
Created by a global team of designers working at Ford's Irvine ( Calif. ) Strategic Concepts Group Studios, this sporty, futuristic concept combines near-production Ford EcoBoost engine technology and slick aerodynamics in an environmentally friendly package with reduced greenhouse emissions, all wrapped in an exciting design.
“As a pure, bespoke concept, the Ford Start isn't destined for production, but of course we're very interested in hearing how customers in urban growth markets react to its design and features,” Thomas said.