Road test: Ford Edge unlikely to cut it in SUV-crossover market

All-American model looks good, but needs to be cheaper and offer seven-seat version

Make: Ford

Model: Edge

Year: 2016

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: September 2, 2016

Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 16:26

   

In the US Ford is the king of the pick-up trucks. Its F-350 behemoth has become an icon of middle America and about as commonplace on the US interstates as the Mondeo is in Co Mayo.

For all its experience in selling family transport to Europeans, Ford has pedigree when it comes to the bigger metal. And it brought in enough expertise over the years to hone that experience. Between 2000 and 2008 it owned Land Rover, Europe’s iconic off-road brand.

So when consumer tastes shifted towards the pseudo off-road SUVs and crossovers, Ford should have been ideally suited to take the lead. Yet, on this side of the Atlantic at least, it gave ground to its Asian rivals.

As I mentioned, Ford has the capability. The first Ford Edge was launched in the US in 2006. Within a year it was picking up awards under “family car” categories over there. You would encounter friends and relatives visiting the US who spoke highly of the smart Ford SUV they got from the rental firm.

Why, they asked, wasn’t it on sale over here?

Good question. Ford had different priorities in Europe, namely retaining and protecting the sale of its lower-set family cars. The Kuga crossover was a step in the right direction, arriving in 2008. However it always seemed more of a defensive move than a full-on rebuttal of the Asian assault. It was up against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Rav4, a clutch of Hondas, Suzukis and at least three popular rivals from the Korean brands of Hyundai and Kia. In its best year, 2010, it recorded sales of 583. The same year 4,163 new Qashqais took to Irish roads. The good news is that a review of pricing and specification levels has given new life to the Kuga.

All-American guy

And now comes the Edge. It’s a great looking car and has all the imposing stature of a broad-shouldered Yank over to visit more diminutive relatives. In amongst the Asians crossovers this looks like a proper SUV. There’s a noticeable nod to Americana, such as creases on the bonnet similar to those on the Mustang.

It’s also well put together. Ford is eager to move upmarket and models such as the Edge are meant to showcase this to consumers.

Inside, despite the height difference, the cabin is very much an adaption on what’s in the latest Mondeo, for good and ill. There is enormous legroom both front and rear. The Edge boasts more interior space than premium rivals such as the Volvo XC60 or Audi Q5. There’s enough legroom for adults in the back, ample space in the front, while you can fit two Isofix child seats and a booster seat across the back row. Yet Ford has missed a trick in not offering the Edge in a seven-seat format. It’s not as if it’s an engineering impossibility: there’s a seven-seat Edge variant on offer in China. It seems that Ford has decided if you need all those seats you are really better in an S-Max or Galaxy.

There’s a long inglorious history of car firms trying to sell soft wallowing US models to European buyers more attuned to sharper handling. Thankfully Ford is well aware of European tastes and has a remarkably talented chassis team. These are the folks who made generations of the Focus one of the best driving cars on the road. With the Edge they had their work cut out and overall they have done an admirable job. It can’t help a little leaning in corners at speed, but the balance of comfort and handling is well weighted. The chassis is the same as that developed by engineers in Europe for the Mondeo, Galaxy and S-Max. The extra height for the Edge comes from adjustments to the shocks and suspension settings.

All Edges are sold with all-wheel drive as standard, which gives it an advantage over most rivals with just front-wheel drive. That said, the option of a two-wheel drive format could lower the price, something we’ll come to later.

The Edge is available in two versions of a 2-litre diesel: either 180bhp or 210bhp. The latter was our test car and is sold with automatic transmission. It is the best of the bunch, though the lower-powered manual is expected to be the best seller.

Both are fine about town but the extra 30bhp makes a noticeable difference in terms of refinement, while the automatic is more in tune with the driving needs of potential Edge buyers.

Two trim grades are on offer: Sport and Titanium. Again our test car was the Sport version and it is the best match for a car that’s supposed to be a cut above the mainstream. The Sport version’s 20-inch alloys really set off the Edge’s styling and the suspension is able to cope with any effect these have on the ride quality.

Strategic pricing?

However, Ford has dropped the ball in terms of price. Prices for the Edge start at €55,700 for the Titanium version, the highest entry price for any Ford on sale at present. That’s significantly more than the key Asian rival, the Hyundai Santa Fe, which starts at €39,995 in two-wheel drive and €43,995 in four-wheel drive. It also features seven seats. At the premium end the BMW X3 starts at €46,000, while the Volvo XC60 enters the market at €39,495.

With the addition of a few options to our Sports version the final price tag on the test car was an eye-watering €68,220.

Motorists spending that kind of cash on a new car are not regular visitors to Ford showrooms. I wouldn’t envy the sales staff trying to hit their monthly targets based on Edge sales.

It’s just a hunch, but I get the impression Ford knows it could make the Edge a mass-market hit, but at a cost to sales of its Mondeo and people carrier models. And we have seen that once motorists move into the crossover class, they rarely move back.

So Ford is stuck in a circus juggling act, trying to keep multiple plates spinning at the same time. It offers the Edge, but keeps the price at a level that will deter long-time Mondeo owners from making the crossover leap.

This is not a long-term solution. Eventually loyal family saloon buyers will simply move brands. Ford executives may fear consumer trends are fickle – they are probably right – but for now at least those buying trends are only going one way. Ford should be careful not to become the motor industry’s King Canute.

With the Edge, Ford has missed a golden opportunity to ride the crossover wave. What it needed was a sub-€45,000 front-wheel drive seven-seater Edge. Maybe they’ll catch the next wave.

The lowdown: Ford Edge Sport

Prices: Starting from €55,700 (Sport version is €62,100; test car was €68,220 with options)

Engine: 2.0TDCi four-cylinder diesel putting out 210bhp with Powershift automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard

CO2 emissions : 152g/km

Motor tax: €390

Verdict: With the Edge, Ford comes very close to catching the crossover wave, but pricing is too high and it could do with a third row of seats.