Ford's new Orion

One of the best kept secrets of the motor industry was unwrapped in July when Ford announced the Orion family car to plug the small but significant gap between the Escort and the Sierra. The Orion will go on sale at the end of September, at prices yet to be announced, and will be British made, at Halewood, while the petrol engines will come from Bridgend and the Diesel units from Dagenham.

“We are anxious that this should not be thought of as an Escort with a boot” comments Ford’s managing director Sam Toy. Though based on the Escort’s floor-pan and having front-wheel drive, of course, the Orion has significantly more space on the back and a much larger, 13.5 cubic foot boot, as well as having a larger fuel tank at 10.5 gallons. It looks for all the world like a slightly scaled down, smartened-up version of the Mk IV Cortina, Ford’s best-selling model for many years.

Ford offer a number of permutations with GL or Ghia specifications, power units being 1,296 cc (69 bhp), 1,597 c, carburated (79 bhp), 1,597 cc Injection (105 bhp) and 1,598 cc diesel rated at 54 bhp. Ford have made a tremendous investment on the diesel unit, working with the German KHD Diesel company to adapt the CVH petrol unit. With figures of 72.4 mpg at a steady 56 mph and 51.4 mph in the Urban Cycle the Diesel is bound to boost this rapidly increasing market sector, its popularity depending as much as anything on initial pricing.

Transmissions are four-speed for the 1.3 and five-speed or automatic for the 1.6-litre versions, and the rest of the technical specification will be familiar to Escort owners. The 1.3-litre models have 240 mm solid discs at the front, the 1.6-litre models having ventilated discs, all having drums at the rear.

The 1.6-litre version with Bosch K-Jetronic injection will be of particular interest to XR3 owners who might need the extra space. The 1.6 Injection is about 90 pounds heavier, the car being 11 inches longer overall, so a penalty is inevitable. A claimed maximum speed of 115 mph, with standstill to 62 mph in 9.6 seconds is very respectable for this class of car, while the fuel consumption would be comparable ranging from 36.7 mpg at a steady 75 mph to 27.7 mpg in the urban cycle. MLC