Going global: Fords new EcoSport starts out in Brazil

Going global: Ford's new EcoSport starts out in Brazil

A few new models of global interest surfaced this week, starting with the Ford EcoSport small SUV - Brazilian-designed (reportedly with help from Ford Australia) - and initially to be built in South America but now, in its second generation, also to become a global model made also in Thailand, China and India. Wonder where ours will come from?

Not entirely new, since they've been prattling on about it for months now, but still of interest is Ford Europe's B-Max, bringing sliding rear doors and a pillarless side opening to a new segment after designers staked out shopping centre car parks and schools (it's a wonder they didn't get arrested) to see how potential buyers with children use their current chariots. Ford also released some more details of their new baby this week, including engine and tranny combos (there's a twin clutch automatic, hooray) and now we hear there's talk of the next S-Max (or maybe the one after) also getting sliding rear doors, with optional electric operation.

Common on US market minivans, rear sliders are still quite rare this side of the pond - we've seen them in the past on a Peugeot/Fiat/Lancia/Citroen minivan line, on Chrysler's competing Voyager (Town and Country in the US), on the latest VW Sharan/Seat Alhambra and, exclusively in its C-segment, the Mazda 5 (which bizarrely has no automatic option in Europe). Just to be different the B/C-segment Opel/Vauxhall Meriva has rear-hinged rear doors and, clearly, their designers didn't stake out car parks or they'd have realised most slots in UK barely have room for the car, let alone to allow doors open wide...

Another new model, well, variant, came out of left field in New York yesterday: an AWD option for the XF and XJ, though only with the new three-litre supercharged V6 and only for 'snowbelt' markets like the US, China and Russia - so LHD-only then as well. No UK, Sportbrake wagon or diesels, though, so BMW, Audi and Mercedes can rest easy. Jag has offered AWD before, with the X-type launched 11 years ago.

Arguably the announcement attracting the most interest worldwide was the release of first official images and details of the long-awaited redesigned Range Rover. It's a superb evolution of its predecessor, 400kg lighter thanks to all-alloy construction (an SUV first) and with a much improved interior. Tata Motors' hands-off policy, leaving the UK designers and engineers to get on with what they know, rather than consolidating R&D in India where engineers are cheaper to hire, appears to pay dividends and JLR is profitable and, as we also learned this week, expanding output again as demand for the Evoque prompts a third shift for the first time in the Halewood plant's history.

Speaking of plants, it seems that GM is mulling all sorts of options for Opel, including not only building some PSA models at Russelheim but also possibly sharing a platform or two. Not unprecedented - remember the Fiat Croma/Lancia Thema/Ala 164/Saab 9000? - but enough to, understandably, set the unions off again.

Meanwhile, it looks like Maruti Suzuki is, finally, heading for a restart after the riots and fatal fire at Manesar; the security arrangements sound more like how you might protect an embassy in a war zone rather than a car plant knocking out family hatchbacks...

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com