Officials from Ford’s Chinese joint venture are said to be interested in selling Ford do Brasil’s newly launched second generation Fiesta sedan line, the third model from its Amazon Project, a locally-developed range of models based on the European-designed Fiesta hatchback.

Ford do Brasil would not confirm that the new Fiesta sedan would replace the older Ikon in other markets but a source, who did not want to be identified, told just-auto that officials from Ford China, which builds the previous-generation Fiesta-based Ikon sedan, have seen the new car and are “very interested” in the new sedan as a direct competitor for the rival Buick Sail, which was based on the previous-generation Opel Corsa and was also designed in Brazil.

The Amazon Project has previously produced the Brazilian-made Fiesta hatchback and the EcoSport compact SUV (similar to the European Fusion).

Ford will start selling the new sedan in Brazil at the end of September, replacing the Mexican-made Ikon.

The sedan is based on the Brazilian-built Fiesta which differs from the Spanish-made models only in details such as the headlights and absence of side indicator repeaters.

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The new model was designed by Ford do Brasil and looks a bit like a smaller Mondeo. Its roof is 30mm higher than the hatchback’s to blend better with the new luggage compartment.

“It’s not an adapted version of a existing car. The sedan was developed at the same time as the hatchback”, said Ford do Brasil design manager João Marcos Ramos.

At 4,205 mm, the sedan is 60 mm longer than the outgoing Ikon and 297 mm longer than the current hatchback, on the same 2,488 mm wheelbase. The boot measures 478 litres compared with the Ikon’s 400 litres and the hatchback’s 305 litres.

The interior design is essentially the same as the hatch’s though the rear seat has been redesigned and moved back 30mm to increase legroom.

Ford showed a prototype flex-fuel Fiesta hatch during the model’s press presentation in 2002 but only now is the sedan introducing the Blue Oval’s first flex-fuel engine to buyers, following the lead of Volkswagen, General Motors and Fiat.

The sedan debuts a new Zetec Rocam 1.6 Flex engine that runs on petrol, alcohol or a blend of the two in the same tank. When Ford began development of this engine, it used a Visteon flex-fuel system but, after some problems, switched suppliers to Magneti Marelli.

The engine has a higher compression ratio of 12.3:1 and a different exhaust system and engine management unit.

Ford has also introduced a new piston head design, called HT (high turbulence), to accelerate mixture burn, ignition timing for each cylinder and an electronically controlled cooling system thermostat that adjusts engine temperature according to power output and fuel used.

“This is the first time we’ve used a thermostat to adjust the temperature according to the type of fuel that the engine is running on. The engine has a lot of changes so we say that it’s a new Zetec Rocam engine”, said engineering manager Milton Lubraico.

Output of the 1.6-litre, eight-valve, flex-fuel engine varies between 105 hp and 111hp depending on the fuel used. The 1.6-litre petrol engine develops 98hp.

The flex-fuel engine will be fitted to Fiesta sedans sold only in Brazil. Export versions will have the standard 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 1.4-litre diesel.

Brazilian buyers will also be offered two versions of Ford’s one-litre, eight-valve, petrol engine: a naturally aspirated 66hp unit and a supercharged 95 hp motor, both already offered in the hatchback Fiesta.

Ford is targeting rival Brazilian-made compact sedans such as GM’s Opel-designed Chevrolet Corsa, the Fiat Siena, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo.

Fiesta sedan prices start at $US9,270 and the flex-fuel model is priced from $US10,300. Ford expects the flex fuel versions to account for about half of sales.

Export markets will include Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

“The countries [India, Mexico, South Africa and China] that produce the Ikon will continue to make it”, said Ford do Brasil spokesman Rogelio Golfarb.

The Fiesta sedan is built in Ford Brazil’s Camaçari plant, in Bahia state. The automaker plans to add two more models to its Fiesta range in the next years, probably a pick-up and a compact minivan.

Rogerio Louro