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SEE ALSO:Ford Buyer's Guide

The Aspire is Ford's newest subcompact model. This well-rounded hatchback is a replacement for the Festiva, and like the Festiva the Aspire is built near Seoul, South Korea by Kia Motors Corporation. This partnership with Kia, currently the world's 20th largest automaker, is one of many of Ford's overseas joint ventures. Ford has a ten percent share in Kia, while Mazda, another Ford joint venture partner, holds an eight percent interest. Mazda also supplies the 1.3 liter four cylinder engine that powers the new Aspire. It is truly an international car as many of its parts and components come from Ford's far-flung world-wide ventures.

This is an entry-level automobile aimed at people who have a limited amount of money to spend on the purchase and operation of a new car. The Aspire shows just how far such vehicles have come since "the good old days." It is basic, utilitarian transportation but solidly put together and available with features that once were found only on far more expensive machines. The Aspire is certainly no fire-breathing sports car but a perusal of car magazines from the early 1960s brings some surprises: its' 0-60 acceleration time is as good or better than those of any similarly-sized sports cars of that era and 8 to 10 seconds better than any similar sedans - including some revered ones that in retrospect were better in memory than reality. And its fuel economy is far better, too. During the past few years technological advances have brought about many design, performance, and safety improvements that we now take for granted. Modern technology really works for the buyer.

APPEARANCE: Although built in Korea, the Aspire was designed by Ford in Michigan. So the Ford family resemblance shouldn't come as a surprise. Its predominant styling theme is the oval with a domed top and rounded sides. For a compact the Aspire has a fairly low and wide stance, and the front view is definitely Ford. The cabin has good visibility with its large windshield and rear hatch, plus two doors and three windows on each side. A smooth monochrome finish with black trim around the windows and full wheel covers provides the smooth, stylish touch of the nineties.

COMFORT: The interior of the Aspire is basic but comfortable. Seating is contoured for four, with manual buckets in front and a fold-down bench in back. Trunk space is modest but adequate for most shopping. Instruments and controls are where they should be. Many of the Aspire's controls like the windows, doors, and mirrors are hand-operated. There is a long list of extra-cost options. Among the more useful of these are the rear hatch window washer/wiper and defogger and the air conditioner. The air conditioner is very quiet as well as effective in hot weather.

SAFETY: Driver and front passenger airbags and three-point safety belts contribute to interior safety. Optional antilock brakes ($565.00) ensure sure and safe stopping in emergency situations.

ROADABILITY: In spite of the Aspire's economy-car heritage it handles quite well. If compared to more expensive cars, its handling is a bit harsh. Still, it behaves far better than some memorable economy cars of the past. Inexpensive front-wheel-drive cars often have annoying torque steer problems. Not the Aspire, with its modern front-wheel-drive design. Its steering is not power-assisted, but the lack is only noticed when parallel parking. Wind and road noise are at acceptable limits.

PERFORMANCE: The 1.3 liter 4-cylinder, eight-valve, single overhead cam, electronically fuel- injected engine gives decent performance and good fuel economy. The Aspire'e EPA ratings of 36 city and 43 highway are among the highest in the nation. Its smooth and quiet five-speed manual overdrive transmission delivers power to the front wheels. Excellent low-end power allows it to cope with American driving conditions, and keeping up with traffic around town is no problem. Adroit shifting is required for uphill passing and merging. While acceleration falls off above 50 mph, normal highway travel presents no real problems. Considering what this class of car used to be like, the 1995 Aspire looks pretty good.

CONCLUSIONS: Ford considers its new subcompact Aspire to be a "prime alternative to a used car." It certainly highlights just how far the inexpensive end of the auto market has come over the years.


	   Base Price              $ 8,855
	   Price As Tested         $ 10,800
	   Engine Type             I-4 sohc 8V, sefi**
	   Engine Size             1.3 liter/81 cid
	   Horsepower              64 @ 5000
	   Torque (ft/lbs)         74 @ 3000
	   Wheelbase/Length        94"/156"
	   Transmission            5-speed manual w/od
	   Curb Weight             2060
	   Pounds per Horsepower   32
	   Fuel Capacity           10
	   Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular(87 octane)
	   Tire                    Yokohama Radial 397 P165/70R 13
	   Brake                   anti-lock optional disc/disc
	   Drive Train             front engine, front drive
	   ** sefi - sequential electronic fuel injection
	   EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
	     city/highway/observed      36/43/37.1
	   0 to 60 mph                  13.1 sec
	   1/4 mi (E.T.)                21.3 sec           
	   Coefficient of drag (cd)     .36