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March 12, 2002

Review: 2002 Ford Lynx Ghia

Critics said that it was the rear end that did it in; some claimed it was borrowed underpinnings; some even proclaimed that it was due to having only one displacement available.  Whatever the reason, the Ford Lynx, after making a big splash in September 1999, soon became close to extinct in the 1.6-liter segment.  Despite combining the sporty attributes of the Honda Civic and a bit of luxury and class that became the trademark of the Nissan Exalta, it didn’t quite threaten the leaders in its class.

In the midst of facelifts and new product launches from its competitors, the Lynx got stuck in a marsh pit along with the likes of the Mitsubishi Lancer—a fate it surely didn’t deserve.  This was despite the fact that Ford threw in everything but the kitchen sink to sell the Lynx: rear window blinds, a 12-disc CD changer, a 6-speaker system—the works.

Fast forward to 2002—Ford is finally keen on pouncing on its sleeping Japanese competitors with the all-new Lynx.  All-new?  Well, it’s a relative term in this case, so before you start lecturing us on how this Lynx isn’t far off from the one sold at the beginning of 2000, let us show you the ways…

First of all, the good news: the Lynx’s overall looks have improved ten-fold.  The most eye-catching change is the headlamps.  Gone are the clichéd 3D-look lenses and in come the ‘multi-compartmentalized’ design that has become the in-thing with the likes of Audi, Volkswagen, Range Rover and the European Ford car models.

The single piece headlight eliminates the unsightly gap between head and signal lamps.  The Lynx also receives a dual-bulb headlamp system, meaning the main and high-beam clusters have been separated promising better night time driving vision.

Of course, the biggest hurrah for Lynx fans is that the rear combination lamps have been restyled, shutting up potential rear-lamp nitpickers.  The previous swooshing design has been ditched in favor of European-style triangular lamps that look well proportioned and better than the likes of the Nissan Exalta’s Korean-like rear-end.

The modernization program was extended to the hood, bumpers and trunk to help uplift the Lynx’s looks.  For instance, the front bumper removes the smirking face of the older model.  Now it has a more integrated look with Mondeo-style fog lights.  The trunk lid has been edged up and the rear bumper refreshed and given more depth to improve the Lynx’s proportions.

Any bad news then?  Well, these might be minor gripes, but if people shot down the Lynx for its repulsive rear end before, they might shoot it down again for these elements. First is the chromed toothy grille.  It’s downright cheesy and looks as if it were plucked straight from a Korean surplus parts bin.  A mesh-grille design would have worked wonders giving the Lynx a more sporty appearance, or at the very least blackening out some of the chrome strips could have done more justice to the front end.

Second are the new alloys, which don’t look quite as good as the original.  Their luxurious design don't seem to jive with the car's overall sporty , European-inspired styling. Don’t get me wrong--the mere fact that they made way for single-piece alloys rather than having a plastic center cap is a good improvement; it’s just that the new ones don’t have the same flair and exuberance as the originals. It’s a good consolation through that the customer can fit the Lynx with optional alloys straight from the dealer. Five-spoke alloys, anyone?

Lastly, the Lincoln-like rear garnish is a bit over the edge.  Much like the toothy grille it may be an attempt to crack the executive sedan market with too much chrome   The chrome strip should have been limited to the top portion while the reverse lamps should have been integrated with the rear lamp cluster.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the rear signal lamps are now red as well?  Now you can say that indeed the F150 and the Lynx do come from the same company—a step back in design.

Inside, the Ford Lynx has received more new body parts than Robocop.  Numerous improvements have been made to answer past customer complaints.   For instance, the interior color scheme has been changed from a monotone gray to a combination of shades of brown to give the Lynx a more upscale look.  It’s not easy to pull off a classy-looking brown interior, but Ford has done it.  Moreover, the silver trimmings have been removed and exchanged with better looking bronze-shaded materials that integrate well with the rest of the interior color scheme.

The center console has been redesigned from the handbrake area, the biggest changes of which resulted in better accessibility to the air conditioning controls and better integrated cup holders.

 The pride-and-joy of this car is its modular stereo system that gives a buyer a variety of options.  For instance, buyers can select whether they’d want a single in-dash CD player or a 6-disc in-dash CD changer.  Moreover, they may select either a tape deck or a mini-disc deck with an MP3 option coming out soon as well.   

Our test unit has a high-tech 2-DIN in-dash 6-disc CD changer that requires NO magazine whatsoever.  Although the loading operation is sluggish, once loaded it works well, giving the Lynx a feeling of tech and class especially considering that the Lynx has a 6-speaker system as standard.  Moreover, there is an option of adding two additional speakers at the rear putting the grand total of speaker count to 8!  And finally, someone thoughtful enough to include a large volume knob!

Other improvements include an electronic trunk release mechanism removing the need to bend down in opening the trunk lid, as well as improved instrumentation.

In addition, those who complained about poor seat support may be glad that even those who don’t have Jennifer Lopez-sized behinds may find the Lynx a more comfortable ride.  The seats have been redesigned with additional cushioning and padding.  Moreover, the leather appointments have ditched the perforated look with high quality leather sourced from Japan for a reduced leather smell and better texture.

Unfortunately, the light and wiper stalks have been carried over from the previous Lynx and need improvement in switch feel, as do the window switches and secondary controls.

On a good note, Ford introduces the concept of multiple options package.  For instance, this car has the option for moon roof, no moon roof; leather seats or velour seats; automatic transmission or manual—these touches give more power to the customer and give the Lynx a more dynamic range that allows it to battle the entire range of the Corolla Altis with just two model lines (Ghia and GSi).

Admittedly, the driving experience is the most under-appreciated strong point of the Ford Lynx.  Although it is still no Honda Civic, the 2002 Lynx has been improved in everyway to bring it closer to the handling of its Tochigi competitor.  For instance, the McPherson Strut / Dual Strut system has been retuned to give a sportier experience.  Handling is flat and stable through any kind of corner while the body roll is almost nonexistent and the car squats less, giving the Lynx more driver confidence than the would the Toyota Corolla Altis or the Nissan Exalta.

The Mazda-sourced 1.6-liter engine has been retuned, although on paper it still has 118-bhp at 5,500 rpm and 148 Nm at 4,000 rpm.  On the plus side, even without VTEC or VVTi, the rev happy and potent nature of the engine is still very much alive and kicking.  However, though powerful on long straights and quick-burst acceleration, the power plant lacks the modern smoothness of the Honda or Toyota engines and at the same time, it lacks the bite below the 3,500-rpm range.  Moreover, even with the improved engine insulation, the engine can still make its baritone voice heard inside the cabin.

On the other hand, Ford realized that their 4-speed automatic needed extensive recalibration, an area of improvement very much addressed on the new Lynx as there is now less shift-shock during hard acceleration and high-speed record attempts on C5.  Unfortunately, when taken in connection with a weak low rev range, the Lynx can get confused when going uphill especially with a full set of occupants.  During our test, the Lynx had the tendency of shifting back and forth between first and second gear trying to compensate for the loss of power when going uphill.

On the negative side, the ride quality of the Lynx hasn’t improved dramatically over the previous version.  In fact, it can still be as stiff as a Popsicle especially on slightly uneven roads.

A welcome improvement is the presence of rear back-up sensors—something that even Toyota forgot to pop into its top-range Corolla Altis.  Although not as high-tech as the Nissan Exalta’s (which tells you the exact distance in mm), the Lynx’s sensors work just as well providing an accurate beeping tone that means excuses of poor rear visibility just won’t work anymore.

As an overall car, the 2002 Ford Lynx is not just a revised, face lifted model.  Rather the updates are done in a very convincing manner; it turns out that this car is more substance than cosmetics after all.  In fact, this has more improvements and modifications compared to the Nissan Sentra when it was transformed into the first ever Exalta model.

The very fact that Ford is offering a wide array of choices compared to the Japanese makes it a good alternative.  In addition, all the gizmos and features available as standard makes the Lynx a much better buy given the high-priced bare-look interior of the Honda Civic.

With the addition of improved driving dynamics, heavily redesigned exterior and good dealer / service experience, the Ford Lynx may well be able to catapult itself out of the league of secondary stringers in this segment.  Can it enter into the realm of the big cats?  Only time will tell.  However, definitely this car can easily leap past the Mitsubishi Lancer and possibly catch up with the Nissan Exalta.  In terms of excitement and driver involvement, this car places a close second to the Honda Civic. With specifications closely matching the Nissan Exalta and Toyota Corolla Altis, the 2002 Ford Lynx comes out as a great deal for a car that’s as dynamic as it is good looking.

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