road test : Ford Scorpio TD estate

For all its outlandish looks up front, the rear half of Ford's Scorpio Estate is almost the same as the old model, give or take a few plastic mouldings. But the estate does share some of the mechanical refinements that have made today's Scorpio saloon so much more civilised than its predecessor, including more supple suspension and an engine sound more effectively banished from the cabin.

The engine itself is not great. Ask it to pull briskly from low speeds, and you are met with the equivalent of a yawn. But, once stoked up, it cruises in a relaxed, long-legged manner which compliments the safe if slow-witted handling. But, unless fuel economy overrides considerations of pace and serenity, you would enjoy life more with the identically-priced 2.9-litre, 12-valve V6 Scorpio.

Imitation-wood dashboard excepted, the Scorpio has a welcoming interior with squidgily comfortable seats and impressive legroom. The class of a Mercedes, BMW or Audi estate is lacking, but then it costs a good deal less. The cheapest of the three versions, tellingly named Executive, costs pounds 19.145, and even the ultimate Ultima undercuts most German-badged rivals at pounds 21,760.

John Simister

One previous owner

Charles Hart, Operations Director Northgate Holdings. "I drive about 55,000 miles a year and am on my fourth, new-generation Scorpio Estate - an Ultima, which is top of the range and much underplayed by Ford: performance in this model is fairly electric. I like the looks - futuristic and bold - although people do tend to stare at you at traffic lights."

Specifications

Ford Scorpio Ghia TD Estate, pounds 20,350

Engine: 2,500cc, four cylinders, turbodiesel, 115hp at 4,200rpm. Five- speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive. Top speed: 116 mph; 0-60 in 11.4 seconds. Fuel consumption 28-33mpg.

Rivals

Audi A6 2.5 TDI Estate, pounds 23,173

BMW 525 tds Touring, pounds 24,990

Citroen XM 2.1 TD SX Estate, pounds 19.055

Vauxhall Omega 2.5 TD GLS Estate, pounds 21,400

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