Ford Unveils Adorable Would-Be Smart-Car Competitor

But the new design for the tiny-car market also looks tough at the same time.

ford concept

At the Beijing Auto Show—where GM unveiled its new Volt minivan—Ford also announced an alluring departure from its typical lineup: The Ford Start, a super-compact car intended for city-dwellers.

You might remember the day when Detroit ran as fast as it could from small cars, because it couldn't make them profitably given terrible manufacturing efficiency. Which tells you something about how much better Ford thinks it's getting, and makes the Start's future-forward design features all the more impressive.

The car is powered by a tiny, 1-liter version of Ford's Ecoboost engine, which offers about 20% better fuel efficiency over comparable engines. That's the smallest Ecoboost powerplant yet, and Ford says it will soon makes it way into a production vehicle.

But the cutting-edge design idea here is to reduce manufacturing complexity, so that it requires far fewer resources. For example, the body panels are made of recyclable composites that come pre-colored, so there's no need to paint them. And the interior would reek of patchouli if the design wasn't so sleek: The interior panels are made or natural sisal fiber.

According Ford's creative director, J Mays—who, like some kind of pop star has a single-letter first name with no period—"In an era of constant visual noise, we have created a car that conveys visual purity and harmony, in which every line has meaning and purpose." Whatevs. The design speaks for itself. The exterior is adorable but butch enough that a dude might not feel silly driving it; the interior has a no-nonsense minimalism that looks elegant and straight-up tough.

ford concept

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