4 October 2004

Ford added some pizzazz to the Paris show and the first public outing of the new Focus hatch with this Vignale concept car, a Focus-based coupé-cabriolet with a folding metal roof. Although it is billed as a design study to gauge reaction to a possible Focus CC, insiders claim the green light has already been given to an almost identical production model due to hit showrooms at the end of 2006. Designed in-house by Ehab Kaoud, under the direction of design director Chris Bird, the Vignale is built on the new Focus’s platform. Like future rivals the Peugeot 307 CC and Renault Mégane CC, its party piece is an electrically folding metal roof that scrolls backs and stows in the boot. The roof itself was designed by Italian specialists Stola, though it’s not yet known whether it will also take care of the production version. It is thought likely the roof will be made by Pininfarina, which is making the roof for the Volvo C30, with which the Ford shares its underpinnings. The Vignale shares many design cues and components with the new Focus hatchback, due on sale in January. It’s virtually identical to the three-door from the doors forward but it shares the same rear overhang as the new estate in order to accommodate the metal roof. There are minor differences, however. The Vignale has a different grille, featuring five horizontal slats and said to hint at a future look for all Ford of Europe models. It also has a sporty lower grille insert. Inside, the dash, seats, door trims and centre console come from the new Focus, but the design team has been more daring with materials, using smatterings of aluminium and more adventurous colours. ‘The old Focus was designed as a hatch, then transformed for other models,’ Bird told Autocar. ‘This time we’ve designed all versions at the same time and created a more cohesive look.

‘We’ve been studying the 307 CC and Mégane CC. We reckon we have improved on both.’ Bird is confident that customers will buy the Vignale just for its coupé qualities, regardless of the fact that it’s also a drop-top. ‘We want to confuse people into thinking that it’s just an elegant coupé. Rivals only look good roof-down; we reckon this looks good with the roof up too.’

The Vignale will be taken into production by Team RS, Ford’s specialist branch dealing with high-performance and niche models. Insiders reckon that it will only be available with top-end petrol engines, and possibly a 220bhp 2.0-litre turbo version, badged ST.

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