Standard equipment even at this level includes alloy wheels, cruise control, air-con, electric mirrors and a CD stereo, while safety measures include six airbags, ABS with EBD and a crushable pedal design. A Thatcham Category 1-approved security system is also factory-fitted to protect the vehicle from thieves.
Inside, the cabin is light and airy, with plenty of space to transport five adults in comfort. Although the dash doesn’t seem made of the highest quality plastics, all the controls are sensibly positioned and there are several pockets and shelves for storage. In addition, the boot is quite huge, capable of swallowing an average family’s luggage for a week away.
At the front end is a 4-cylinder engine which copes well with varying traffic conditions. Although you could never describe it as powerful, it is so keen and free-revving that the car seems to travel quicker than it actually is. Coupled with a precise five-speed gearbox, involving ride and direct steering, this all makes driving the 1.8TS quite a pleasure.
Strengths: Supple ride, involving handling, willing engine
Weaknesses: Needs better quality plastics
Opportunity: Family buyers and lower executives
Threat: Revised version due mid-2005
USP: Style, practicality and value in one package
Engine: 1.8-litre, 4cyl DOHC, 16v, 118bhp
Transmission: five-speed manual, fwd
Performance: 0-62mph 10.7secs, top speed 122mph
Efficiency: 36.2mpg combined, 185g/km CO2
Rivals: Mondeo, Vectra, Laguna, Accord