Ford Motor Co. executives have been touting their new Mercury Capri convertible as a fun car.
At first, the description sounded like a copout: a corporate excuse for a car that no doubt would fall short of Mazda's red-hot Miata -- a real sports car.
Expectations sank on word that the Capri wasn't a serious sports car, but a front-wheel-drive "fun car." But, surprise -- the Ford execs were right -- this is a fun car.
The 1991 Capri began as a concept car that Ford of Europe first exhibited at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. The Capri's international heritage includes Italian styling, a Japanese (Mazda) engine and mechanicals, American development and Australian manufacturing. (Overhead cam, down-under assembly.)
The 1991 Capri is the vehicle that should have been available to the poor souls who bought Suzuki Samurais in an effort to get an affordable convertible.
Ford hit its targets. Ford wanted an affordable car that "would turn heads." The Italians did their magic. More than once on a test drive of the Capri, people commented on the little convertible's good looks.
The base Capri carries a suggested retail price of $12,588. The test car had an $838 preferred-equipment package that brought the price to $13,426.
The package gave the Capri a very comfortable level of equipment -- air conditioning, aluminum wheels, power door locks, premium AM-FM cassette and black convertible roof.
The real surprise of the test drive was Capri's performance. The standard 1.6-liter, 16-valve, dual-overhead-cam engine supplies more than enough punch to reach Ford's fun level. (The base engine delivers 100 horsepower at 5,750 revolutions per minute and 95 foot-pounds of torque at 5,500 rpm. It is rated at 25 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway.) The Capri also has an available XR2 option (beginning at $15,522) with an intercooled turbocharger that delivers 132 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and a zero-to-60 time of about eight seconds, according to Ford.
The Capri's negative aspects are the rear seat and instrument panel visibility to taller drivers.
The other complaint was that the leather-wrapped steering wheel (also nice) cut off the view of critical points on the speedometer -- 50 to 65 mph or so.
Ford took the time and expense to put a driver's-side air bag in the Capri, instead of the other option -- those dreaded attack seat belts. Other standard features include 5-mph bumpers, power steering, four-wheel power disc brakes, tinted glass, dual remote power mirrors, power windows, rear seat heat ducts, electronic AM-FM stereo radio, variable-speed intermittent wipers, digital clock, leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear-seat three-point seat belts.