Spy photographers recently captured a rather unusual sight on camera: a test mule based on a lifted Ford Fiesta subcompact. The mysterious test mule was being tossed around in the snow when photographed, and there’s one rather intriguing possibility for what it could be previewing: Ford’s future small off-road SUV, which was officially announced last week.
You can find the spy shots over on the Motor1 website.
As that outlet points out, this Ford Fiesta-based test mule doesn’t just ride higher than the factory subcompact; it’s also had its wheelbase lengthened, with extra material tacked at the C-pillar, and it wears a set of small fender extensions to accommodate a wider track width. In none of the shots can we make out what sort of tires it’s rolling on, but crucially, the wheels seen here are a five-bolt design, where the stock Ford Fiesta uses four-bolt hubs.
If the spied Ford Fiesta-based test mule is indeed for Ford’s forthcoming small off-road SUV, that likely means that the future “Bronco Jr.” will utilize unibody – not body-on-frame – construction. While sure to ruffle a few feathers, it’s not necessarily such a bad thing; the Jeep Cherokee has used a unibody design since the lauded XJ iteration introduced in 1984.
We can also surmise that the new off-roader will be only slightly larger than the outgoing Ford Fiesta subcompact, which ought to lend it tremendous off-road agility.
Ford’s small off-road SUV, which doesn’t yet have a name, is slated to debut by 2020. It’s part of a new product offensive that will see Ford replacing more than 75 percent of its product portfolio and introducing four brand-new truck and SUV nameplates. We can likely look forward to a public unveiling sometime later this year or next.