Ford says the Escort concept it is unveiling today at the Shanghai auto show is the type of car that will play an important role in its expanding product lineup in China.

Based on the auto maker’s global C-segment platform, the Escort fills a niche different from that of its Ford Focus platform mate.

While the Focus appeals to those seeking a fun driving experience and a high level of technology, the Escort is aimed at customers “who value exceptional roominess, uncompromised functionality and sophisticated design,” the auto maker says.

Ford research indicates there are a number of Chinese consumers seeking a vehicle that is stylish, but not arrogant or pretentious.

“We found a large segment of compact-car buyers in China appreciate sophisticated design and want a more spacious family-sized vehicle,” Martin Smith, executive design director-Europe and Asia-Pacific, says in a statement. “The Ford Escort concept reflects those desires.”

The Escort boasts Ford’s new global fascia, first shown on the Fusion and Mondeo midsize sedans. On the concept, the grille is more upright and elongated, with jeweled light-emitting-diode headlamps meant to resemble a figure-8, considered a lucky number in China.

The concept’s powertrain has not been revealed, but if the car reaches production it likely would have the all-new 1.5L EcoBoost 4-cyl. engine unveiled last week under its hood.

If given the green light, the Escort would enter one of the fastest-growing segments in China. Ford says the sector accounts for 5.5 million units annually, about equal to total new-vehicle demand in Germany and the U.K. combined.

Also debuting at the Shanghai auto show is the new Mondeo, which joins the recently launched Fiesta, Fiesta ST and EcoSport cross/utility vehicle in the local market.

The Mondeo will be offered in China with the new 1.5L EcoBoost, as well as a 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cyl. engine.

The newest entries signify Ford’s commitment to China, where it has invested $4.9 billion since 2006. Plans call for five new plants by 2015, which will increase the auto maker’s local capacity to more than 1 million units annually.

Ford also has been expanding its dealer network in the country and developing its supply base, with plans to deliver 15 new vehicles by 2015. The auto maker forecasts 30% of its annual global sales will come from the Chinese market by 2020.

bpope@wardsauto.com