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Ford Figo Aspire

Introduction

While the Indian market has been going gaga over the crossover and compact SUVs, the sub-four metre sedans silently continue to sell in large numbers. The Dzire, Xcent, Amaze and Zest in total, consistently account for over 25,000 units every month. Ford is looking for a pie of this segment with the new Figo Aspire sedan, which will go head-on with the above mentioned cars.

One and half years after the debut in concept form at the 2014 Auto Expo, one might say that Ford is late to the party, but this party is just getting started.

 
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Looks

The Figo Aspire is an interesting looking car; I do not want to call it pretty, but it makes a genuine attempt at being one. The front gets a familiar big trapezoidal grille with horizontal chrome stats, while the design cue is reminiscent of the Aston Martin, it is becoming a common feature on the new Ford cars. The rest of the features like the elongated headlamps, subtle creases on the bonnet and the sharply angled A-pillar compliment the front that looks both aggressive and premium.

The problem is with the side profile, being a sub-four metre the proportions are not balanced. It is still better than most compact sedans in the market today and the Figo Aspire looks like it is designed to be a compact sedan and not an extension of the hatchback. The front three quarter is the best angle to look at the Aspire, it hides the shrunken boot and highlights the slight flared wheel arches and bold shoulder line along with the pleasant front. 

The rear of the car does not do justice to rest of the design, it is flat in an attempt to maximise space and yet limit the dimensions to less than four metres. Ford has given some chrome treatment here in order to improve the aesthetics, but it only does so much in terms of styling. 

The sub-four metre sedans are a workaround to maximize utility and none of them score high on aesthetics. The Figo Aspire isn’t any different, but it has a strong character that we loved and also makes me rate it as the best in the compact sedan segment.

 

Interior

The interior of the Aspire should become its biggest selling point; it is spacious and feels premium. The cabin looks roomy with the beige treatment and creates a nice contrast with the black dashboard-top and similar coloured door trim inserts. The Aspire is the first car in the segment to get leather seats and that makes a really nice impression when one enters the cabin.

The cabin has been packaged pretty well and there is plenty of space both at the front and back. The front seats offer thigh support and lumbar support, which no other car but the Tata Zest offers in this segment. The front seats have also been scooped to liberate space for the rear bench and it definitely helps. There is plenty of legroom and headroom at the rear even with a six feet person sitting on the driving seat. I don’t think the Aspire is the roomiest car in the segment, the Tata Zest is still larger inside, but this is sufficiently big to accommodate four in comfort and even a fifth person for a relatively short drive in the city. The boot space at 357 litres is not big enough when compared to the 400 litres plus space in both the Amaze and Xcent. But to put things into a perspective, Maruti Suzuki S-Cross and Ford EcoSport offer 350 litres and 346 litres respectively. There are 20 big and small storages bins in the car, unfortunately most of them are at the front.

 

We at CarWale firmly believe that safety features are more important than all the convenience and swag. And that is why, despite limited features, we will rate the Figo Aspire really high on this front. Where the competition concentrates on touch-screen music system, start-stop button and rear AC vents, Ford is offering six airbags on the top-end Titanium+ variant. There is always an opportunity to upgrade to a better music system or even add projector headlamps as aftermarket, but there is no way one can shove four extra airbags in the passenger cabin. And it is not just with the top-end variant, the Aspire will be the only car in the segment to offer two airbags as standard in all variants.

Safety plays an important role in the features list. The complicated looking music system from the EcoSport with Sync App has voice commands, streams music and most importantly calls the emergency services and gives the GPS location in case of an incident. The MyKey technology, part of the top-end variant, allows drivers to set speed warning, activate seat belt reminder and also limit the car’s top speed.

 

Performance

The Ford Figo Aspire will be available with two petrol and one diesel engine options. The 1.2-litre four cylinder petrol and the 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel will come mated to the five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.5-litre petrol will be available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The 1.5-litreTDCi diesel is tuned to produce 99bhp and 215Nm of torque making it the most powerful car in the segment, marginally higher than the Honda Amaze. At standstill and low speeds, the engine is harsh and there is prominent clatter in the cabin, also a light buzz can be felt on the steering wheel and pedals. The harshness goes down as the rpm increases and engine feels pretty smooth over 2,000 rpm. We are however willing to live with it for the kind of performance it has to offer. The car is quick, getting to 100kph is easy and cruising in triple digits even more so. There is no turbo lag and the healthy bottom-end torque helps quickly getting from 60kph to 100kph without downshifting to the fourth gear. The clutch is light and easy to use even in the city traffic, though the gear shifts require a little extra effort. The ARAI efficiency of the diesel car is rated at 25.83kpl and we managed to get 15.5kpl in our test drive.

The petrol car on the other hand feels relatively underpowered. The Ti-CVT is good to deliver 87bhp and 112Nm, though the tuning, as expected, has been for efficiency. The engine refinement is top notch and driving around in the city is going to be comfortable. The performance isn’t too bad, it can get off-the-line quickly and there is decent midrange to get to 100kph in respectable time, but going past 120kph requires some efforts. The engine needs to be put under lot of stress, though we didn’t mind doing that since it sounds incredible at high rpms. While the ARAI efficiency of the petrol is decent as well at 18.16kpl, we expect the real time efficiency to be much lower at around 12kpl.

The 1.5-litre petrol was not part of the first drive, though we are looking forward to driving it soon. Our experience with the Fiesta AT tells us that the dual-clutch PowerShift transmission is fantastic and the 110bhp and 136Nm will feel even better in the smaller, lighter car.

Ride & Handling

The ride quality is brilliant, we went through a few rough patches in the Udaipur city and the car managed to tackle them easily. Some of the thud sounds did percolate into the cabin, but the ride felt solid. The experience on the highway was no different; the car feels at home at over 100kph and the undulations did not unsettle the car even once. 

The car managed to clock over 150kph on the speedometer and the Figo Aspire masks speeds pretty well. The problem however is the NVH; the cabin becomes noisy after 120kph and part of the blame goes to the tyres. The sedan uses 175/65 R14 tyres that are biased towards efficiency. We would have been happier to see 15-inch tyres on the car, which would have also upped the looks of the car.

We didn’t get to test the handling abilities of the car in the first drive, but we won’t be surprised if the car turns out to be lot of fun around the curvy roads. The electrical steering also feels great, it is not too light at city speeds and weighs up nicely. The feedback could have been better, but it is still one of the better units in the compact segment.

Verdict

Lot of thought has gone into development of the Figo Aspire; it might not excel at a specific thing, but is a superb overall package. It looks decent, offers plenty of cabin space, scores REALLY high on safety, beats the competition on performance and has a decent ride and handling package. It does miss out on few features, but I don’t mind missing out if Ford manages to price this competitively.

The price then becomes an important factor in deciding the fate of this product. Ford is expected to launch the car and start deliveries in the next three to four weeks and if you are looking at buying a compact sedan or any car under Rs 9 lakh, it makes sense to wait for a month to check this out.

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