Things we liked
Before we tell you what we liked about it, first let us see what the Freestyle tormented through, shall we? During the bucketing monsoon this year, this little crossover (or mini-SUV, call it what you want) was driven by our photographer Kapil Angane through some of the worst roads Mumbai outskirts could throw at us. It accompanied almost all the cars you see in the beautiful pictures clicked on our recent review pages. This means it went long and went far, and got there with relative ease too. Compared to a normal hatchback, the added robustness of the Freestyle by the means of cladding all-around and high ground clearance, made the Freestyle feel like a mountain goat on many occasions.
That brings us to the 1.2-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine of the Dragon family. Although not the peppiest 1.2 around, the three-cylinder motor managed to deliver excellent drivability. It’s easy to drive, with linear power delivery and since it’s a naturally-aspirated motor, there’s barely any lag. It revs happily to 6,500rpm, and as the maximum torque of 119Nm is delivered in the mid-range, there’s no reason to hit to redline, be it for the city driving or out cruising on the highway.
And being stuck in traffic jams doesn’t bum you out either, thanks to the good amount of grunt available lower down the rev range and the light clutch pedal. This brings us to the five-speed manual, which, with its tall gear lever is good to use as well. But it’s not the slickest to use though.
With a smaller hatchback-like footprint, the Freestyle is a breeze to manoeuvre in the confines of the city. Add to it the direct and well-weighted steering, and stealing gaps in the slow-moving rush-hour traffic is quite manageable as well. Finding parking space is also no hassle and a rearview camera is pretty useful. It also rides well over all sorts of surfaces.
Despite its compact dimensions, the cabin is surprisingly spacious. Sitting three abreast on the back seat won’t be an uncomfortable affair. Adding to it, those soft seats wrapped in black cloth seat covers and you don’t have to worry about them getting soiled or dirty. As for practicality, there are ample of storage places all around the cabin. The slot provided in the centre console comes in handy to place your phone, while the glovebox is relatively large too. The cubby hole in the centre console is useful and it is adjacent to four cup/bottle holders of varying size and depth.
Ford’s touchscreen has got a certain charm to it, thanks to the bright interface with superb touch response and fluidity. It’s also one of the easiest systems to navigate around and throws out useful information like air-con settings and a compass. It’s not the SYNC system offered in more expensive models but takes its cues from it, which is quite commendable. And it also scores high on smartphone integration and connectivity in the form of Ford Pass.
Things we didn’t like
Instead of an all-black cabin, the Freestyle has a chocolate brown finished dashboard which flows down the centre console. This does break the monotony and adds a rugged feel to the interior. But on the downside, the quality of plastic used here seems too hard which gets even harder after prolonged use.
Although there’s a good level of insulation on the Freestyle, the vibrations and rattles of a three-cylinder motor are felt inside the cabin. It sounds like one of those old carbureted engines at times, this might be likeable to some though. As for the fuel economy, we managed to extract around 10kmpl from the motor, which we think is less than expected.
With a capacity of just 257-litre, the boot is small by any standard. Its saving grace is the deep bay which helps load in taller baggage. But the narrow loading space hinders loading wider luggage and the rear seats don’t get a split-fold either.
Although this is a modern car, the Freestyle’s driver’s display feels like a decade old. There’s an analogue dial with a large speedo taking most of the space while the tacho is pushed aside on the left. Meanwhile, there’s only a fuel gauge on the right dial. Even the screen on the bottom is very last-gen with a monochromatic display giving out only one information at a time.
What we’d miss the most about the Ford Freestyle is how effortless it was to live with. It did everything that was asked of it and did it right. Flaunting the rugged appeal, it plodded on to uncharted territories without breaking a sweat. And with a decently decked up cabin which is spacious as well, there are more reasons to get yourself a Freestyle than to avoid it.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi