Why would I buy it?
- Convenience of two-pedal setup
- Ride quality and handling still holds their own
- Spacious cabin and solid built quality
Why would I avoid it?
- Not as quick as older 1.5 with DCT
- Need to work the engine/gearbox for optimum performance
- Ageing interior misses out on some vital features
It puts out a question of ‘too little, too late' or ‘better late than never’ as Ford has finally introduced an automatic version for the Figo in the 1.2-litre petrol engine. This is a torque converter, and in all respect, looks like a downgrade from the previous petrol-automatic combo Ford used to offer. But is it?
The introduction of an automatic is the first update Figo has received since its 2019 facelift. Although it hasn’t been able to set the sales numbers rolling, the Figo comes across as an overall package for someone looking to buy a family hatchback that’s safe, built well and has a good amount of driving fun thrown in the mix. The addition of the two-pedal setup was a much-needed one as all its competitors already have an automatic option, even if it’s an AMT in the least. The 1.2-litre torque converter might not impress with its outright performance but is adequate for everyday usability.
Engine and Gearbox
Ford has plonked their familiar torque converter with Figo’s 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine. This Ti-VCT motor from the Dragon Family has a healthy output of 95bhp and is unchanged with the addition of the torque converter. Crank up the motor and it maintains a refined demeanour with no vibrations transferring into the cabin which are usually associated with a three-cylinder engine. Even though the torque output of 119Nm is accessible at 4250rpm, there’s a good amount of low-end grunt to keep the Figo AT moving at slow city speeds.
Off the mark, the motor remains silent and vibe free with no jerks or lurches once you pull it into D and get off the brake pedal. Get on the gas and it won’t let you feel underpowered for a city runabout. Under everyday driving conditions at steady throttle, the gearbox tends to shift at 2,500rpm and the shifts are unannounced and pretty smooth for a torque converter. Go hard on the accelerator pedal and it will hold on the gear up to 6500rpm redline. But it does get noisy and feels harsh if not vibey when doing so.
On the flip side, when pushed hard the relaxed nature of this motor becomes apparent as it takes its sweet time for hitting triple-digit speeds. Also, it needs to be worked around to get optimum performance from this petrol-auto combo. Unlike the TSI motor or the VVT that have punchy and peppy nature, respectively, this 1.2 Dragon engine performs at its finest when it’s driven accordingly.
For instance, a sudden overtake is not recommended. Instead, you have to plan the overtake way before executing it by getting the right revs and adjusting the gear and throttle position. That said, like in upshifts, the kick-down is jerk-free and inconspicuous as well. In our testing figures, the Figo automatic ran from standstill to 100kmph in a leisurely 14.28 seconds. Its in-gear acceleration from 20kmph-80kmph stood at 8.61 seconds and 40-100kmph at 12.44 seconds. To put things into perspective, the older 1.5-litre petrol Figo – which had a DCT automatic gearbox – did the same runs in 11.12 seconds, 6.58 seconds and 8.16 seconds, respectively.
Then there’s the S mode on the gear lever, and I would rather drive the Figo AT wholly in this mode all day. Here the gearshifts are held on up to the 3,000-3,500rpm mark, which in turn keeps the motor in the right rev-range for some enthusiastic drive. And if you want to shift manually, there are toggle switches on the gear-lever which isn’t the best way, yet is ergonomic.
Ride and Handling
There are no changes to the Figo Automatic when it comes to its ride and handling. It still is one of the most engaging hatchbacks you can buy thanks to its direct steering which respond well even to the smallest of inputs. Although the steering goes three-turn lock-to-lock, there’s barely any lag off-centre and even when you intend to throw it around the corner, there’s an ample amount of feedback to let you know what the front wheels are up to. It’s backed by a controlled body roll that adds to the confidence furthermore.
Over small irregularities, the ride quality has a good amount of pliability, especially at low speeds. Even large potholes with sharper edges and ill-made speed breakers are taken astride with good composure. The ride gets even better as speed increases and remained flat over the monsoon ravaged roads we drove it on. There were little to no vertical movements over larger undulations either. On the flip side, we expected the brakes to have a tad more feel to add to Figo’s ‘driving involvement’ demeanour.
Interior Space and Comfort
In the all-black cabin of the Figo, you’d still find some last-gen bits that make it look dated. Although we think this interior is rather well-built and has aged well. You’d notice that the automatic gear lever is the same one that was offered in the older 1.5 Figo AT. Otherwise, there are no interesting changes to report here. Amongst its competition, the Figo boasts a spacious cabin that is laden with just enough bells and whistles to keep you from complaining.
Atop the dashboard is a floating touchscreen with just the perfect dimension and touch-fluidity. Although it has limited information, it’s got inbuilt navigation and manual buttons below it so you don’t need to reach for the screen every time. Similarly, the instrument cluster retains the old-school layout with an analogue integrated into three circular segments. The monochromatic MID screen is something that’s not expected in a modern-day car though.
As for the seats, they are comfortable and offer support in all the right places. Even visibility upfront is good. Both the rows get an ample amount of headspace and shoulder room as well. Move to the back, and you can easily seat three medium-sized adults. But there’s no centre armrest, air vents or door pockets for the rear passengers. Lastly, the boot size of 257 litres isn’t large enough by competition standards, but it’s deep and practical enough. There’s no split seat here and the second row doesn’t fold flat either.
Features and Equipment
In this top-spec Titanium trim that we have here, the list of features includes push-button start, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, auto AC controls, and connectivity tech in the form of Ford Pass. Although compared to its rivals, a few feel-good features are amiss like LED lights or even DRLs, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, digital driver’s display, and a cooled glovebox to name a few. But it makes up for it by offering six airbags, traction control, ESC, rear parking sensors and reversing camera, hill hold and the three-star NCAP safety rating.
The Ford Figo 1.2 Petrol Automatic now comes as yet another choice for someone looking to buy a hatchback with the convenience of a two-pedal setup amongst the mentionable rivals like Baleno, Polo, i20, Swift, and Grand i10 Nios. But compared to this lot, the Figo has a different charm that allures those who want a hatchback with good driving dynamics, spacious cabin and solid reliability.
Surely though, compared to the new turbocharged generation of hatchbacks, this naturally-aspirated American might feel a tad slouch. It’s even slower than the older petrol-automatic version Ford had on sale for some time before it was discontinued owing to poor sales.
But the Figo makes sense for someone who wants Ford’s driving dynamics and built-quality, its service and maintenance plans and doesn’t mind living with a few odd outdated features. The addition of the automatic with the petrol engine makes it a good city runabout with occasional highway jaunts thrown in, thus making it a jack-of-all.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi