First showcased ahead of the last Auto Expo in 2014, the Ford Figo Aspire has been launched today at a starting price of Rs 4.9 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi.
The company has put to good use the feedback it has received in the 18-odd months since then. We recently drove the vehicle to get a first-hand experience of the newest offering in the fast-growing sub-four-metre compact sedan segment. And we believe Ford India has a product that could dent the fortunes of the existing vehicles in the segment. Read on to learn more.
Circa 2006: the then UPA government at the centre came up with a new legislation that seemed confounding at that time, but one that went to create a fairly successful vehicle segment in the Indian industry. Vehicles sub-four-metre in length with sub-1,200 cc petrol and sub 1,500 cc diesel engines were eligible to benefit from lower excise duties. Tata Motors jumped in first with the launch of the Indigo CS in 2008, and in the last seven years, the segment has seen the phenomenal success of products like the Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze and Hyundai Xcent. Add to that the success of the Ford EcoSport in the sub-four-metre SUV segment.
The latest to enter this highly-competitive segment is the Ford Figo Aspire. Ford had the advantage of benchmarking the Figo Aspire against all its competitors in the market, and naturally, one could expect it to score better on most counts. Ford officials we spoke to are supremely confident that they have a winner in hand. This is a product that has been engineered from scratch, unlike many of its predecessors that were adaptations.
So, just how good is the Figo Aspire? We were recently invited by the company to drive the vehicle around Udaipur. In this feature, we take a deep dive into the vehicle, its features and the technology introductions that Ford has brought in; in addition to giving you the first drive impressions.
The Figo Aspire is a result of some very smart and thoughtful engineering from the American carmaker. To our mind, the vehicle appears to have a distinct advantage over competition in terms of how it looks both from the outside and inside. We are particularly impressed by the commitment the company is making towards safety, which we shall delve into a little later. Inside the vehicle, there are a few segment-first features that we think would get the consumers' nod of appreciation.
Ford is lining up three engines for the Figo Aspire – 1.2 l petrol, 1.5 l diesel and 1.5 l petrol that will be available only with a six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT). On the pre-launch drive, we got to sample the first two engine options.
The 1,196 cc Ti-VCT petrol unit is the same engine found on the outgoing Figo hatchback. The company has now modified the cylinder head intake ports and also optimised the cam timing to help the engine deliver more power. Theoretically, the Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing allows for variable control of valve overlap, which results in improved low speed torque and better fuel efficiency. We found the engine to perform well within city limits, but on the highway the 86.8 hp of power and 112 Nm of torque doesn't quite translate into an engaging drive.
On the other hand, the 1.5 l TDCi diesel engine is much more fun to be with, and responds very well to throttle inputs. The turbo kicks in at about 1,400 rpm and there is ample power till 4,000 rpm, but at those levels, the engine tends to get quite noisy. The 98.6 hp of peak power and 215 Nm of torque results in a fuel economy of 25.8 km/l, based on ARAI tests. Our short drive with the diesel indicated a mileage of 17.3 km/l on the meter console. Interestingly, this same engine on the Fiesta and EcoSport delivers only about 90 hp of power. The improved power on the Aspire is due to the tweaks made to the ECU and fixed-geometry turbocharger.
As mentioned earlier, the Aspire has two transmissions on offer: the five-speed manual and a six-speed PowerShift automatic mated to the 1.5 l petrol engine. Once launched, the Aspire will be the only compact sedan in the market with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Ford India has put a lot of onus on making the Aspire a very safe car. The Figo Aspire is the first car in its segment to get dual front airbags as standard on all trim levels – a move that deserves appreciation. The top trim level, in fact, gets six airbags including side and curtain airbags – another segment-first. ABS with EBD will be available on the top two variants, while an electronic stability programme with traction control and hill launch assist would be offered on the top Titanium petrol variant (with AT). An interesting security feature on the Aspire is the perimeter alarm, which detects any unauthorised attempt to enter the car.
This is an interesting new feature added to the Ford portfolio. We feel this would especially be popular with parents letting their children take the wheel at times, or even with chauffeurs. The MyKey allows you to programme and set speed warnings and limits, or activate a seat belt reminder and set the volume levels of the audio system.
You must have seen mobile phone docking solutions available in the aftermarket, or even the ones offered by some manufacturers. The MyFord Dock comes with the same objective, but seems like a far more practical solution. Placed atop the centre console, the dock smartly holds a phone or any other device, be it for music or navigation.
Overall Drive Feel & Round-Up
It is fairly clear that Ford wanted to build a vehicle that addresses almost every demand of the targeted consumer – it offers safety, allows connectivity, has over 20 storage points inside the car, generous space even for more-than-average commuters, efficient engines, comfort and overall decent ride and handling.
From a design perspective, the Figo Aspire is sculpted with passion. In its class, it is one of the best looking with the right amount of aggression and subtlety. The front grille is inspired from Aston Martin, and is part of Ford's design language. The slightly flared wheel arches give the side view of the car a lot of character, and the rear design is simple, yet elegant.
The suspension of the Figo Aspire has been set-up very well, and it makes driving through bad patches of road fairly easy and comfortable. The 175/65 section tyres on 14-inch rims offers a fair amount of grip around corners to complement the able chassis. However, braking around a corner might lead to the tail moving about a bit. This was more prominent on the lighter petrol variant.
Overall, Ford India has been able to develop and design a vehicle that should set new benchmarks in the sub-four-metre segment. It looks smart and young, is good to drive, and packed with features both to aid convenience and safety. If it's priced anywhere closer to the segment leader, there is no reason why Ford wouldn't head the pack.
Prices (In lakh Rs ex-showroon, Delhi):
1.2 l Ti-VCT Petrol MT
Titanium +: 7.25
1.5 l Ti-VCT Petrol AT
1.5 l TDCi Diesel MT
Titanium +: 8.25
Text & Photo: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah