On days that don't involve driving cars or riding motorcycles, crunching numbers is automatically the next most interesting thing to indulge in. Then there are days that let you do both. Ahead of the recent media drive of the newly-launched Figo hatchback, Ford India threw many numbers at us, of which one in particular was of considerable interest – the previous generation Figo sold over 300,000 units in India since its launch a tad over six years back. That's an average of 50,000 + vehicles every year or close to 4,200 units per month, which considering segment numbers and Ford's sales network, is quite impressive.
For Ford, this clearly is the best performing product since it entered India. So, does the new Figo, coming in quickly after the Figo Aspire's (sub-four metre Figo with a boot) launch have what it takes to fill in the shoes of its predecessor? A long drive on the Yamuna Expressway between Noida and Agra gave enough time to find the answer.
The Figo hatch carries over an unaltered styling from the Aspire for the front, with a large grille and swept-back headlamps. There's a slight hump on the hood, giving the Figo a powerful appearance, but in a subtle manner. The shoulder line on the side is well-pronounced and gives the vehicle a dynamic stance. The 14-inch alloy wheels have the same pleasing eight-spoke design as seen on the Aspire and fill up the wheel arch enough to not look undersized.
The rear obviously is where most of the visual differences between the Aspire and the Figo hatch are. The Figo's tail gate bears a clean yet bold design with a strong horizontal crease gelling seamlessly with the tail lamps. The tail lamps too are good looking and give a modern and youthful appearance to the rear. Overall, the Figo is a smart and graceful car with a hint of kinetic flair to its character.
Step inside the Figo and the interiors are pretty much what one would see on the Aspire sedan, except for the interiors – the all-back interiors on the Figo looks better than the Aspire's beige upholstery. The centre console is quite similar to what we've seen on the EcoSport, Fiesta and identical to that of the Figo Aspire. The design though, resembling a mobile phone, seems a bit dated now and doesn't rank high on the scales of user-friendliness as well. In comparison, some competitors like Hyundai and Honda offer touchscreens, which definitely appeal to the young buyers. Talking of the interests of young buyers, there is quite a lot to keep them entertained inside the Figo.
You can either opt for a variant with the MyFord dock feature or the Sync, and we experienced both of them. S/he can dock their mobile onto the central top of the dashboard and alternatively use it as a navigation device. If you're going for a variant with Sync, you miss out on this dock and this is where things start going a bit bizarre in the way Ford has designed the variants.
If you opt for the petrol 1.5 l engine with an automatic transmission, you get the dock but not the Sync. The 1.5 l diesel, however, gets Sync but has to do away with the dock. More so, you can't order the 1.5 Ti-VCT Powershift in the top-end Titanium +. This then means that you miss out on the six airbags and make do with the dual-front set-up only. The unique features though for this variant are quite good in the form of ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Hill Launch Assist and Traction Control, all of which add to safety. Now look at it as a diesel Titanium + consumer and you get Sync and six airbags but miss out on ESP and Traction Control.
Beyond the inconsistent variant packaging, the Figo's cabin is well-built and feels strong enough to stand the course of many years of life without falling apart. Front seats are comfortable and offer good side support while legroom at the rear is decent but the seats lack a bit of under-thigh support. Headroom is good even at the back and seat width is just about fine for seating three adults occasionally.
Ford is offering the Figo in three engine options – a 1.5 l petrol with a dual-clutch transmission, a 1.5 l diesel with a five-speed manual and a 1.2 l petrol with a five-speed manual. During the drive we got to drive the two larger motors only. We began our drive with a lot of expectations on the 1.5 l Ti-VCT with PowerShift 6-speed transmission. The naturally-aspirated motor with about 110 hp and 136 Nm of torque, channelled to the front wheels through a dual-clutch transmission, raised our expectations.
Off the line, this motor feels eager and is full of energy since there is no lag one usually encounters with the turbo engines. Performance in the 'D'rive mode is a bit unexciting, and that is down to the transmission and not the engine in any manner. Shifts tend to be slower and eager for a higher ratio in this mode, limiting the potential of an otherwise brilliant motor. Engaging the 'S'port mode improves things considerably; quickening the shift speed, while holding gears for longer near the red line.
The 1.5 l TDCi engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission though is the variant that most buyers will go for. And if they do, they'll have almost no reason to be disappointed; such is the exceptional drivability of this motor. Most diesel engines need to be between 1,700 and 2,000 rpm for the turbo to spool up, creating a window of lag. This engine, however, has the turbo spooling up under 1,500 rpm and by 2,000 rpm it's ready to offer the linear yet strong surge of acceleration till about a shade under 4,000 rpm. Not only does this mean better drivability in traffic but better performance on highways and twisty roads too.
Nonetheless, the manual gearbox dwells between the borderlines of average and good. Average because of the notchy shifts, and somewhat good because of the well-sorted ratios that complement the engine brilliantly. NVH on the diesel version is decent till the time one isn't revving hard. So in regular driving cycles, the Figo turns out to be a refined hatch.
Ride & Handling
As is the case with Ford vehicles, one expects solid build quality, grounded performance on straights and confident dynamics over turns. The Figo delivers on these accounts and beyond as our drive highlighted. Yamuna Expressway gave us ample space to stretch the Figo to its limit for straight-line stability and stability under braking, and not once did it show signs of stress. Of particular mention is the steering, which is light at slow pace but weighs up well with increase in speed. It offers decent feedback as well.
Over fast corners too, the car is well-composed with little body-roll and good grip from the tyres. On the bumpy and broken roads in and around Agra, the Figo performed well by filtering most of the surface undulations at slow to high speeds. It can be a bit bouncy though at pedestrian speeds.
Based on the previous Figo's performance, Ford has high hopes from the Figo and reasonably so. The question we now need to answer after highlighting the various aspects of the vehicle is whether it is well-equipped to deliver. Looking at the elements in the vehicle, there is little reason to doubt, since performance, styling and equipment level is impressive, if not segment leading in all the areas. The 1.5 l diesel motor is the best engine in our opinion and will appeal to not only the family buyers but enthusiastic buyers as well.
That brings up the question of where the 1.5 l petrol automatic fits in. With the highest power output in the segment and a dual-clutch automatic, one would expect that enthusiasts would buy it but we doubt that happening. The same engine with a manual transmission though could deliver on that ground.
This also brings us to the strange way Ford India has packaged the variants, wherein one can have this or that but not the best of all that Ford has to offer on this platform. Beyond this as a product, the Figo is a well-engineered car, which continues to focus on the driver, like one would expect any Ford vehicle to. Good connectivity, smart styling, impressive driving dynamics and a competitive pricing mean that the Figo should strike the right chord with young buyers. Priced between Rs 4.3 – 7.4 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the Figo makes a good case for itself.
So can the new Figo repeat what the older version did? A repeat of the earlier Figo's success seems unlikely given the stiff competition in the segment presently. The new Figo is technically well-equipped but some of the present and upcoming competition isn't going to make things easier. Besides, the small price differential between the Figo and Figo Aspire combined with the limited reach of Ford's network are some more obstacles this car will need to overcome. What remains certain though is that the new Figo is what consumers would expect from a Ford hatchback, and Ford engineers have done well to live up to their expectations.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Ford India & Arpit Mahendra