Ford enters Indian sedan market late, but it hits all the right notes
For better or worse, the strategy followed by Ford India has never been run of the mill. Way back, when Indian consumers could only think of sedans as aspirational, they introduced a premium hatchback in the form of the Fusion (even though Ford had marketed it as an SUV).
Then came the Ikon, which played the performance and fun-to-drive cards long before consumers thought of cars as anything more than a means of transportation. In recent times, when every manufacturer was launching sub-4m sedans, Ford India launched the EcoSport, the country's first sub-4m SUV. Now, in keeping with that tradition of breaking tradition, the firm is poised to launch the Figo Aspire sub-4m sedan when everyone else is talking SUV.
From the styling point of view, the car certainly lives up to its tag-line — 'compact without compromise'. Unlike many others in its category, the Figo Aspire doesn't look like a hatchback with a bolt-on boot. It has a well-proportioned and curvy body with chiselled lines on the bonnet and sides. A large chrome-finished grille and elongated headlamps round off the Ford family look. At the rear, the slope of the C-pillar blends smoothly into the tail section and a thick band of chrome on the boot-lid breaks the monotony of the rear end.
On the inside, the fit, finish and quality of materials seem quite good for its class while the dual tone beige-black colour theme is pleasant. Depending on the trim level, upholstery varies between fabric at the lower levels to leather in the range-topping Titanium+ trim.
Though it is a compact, the interiors of the Figo Aspire are quite spacious. Pics/Rommel Albuquerque
In keeping with Ford's philosophy of democratising technology, there is a veritable list of creature comforts, including a 4.2-inch multimedia screen and Ford's Sync with Applink feature that lets you connect a smartphone to the car's infotainment system and allows voice commands for the MapMyIndia Explore and ESPN CricInfo applications.
The dashboard also has a press-to-open pocket at the centre with auxiliary and USB ports inside and its lid lets you clamp mobile phones and GPS devices, which Ford call the MyDock feature. But above and beyond the features, what you appreciate the most is the space on offer inside the cabin of what is being touted as a compact sedan. Irrespective of the front or back. The other thing that deserves credit is Ford's offer of twin airbags (one for the driver and one for the front passenger) across the entire range as standard kit.
Although buyers will be able to choose from three power train options, we only got to drive the car with Ford's 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine that is also seen in the larger Fiesta sedan and the 1.2-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine that does duty in the Figo hatchback. The diesel engine accelerates cleanly from 1,500 RPM and feels spirited while driving in the city as well as on the highway. The petrol engine on the other hand feels more refined and can cope well with urban driving needs, but feels underpowered on the highway runs. Especially after having driven the diesel car.
True to the American manufacturer's DNA, the Figo Aspire feels stable and composed at even three digit speeds. It holds its line around bends quite well too and shows no hint of nervousness under harsh braking. Remarkably enough, the car returns a comfortable ride quality too, even over broken roads.
Some might argue that Ford has joined the sub-4m sedan bandwagon a tad late. Having driven the vehicle we can tell you that they may have taken their time but they have come out with a well sorted product that has the potential to take on competition. If priced correctly, that is.
The Figo Aspire comes with three powertrain options:
Petrol options start with the 1.2-litre Ti-VCT engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Peak power and torque ratings for this engine are 88 PS at 6,300 rpm and 112 Nm at 4,000 rpm. Claimed fuel economy for this is 18.16 km/l.
The second petrol engine in the line-up is the 1.5-litre Ti-VCT engine mated to a six-speed dual clutch gearbox, which is a first in this segment. The engine puts out a maximum of 112 PS and 136 Nm of peak torque.
The most popular engine option however, will be the diesel motor. Ford's 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine generates a peak 100 PS at 3,750 rpm and maximum torque of 215 Nm at 1,700-3,000 rpm. All of this power and torque are transmitted to the front wheels via a give-speed manual gearbox. Claimed fuel economy for this engine is 25.83 km/l.