With sales of 1.1 million vehicles last year, compact cars made up 45 percent of India’s auto market in 2014. Trade pundits expect the segment to grow to around 1.6 million units by 2018. It is little wonder that all major auto manufacturers want their slice of this pie. Following the footsteps of Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Hyundai and Tata, American carmaker Ford became the most recent auto manufacturer to join the bandwagon as they gear up to launch the Figo Aspire compact sedan in August.
Created specifically for the Indian market, the sub-four-metre Figo Aspire hopes to woe customers with its dynamic design, smart technology, advanced safety features, and fuel efficient petrol and diesel engines. The Figo Aspire is built in Sanand, Gujarat, at Ford’s newest manufacturing plant and will be offered with three engine options – 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel mated to 5-speed manual transmission and 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to 6-speed automatic transmission. Ford will initially sell the Figo Aspire in India with ambitions of export in the near future to compete globally.
But does the Ford Figo Aspire have what to takes to pose a real challenge to popular compact sedans like the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and Honda Amaze? Will it be able to outdo the Hyundai Xcent or Tata Zest? We got behind the wheel of the Ford Figo Aspire in Udaipur – the city of lakes, to find out what the latest sensation from Ford has to offer. Read on to find out what we discovered.
Design & Engineering
Be it apparels, accessories or cars, 'appearance' is an important criteria that influences our purchasing decision, and without mixing words, the Ford Figo Aspire is looker. The designers at Ford get a thumps up for delivering a product which not just looks stylish but better than the competition. Take a look at the Ford Figo Aspire either in photographs or in flesh and anyone with a sense of aesthetics, will agree that the Figo Aspire is a stylish compact sedan and looks better than the Maruti Suzuki Swizt Dzire, Hyundai Xcent and Tata Zest.
Viewed head on, the bold trapezoidal grille and elongated headlamps gives the Ford Figo Aspire a masculine and sporty appearance. The chrome highlights and details in the headlight design further add a premium touch. The swept-back line of the windshield and A-pillars not only give the Ford Figo Aspire a dynamic appearance, but also enhances aerodynamic performance resulting in better fuel efficiency.
A speed lip under the front of the car further enhances aerodynamic performance by deflecting air away from the underbody, where components can create significant drag, and the side mirrors have been optimised to minimise drag and reduce wind noise. At the rear, sharp, clean edges on the deck-lid and tail lights help the Ford Figo Aspire to slip smoothly through the air, reducing turbulence behind the car to reduce drag.
Build quality and paintwork is excellent which is expected from a world-class car manufacturer like Ford. The top-end Titatinium trim that we tested came with 14-inch alloy wheels which add a style quotient to the Figo Aspire. The Ford Figo Aspire boasts of confident inspiring braking with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. Suspension set up comprise of McPherson strut on the front and semi-independent twist beam at the rear and offer a plush ride quality.
Interiors & Comfort
The dynamic exterior of the Ford Figo Aspire is matched by a contemporary and stylish interior. Intelligent and careful space management creates a surprisingly roomy cabin as the Figo Aspire offers no fewer than 20 smart storage spaces and convenience features.
There is plenty of legroom in the front which will give the front passengers enough space to stretch out. In the rear, adequate roominess will allow three adults to sit abreast with decent head and shoulder room. The Titanium trim that we tested came fitted with leather seats (first-in-the-class) with adjustable headrests.
Reflecting the growing need for consumers to stay connected at all times, the Ford Figo Aspire comes equipped with MyFord Dock, which offers drivers a unique solution for storing, mounting and charging mobile phones, MP3 players and satellite navigation systems, and for integrating these devices into the car’s entertainment system. When not in use, the dock can be closed out of sight.
The top Titanium trim also comes equipped with SYNC with AppLink, Ford’s advanced in-car connectivity system which allows drivers to control their phone, entertainment and apps hands-free using simple voice commands. In India, drivers with AppLink can access information about nearby attractions and food destinations with Explore by MapMyIndia, and keep themselves updated with the latest cricket scores and upcoming fixtures with ESPN Cricinfo. The secure global location-sharing app, Glympse, also lets drivers share their location.
Performance & Handling
The Ford Figo Aspire will be offered with three engine options – 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel mated to 5-speed manual transmission and 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to 6-speed automatic transmission.
The diesel engine is both powerful and responsive. The transmission is precise making it a pleasure to operate. On the move, the engine exhibits very little turbo lag and the power delivery is linear. Even at low speeds and in high gear the engine doesn't knock or stalls and pulls well from low revs, making it ideal as a city car. The drivability of the Ford Figo Aspire diesel feels light years ahead of the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, Hyundai Xcent and Tata Zest especially in city traffic.
The car handles quite well and remains poised at high speed. Traction is good and there isn’t much body roll even in corners. The suspension is tuned perfectly for Indian roads and absorbs jerks and undulations while cruising over broken and uneven patches resulting in a plush ride quality.
The petrol engine is very smooth; however, it turned out to be slightly underpowered, and runs out of breadth on the highway. While overtaking on open stretches you will realise that the new Figo Aspire petrol lacks the punch and could do with more power under the hood. However, when you are driving through traffic snarled city road, the Aspire petrol comes across as an adequately powered car and boasts of good drivability.
The Ford Figo Aspire's 1.2-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine claims an ARAI-ratified fuel economy of 18.2 kmpl while the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine boasts of an ARAI-certified fuel economy of 25.8 kmpl. Both of these engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The Figo Aspire 1.5-litre TiVCT petrol engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission delivers a fuel economy of 17.2 kmpl. Although, we didn’t get an opportunity to verify the claim, however, Ford powertrains are known to be quite frugal and wouldn't create a dent in your pocket.
On the safety front, Ford bags brownie points for providing driver and passenger side airbags as standard across model range making the Figo Aspire the first car in its class to offer such measure of safety. Also for the first time in a sub-four-meter sedan in India, the Ford Figo Aspire offers up to six airbags as a cost option including side and curtain airbags – for an extra level of protection in the front and rear compartments.
If the vehicle experiences a serious collision, Emergency Assistance uses SYNC and a Bluetooth-paired phone to automatically call emergency responders and provide information about the vehicle and location.
The Ford Figo Aspire also comes equipped with driver-assist technologies like Hill Launch Assist – a feature that holds the vehicle for up to three seconds as the driver’s foot moves from the brake to the accelerator which climbing up hill or driving down hill.
During sudden manoeuvres, the Electronic Stability Program keeps the driver in command, braking individual wheels as needed to keep the vehicle on course. An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) also helps drivers to stay in control, preventing wheel lockup and maintaining stability while braking.
The Figo Aspire even looks out for other road users, using its Emergency Brake Lights feature to automatically flash the brake lights during heavy braking.
To encourage responsible driving, the new Figo Aspire features Ford’s MyKey technology. MyKey lets the owner program keys with restricted driving modes that encourage good habits, such as increasing seat belt use, limiting vehicle top speeds and regulating audio volume.
The new Ford Figo Aspire is intelligently engineered and very well designed compact sedan. Kudos to the Ford engineers for the brilliant packaging of the Figo Aspire. It looks very modern and stylish and is sure to turns many heads on the road. Fit and finish is great. The interior is adequately spacious for a compact sedan and tastefully done up, although we wish the quality of plastics used were of a slightly better quality. The Aspire diesel is both powerful and responsive resulting in a pleasurable drive. The petrol proves to be slightly underpowered on highways, but nonetheless offers a smooth drive and holds it's own on busy city roads.
Pricing as always will be a key factor, and nobody knows it better than Ford India with its killer pricing of the EcoSport which went on to become a huge success. Ford has announced that they would start the bookings for the Figo Aspire from July 27 for a nominal sum of Rs 30000 and I expect the price to start at around the Rs 5 lakh plus mark for the base petrol and breaching the Rs 8 lakh barrier for the top-end diesel.