Force One review
Does Force Motor's latest SUV have the goods to take on the big labels?
It’s been a while since we’ve seen an all-new, homegrown SUV in the market. The Tata Safari predates the current high school generation and the Scorpio isn’t too far behind. Yes, there have been a couple of attempts at improvising the concept, but after that, there’s been no proper four-door SUV with three rows of seats and dimensions to turn parking into an excuse for murder. That’s until Force Motors decided to step over its traditional boundaries of making people movers, and create a personal SUV for urban buyers. By the time you get this magazine in your hands, you would likely have seen enough teaser hoardings of the Force One around your city, and if you follow the automobile launch scene, you would also have heard of the official launch of the car.
In case you missed the reveal, well, here are the pictures, and truth be told, it isn’t what you’d call striking. Actually, it’s as traditional as it gets, understated lines and all. The monumental chrome grille in front however, is rather difficult to miss and dwarfs those headlamps with their narrow string of LED daytime running lights. The wheel arches are generously flared and the car stretches for the best part of five metres.
The body-coloured cladding, running board and roof rails are all proven draws for the SUV buyers and the Force One uses them all to charm its prospective buyers. The profile of the car is also unique, with a swept back windscreen rising to meet a raised roof before sweeping gently down toward the tailgate. If you look hard, you’ll notice the cues Force has taken from the likes of the Endeavour and the Prado to chalk out this imposing design.
Step on the running board, climb into the cabin and you find a whole lot of space. However, tread carefully because the A-pillar seems rather sharply raked and you’ll likely hit your head on your way in. The dashboard is a vast expanse of beige which looks alright, but the fake wood centre console and trim inserts definitely don’t. There are plenty of features crammed in, which is a plus, and they’ve even got steering-mounted controls for the stereo and Bluetooth telephony as an added bonus.
But the general level of plastics and finish inside is not good. On legroom though, the Force One excels, with even adults finding comfortable seating in the third row and some luggage space to spare behind. Having said that, headroom is lacking because of the downward-sloping tailgate. The second row is pretty much the best place to be, with a fully reclining backrest and the option for captain seats.
Force Motors has borrowed the engine from Mercedes-Benz, under license, and the 2.2-litre common rail unit sure delivers on paper. Turn it over and it settles down at a gentle pace with very little noise and vibration. The five-speed manual transmission isn’t precise but it’s reasonably smooth between changes.
The engine, rated at 140bhp, is pretty quick to react with the revs piling on quickly. Bottom-end response is also strong and simply getting off the clutch is sufficient in most cases to get the car rolling forward. Power delivery is linear and there isn’t any notable turbo lag in the process even if you mash your foot down in fourth gear to execute an overtaking manoeuvre.
At 321Nm, the Force One also has a fair amount of torque, and can deal with some difficult angles when the need arises. Ground clearance is good enough to leave the tarmac for a bit of off-roading, and it should be especially handy once they’re ready with the shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system. On the move, the Force One rides well and feels more composed than most traditional SUVs despite its ladder-frame construction. There’s limited roll through corners and not much pitching either when you go over speedbreakers and the like. The steering, however, feels numb and although it points the car in the general intended direction, there’s no real feedback.
Purely as a starting point, the Force One is a decent attempt. It ticks all the right SUV boxes with its humongous size and spacious three-row seating. It’s also dynamically better than some examples of the traditional SUV that we have running around on our roads. The engine, thanks to Mercedes-Benz tech, is pretty damn smooth and delivers flawlessly, although the gearbox needs some work before it can be called truly likable.
There are a couple of issues with the way the cabin is designed to allow for headroom, particularly in the third row. Hopefully, the lab coat people will sharpen their pencils and figure a way around that without having to make drastic alterations. The list of features is long and includes a couple of segment firsts, but the primary dashboard base on which the controls are mounted isn’t very appealing.
Some of the plastics need a serious rethink and need to be better finished so they click into place – right now, they need to be slammed shut. For now, we don’t know how much the Force One will cost, but it’s expected to cross the Rs 10 lakh margin for the top-of-the-line variant, putting it squarely in Safari and Scorpio territory, and making it a bit difficult for Force to claim market share from those two.