Yet another creation of the ever-so-popular hatchback-turned-sedan (and vice versa) formula. So how different are the Figo hatchback and the Figo Aspire?In principle, they are the same car, based on the same platform and manufactured on the same production line at Ford's swanky new plant at Sanand. The only difference between the two models is the boot. Or the lack of it as far as this car is concerned. While the Aspire gets 359 litres of luggage space, the Figo only has 257 litres to play with. And apart from the all-black interior of the hatchback (sedan gets black and beige), there isn't anything different here.
Even in terms of looks, they both are near identical with Ford's latest Aston Martin-inspired grille up front. And we like the way the hatch has been designed. But are we the only ones who feel the new Figo looks a lot like its closest rival, the Hyundai Grand i10? Or maybe it's just this colour. But there surely is a hint of the Grand in there.
Okay, so it competes with the Hyundai Grand i10. Any other rivals?Yes, apart from the Grand, it can also be pitched against India's Mr. Popular, the Maruti Swift. Both these cars are great practical hatchbacks and life for the new Ford Figo isn't going to be easy.
The Grand has a quality cabin where the Swift has great interior space. What's the new Figo like?
Well, the Figo is good on space and is a fairly comfortable hatchback. In fact, its 2,491mm wheelbase is the longest amongst its rivals and that translates into a spacious cabin. But it doesn't really match the Grand's quality when it comes to plastics. There's hard plastics all around, while fit and finish could have been better at certain places. Also, the plain jane instrument cluster and a typical EcoSport-like centre console don't provide a lot of excitement now. There are a few signs of Ford keeping costs in check, which sadly, show out here.
Like the old Figo, is the new one prone to bottoming out under full load?Thankfully, Ford has addressed that problem and that's the reason the new car gets 174mm of ground clearance. We drove a fully loaded Figo on a few bad patches around Agra, and we are happy to inform you that the ground clearance will pass this India-test with ease.
We've been hearing a lot about segment-first features, both in terms of creature comfort and safety. Could you please throw some light on this?What you've heard is true. The Figo comes loaded with features like MyFord Dock (a unique storing, mounting and charging mobile phone, MP3 players or GPS device), SYNC with AppLink (Ford's advance in-car connectivity system), an innovative MyKey technology that allows owners to program the car's keys with restricted driving modes, and then there's ABS with EBD, six airbags (on the top-end variant), Emergency Assist (that alerts authorities in case of an accident) and Hill Start Assist to name a few.
Did you say six airbags and Hill Start assist?Yes, the Figo is the only hatchback that comes with an option of 6 airbags and that shows Ford's commitment towards safety. And it also becomes only the second hatch to get a hill start assist (Volkswagen Polo GT TSI being the other one), but that too, like the VW, is offered only on the automatic variant.
An automatic variant? Tell us more.Ford has been kind enough to offer sedan-like features on its latest hatch and that's the reason the Figo gets a six-speed dual clutch gearbox that's only available on the bigger 1.5-litre petrol motor.
A bigger petrol motor?Like the Aspire, the Figo too gets three engine options\: two petrols and one diesel. The 1.2-litre petrol motor makes 87bhp and 112Nm of torque, while the bigger motor gets 110bhp and 136Nm of spin. The diesel is a 1.5-litre unit with 99bhp and a healthy 215Nm of pulling power. While the smaller petrol and the diesel motors get 5-speed manual transmission, the bigger petrol gets the auto 'box.
So how does the Figo drive? Does it have that typical Ford DNA?Sadly, like the Aspire, the Figo too misses out on an opportunity of plastering a wide smile on the driver's face. It isn't as exciting to drive as the first-gen Figo that we loved so much. In fact, we'll slot it below the Swift and the Grand when it comes to driving dynamics. Now don't get us wrong here. The new Figo isn't bad from behind the wheel, it's just not exceptional anymore. The steering wheel, although direct, feels a bit light at all time and the car doesn't feel as planted around fast corners as some of the older Fords we've driven.
In our opinion, engineering cars the way Ford had been doing in the past, it made enthusiasts go gaga over its driving dynamics. But it surely didn't bring in a lot of cash into Ford's bank account. And that's probably one of the key reasons why this American giant is now developing cars that are better all-rounders; cars that suit the needs of the entire family and not just the one at the wheel, cars that play their practicality card better than Fords of yore (read the Ikon and Fiesta). And that's exactly what the new Figo is.
How has Ford done that?Well, as we've said, the space on the inside is great and so is comfort on long drives. The new Figo also handles Indian roads pretty damn well. The ride is well cushioned and the car doesn't pitch much. And then, it takes good care of the needs of typical Indian families that require a lot of space to carry luggage and knick knacks. Ford says there are 20 smart storage places in the new Figo and we'll take their word for that - we ain't counting that.
However, what's surprising is that out of that number, there are none on the rear doors. Yup, no rear door pockets and those are surely going to be missed.
Did you'll get a chance to sample the new engines?Yes, we did. For a total of 400km.
Do enlighten us with your driving impressions, will you?Well, we didn't get a chance to sample the diesel motor (yikes\\!) and if that's what you wanted to know, you'll have to wait even longer. What we did drive extensively, however, is the 1.5-litre petrol with a segment-first 6-speed DCT. It is an excellent motor with 110 horses on tap and has a lot of useable power across the rev range. In fact, it revs smoothly till its redline of 6200rpm, in all gears.
What could however be a bit of a let-down is the gearbox. Sure, the ratios are well spread out and it does a good job both on the highway and urban use, but what we didn't like is the jerkiness and the pace at which it changes gears at slow speeds. Offered with a standard Drive and Sport mode, the latter will take care of the gear shifts, or the time taken to shift cogs, but we couldn't find a solution for the jerks felt while going on and off the throttle.
But once the Figo gets going, the dual-clutcher doesn't give you reasons to complain. It helps the motor reach triple digit speeds with relative ease and if presented with an open stretch of tar, the Figo can comfortably cruise at 140kph.
That's good. What about pricing? Ford has nailed it when it comes to pricing. The base petrol version starts at Rs 4.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), diesel at Rs 5.3 lakh and the sole AT retails at Rs 6.92 lakh. These are quite competitive and it also makes the Figo around Rs 30,000 cheaper than its rivals. The top-end variants do stretch to Rs 6.4 lakh and Rs 7.4 lakh for petrol and diesel respectively, but you get a lot of features along with that.
So, what's your final take on it?Well, we are yet to drive the diesel-powered Figo, and considering how much we Indians love diesel cars, it wouldn't be fair to give a final verdict. But on the whole, the new Figo does impress on many counts. It's attractive to look at, is spacious and offers great ride comfort. It may lose half a point on handling, but it isn't something a family of four would point a finger at. Plus, Ford gives you three engine options, loads of features and more importantly, it has put in a lot of effort to make an Indian-made hatchback safer, and that's a great move.
Specs4cyl, 1.5-litre petrol, 110bhp, 136Nm, 6A, price\: Rs 6.92 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
First drive\: New Ford Figo