Compact sedans are the latest piece of the market which everyone is after. The volumes speak for themselves and the pundits expect it to grow at a rapid rate over the next few years. The big guns are already in the fray and no one is letting up. Ford, of course, is the latest one to turn their attention to this sub-four-meter section and they bring fresh promises with them with the Figo Aspire. And although it carries the Figo badge, this showcases what the next generation Figo will rather than then existing one. Check Price of Figo Aspire
The original Ford Aspire (available only in America) from the 1990s was essentially a basic stripped out car for the entry level buyer and it looked like one. This new namesake thankfully does not. In fact, the new Aspire is one of the more handsome looking cars in its class especially when viewed from the front. With its large ‘Aston Martin’ inspired grille festooned in chrome in typical Ford design language. The large headlamps are not as well detailed as we would have like them to be but aren’t bad looking either. That said, although not immediately evident too, is the fact that the lower half of the front bumper does look a little abrupt and stubby which might not appeal to few. Although we expected a daytime running light option, there isn’t one and neither is there a projector headlamp setup, which is a bit of a disappointment.
The side profile of the Ford Figo Aspire is nicely sculpted and makes the most use of a well defined waistline to break up the mass of the car. The slightly flared wheel arches too look right in place. In fact, the Aspire is a genuinely well designed car that looks like it was intended to take the form that is currently is in as compared to some of the other cars in the category that look like a cut and paste job.
The simple and elegant design continues around the back with considerably flat and yet well layered bootlid and bumper combination. The large chrome strip on the boot though will certainly attract the typical Indian customer. That said, the rear end does look a tad bit too plain-jane and could have certainly been tarted up a little bit more. The wheels, a set of 14-inch alloy wheels too look inspired from the older Fiesta sedan and are not as exciting as some of Ford’s other products.
Step inside and one is greeted by a stylish interior. The dashboard seems familiar because the design theme is similar to the EcoSport. The steering wheel, centre console and information screen look very similarto the EcoSport and Fiesta. There are dual-tone black/beige dash and beige seats and door pads. Depending on the variant, there’s either gloss black or silver finished inserts.
There are controls on the steering wheel too. The light blue backlit instrument cluster is pleasant looking but the dials could have been slightly larger. The air vents in the side are circular and feature chrome detailing in the top variant. Headlamp switches are new and placed below the driver side air vent. The boot release button is also placed next to it and is easy to access. The auto climate control switches feel premium and are well detailed. Quality as well as fit are good and are improved over the EcoSport
Ford claims there are as many as 20 storage points inside the car. There’s a storage point on the side of the dashboard that can be accessed when the door is open. Door mounted bottle holders are large and can accommodate more than one bottle if needed.
The seats are comfortable and even feature leather upholstery (first in segment). There is good support up front but the rear seats could have offered more support and could have been madelarger. The rear kneeroom isn’t best in segment but is still very impressive. The front seats have been scooped out to maximize room at the rear. Shoulder room isn’t a lot, so three adults in the back can be a squeeze. The floor isn’t fully flat too so it is good only for two adults. A rear armrest is also offered.Boot space at 359 litres isn’t as much as the Amaze or the Xcent but it is quite usable. The loading height is good and the boot is deep too.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
The 1.2-litre Petrol engine for the Figo Aspire is based on the same motor that powers the petrol variant of the Figo hatchback that we all know of . However, for the Aspire, this four-cylinder, naturally-aspirated unit has got some major revisions in favour of enhanced fuel economy and performance. This Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) equipped engine is sufficiently refined and revs rather freely. However, low-end performance is not its forte and frequent gearshifts are a must in situations like stop-go traffic. It is on the highways where this motor really impresses. The engine makes for quite a sprightly performer and there’s so much juice on offer towards the top-end of the rev-range that one would be hard pressed to not keep this engine on the boil. Top speed, at above 170 km/h, is nothing short of impressive for a sub-4m compact sedan and even the in-gear acceleration is pretty good. The gearshifts, too, are precise and the shift-action is smooth.
However, among the two engine variants that we drove, it is the 1.5-litre Diesel version that was more enjoyable. This is the same 1.5-litre turbo’ed oil-burner that does duty on the Fiesta and the EcoSport, but has been re-tuned for the Aspire to churn out a maximum power of 100 PS. This might have been done to match the Amaze’s segment-leading power of 100 PS, but what sets the Aspire apart is the way the motor goes on about its business. The turbo lag is minimal and come 1400 rpm, and the Aspire Diesel charges forward with almost a ferocious velocity. The torque is well spread throughout the rev-range and pushing this car to its limit is just too much fun. We recorded a speedo-indicated 185 km/h, which, when compared to the Amaze-D’s top whack of 145 km/h, feels rather stratospheric! The diesel variant is equally athletic even lower down the revs and doesn’t break sweat even when chugging along at 40 km/h in fourth gear, with the tacho needle hovering at a leisurely 1100 rpm. Akin to the petrol variant, gearshifts are precise and the clutch action is light. The NVH levels could have been a bit lower, but frankly, we are almost nitpicking here.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
Ford cars are known to be dynamically rich and while the Figo Aspire handles very well, being better than its rivals in the segment, it doesn’t have the same feel of a Fiesta or even the good old Classic (it uses the same platform though which has seen some modifications). The company has tested the vehicle for 150 hours in the wind tunnel for improved aerodynamics which works well in both performance and efficiency. The steering system is now electric (EPAS with pull drift compensation) and there is some vagueness in the centre, the steering weighing up decently at speed but still being on lighter side in the interest of ease of driving in the city. The suspension is naturally on the stiffer side but just enough to keep the car planted at high speeds while the focus is clearly on comfort as road, tyre and suspension noise is well insulated.
Due to the body being lighter, it’s not as surefooted as other Ford cars but still inspires enough confidence to drive fast. The petrol Figo offers slightly better handling due to its lower front-end weight while there is some body roll although not much. The Figo Aspire excels in the ride quality department, it glides over roads with authority and takes bad roads in its stride with utmost confidence. Hit a big bump at speed and you will encounter some bounciness but for the most part, the suspension does a fantastic job of ironing out inconsistent tarmac. Braking performance is excellent on the Figo Aspire and the car stops with utmost confidence, even when you stand on the brake pedal hard.
SAFETY FEATURES ;
Ford has given special attention to the safety of the occupants inside and thus the new sedan comes with robust passenger cage created from high-strength steel, both driver and passenger side airbags and for the first time in the history of Indian auto industry Ford has even provided side and curtain airbags for the occupants as an option. The top end trims also gets ABS and EBD and also hill assist which is available only with the auto transmission variant though.
Ford may have been late to the compact sedan segment but it’s used its time well. Sure, the Aspire may not be as special to drive as other Fords (including the Classic it is to replace) but it does offer everything to help it appeal to a wide buyer base. Ford has clearly spent a lot of money to give buyers what they want, be it in terms of newer concerns as connectivity and safety or in traditional requirements of space, comfort and efficiency.Assuming the Figo Aspire is priced in close proximity to the current market leader, the Swift Dzire, as we’ve been led to believe, Ford’s all-new compact sedan could just become the new benchmark in the segment.