Having braved the subcompact SUV trends with the EcoSport, Ford had to innovate as new players entered the segment. The Freestyle was a step in that direction and we loved it when we drove it. So, Ford has made some updates to the car and there's a new Freestyle Flair edition that it has launched recently, which gets a few changes when it comes to styling and of course a bump up in the features department. We drive it to find out more.
What's Changed On The Outside?
The Freestyle Flair is Ford's attempt to make the cross hatch a bit more stylish and contemporary too. So, all these red accents on the skid plate, roof rails or these swanky decals you see above the plastic cladding and on the tailgate manage to make it look cool and snazzy.
But there are a few misses and a set of projector beam headlamps would have added the 'Flair' (pardon the pub) to the Freestyle, given that this is the range topping variant.
What It's Like On The Inside?
The red accents are generously splashed on the inside too. You see it on the door armrests, the red stitching on the black and grey fabric seats and the Flair badging as well. Other than that, it remains pretty much the same but we have to say, it looks pretty good on the all black cabin. Moreover, it's spacious and the seats too offer decent cushioning and bolstering.
There's a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. You do, however, get built-in navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and notably the Ford Pass connected app that receives over-the-air (OTA) updates. So, you can remotely lock / unlock and start-stop or even precool the cabin and that's just the tip of the iceberg, so in a way it's a connected car. You don't get rear air-con vents which are a big miss in our opinion. You also get just one USB port and a 12V charging socket, that too only at the front.
Does It Get New Engines?
There is no change in the engine line-up and the one we have with us is the BS6 compliant 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine that belts out 94 bhp at 6500 rpm and 112 Nm of peak torque at 4250 rpm. While you'll be happy with its performance for the most part, the bottom end lag under 2000 rpm will bother you. On highways you need to plan overtaking and keep the car beyond the 2200 rpm rev band so that it gives you that push. The power build-up is linear and smooth but you would wish for better refinement levels as you do feel the vibration on the steering wheel and pedals.
The Flair is also offered with the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder BS6 diesel engine that churns out 98 bhp at 3750 rpm and 215 Nm of peak torque which is accessible from 1750 rpm. Both engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission only and the automatic gearbox is sorely missed. The claimed fuel economy for the petrol motor is 18.5 kmpl while the diesel mill is quite frugal delivering an impressive 23.8 kmpl.
How Is It To Drive?
The new-age Ford cars have never disappointed us when it comes to driving dynamics and the Freestyle is no different. The steering weighs up well when you speed-up and despite it having an electric power steering, to an extent you feel the connect and that is confidence inspiring, especially when you are cornering or making manoeuvres at higher speeds. It just makes the work enjoyable as well as easy. Driving in city traffic conditions is effortless as well, thanks to the light steering set-up at lower speeds..
Then, you'll start appreciating the suspension set-up even more on highways as it has just the right amount of firmness to deal with broken tarmac, potholes or undulations nonchalantly at higher speeds. At lower speeds passengers will bounce a bit, but nothing that will bother much. It's more of a soft roader and will prance over rough terrains letting the traction control and electronic stability program (ESP) do their job effectively.
What About Safety Features
The Freestyle Flair really scores high on build quality. The sense of sturdiness that you get when closing the door, is something that other hatchbacks don't have. It sort of compensates for the shortcomings in the premium features department. Then, you also have the reassurance of six airbags which is now offered on all modern Ford cars, at least on the top trims. Plus, you get anti-lock brakes along with brake-force distribution, hill launch assist, traction control and electronic stability program as well.
The Ford Freestyle is easy to live with, is fun to drive compared to other premium hatches or subcompact SUVs. And the Flair trim looks sporty and distinctive as well. So it does stand out in those terms. That said, the car needs to play catch up when it comes to features and premium appeal. But if you compare it with the range-topping variants of the WR-V which is its closest rival, the Freestyle at ₹ 7.69 lakh is ₹ 2 lakh cheaper than the top-end WR-V VX petrol and ₹ 2.20 lakh more affordable than the top of the line WR-V VX diesel. So if you enjoy spirited driving, it is still one of the top picks in the sub ₹ 10 lakh price bracket.