The first thing that I noticed was how much nicer the Ford Figo Aspire looks in comparison to its competition - not just in overall physical design, but also exterior feel and fit-and-finish. While the Maruti Suzuki Dzire and Hyundai Xcent look just plain ugly to me, the Honda Amaze manages to come across as a plain and average design, at best. The Figo Aspire takes the sex-appeal a level higher. Heck, I'm talking of sex-appeal for the sub-compact sedan segment - strange times!
Also Read: Honda Amaze vs Hyundai Xcent vs Tata Zest
Ford hasn't been shy of showing its latest product to the public much before its official launch. There have been display areas set up in several shopping malls - a marketing strategy that the company adopted for the EcoSport as well. I went to check it out at one such display and the thought that it was because of the magic of controlled lighting that the Figo Aspire looked striking. I'm glad to report that even in natural light, the Figo Aspire really does look sharp and well turned-out. I think its best angle would be the front three-quarter.
In my opinion, the Figo Aspire flaunts the most balanced proportions in its segment, even better than the Tata Zest and Honda Amaze. The front is particularly standout because of the large and dominating grille section which, as is globally spoken of, looks very Aston Martin. There's also a hint of MINI trying to peep through the grille, which is no bad thing. I'm an aesthetically challenged guy. I suffer from Agnosia when it comes to looks and beauty. But even I can tell very clearly that the Figo Aspire will walk away with the title if it were to walk the ramp against the existing sub-compact sedans - it does really look the most attractive of the lot.
Ford took a long time reacting to this segment, but it finally has, and the result is rather appealing. Let me cut straight to the chase. This is possibly going to be an even more crucial product than the Figo hatch that will be out later in the year. The guys at Ford realize that there's a huge opportunity here and they've tried to deliver the best possible package to the consumers.
I like cars to have a lot of storage space in the cabin. The Figo Aspire doesn't disappoint at all. There're not just many cup holders, but even the door pockets can hold large bottles - all pretty useful. The glove box is fairly large as well and there are a few more space holders that you can use for loose change, phone and other oddities. There's more than adequate space in the cabin. I'm a tallish chap - fairly above the average Indian height, and with the seat adjusted to my driving position, an equally tall person can sit behind without having his knees complaining. At this point, I must, however, say that the space for the feet isn't as good as the Honda Amaze's and that's down to the position of the seat rails and the shape of the seat itself. The Amaze has a much flatter area and the feet don't feel compromised on comfort. The front seats are well designed and bolstering is quite good, too. I like to sit low in my cars, so it's great to know that the Figo Aspire comes with height adjustment in the top two variants, but as the seat's base goes down it leaves a bit of a space at the bottom between the cushion and the crucial body part. A tall person suffering from lower back issues may find that bothersome over continued use. As for the boot space - it measures 359 litres in volume and did well to fit the regular medium sized bags of three without making us work them hard to fit. The loading lip is a bit high though.
The dual-tone interior treatment (beige-black combination) is standard across the four trims that the Figo Aspire will be available in and it gives a great feeling of airiness to the cabin. It would've been nice to have a darker shade of beige though - the current shade is a bit too bright! Ford has come uncomfortably close to the Japanese levels of interior quality. The plastic bits feel above-average and the Asipre is loaded to the absolute maximum on most fronts. It gets driver and passenger airbags as standard across the variants while the top end trim gets six of them - six, in a sub-compact sedan! Impressive. Because I drove the Titanium Plus version, I could not try out the MyFord Dock that mounts the phone and you can access navigation or music and whatnot from it. We will try and do a separate account of only how that thing works in the coming time.
The Figo Aspire will be made available with a choice of 3 engines: 1.2-litre petrol, 1.5-litre diesel, and 1.5-litre petrol which will only be available with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The drive was limited to just a few hours, but I did get to sample both the 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel. I'd like to start with the 1.2 variable-cam to get the disappointing bit out of way immediately.
Also Read: Things You Should Know About Ford Figo Aspire
Ford has taken the 1196cc unit from the existing Figo hatch and made some heavy changes to it. The intake ports have been modded and the cam timing has been altered to deliver optimized power delivery and aid fuel efficiency. While the 86.8bhp may make for fine reading on a spec-sheet, it doesn't really translate to a great driving experience. That power is made almost when the engine redlines, so you'd have to keep the accelerator quite tensed to be able to get any fun out of the engine. Even its 112Nm peak torque is delivered at 4,000rpm, so drivability is hampered when going at traffic-jam speeds. Driving how a typical guy would in 'regular' city conditions, I shifted to 5th doing about 50 clicks on the speedo. A little while later, I was still doing 50. Another few moments stuck at that speed, I just got frustrated and shifted to 3rd. It's quite the same doing 40km/h in 4th. The engine just doesn't get up to speed - it's literally uninterested in the entire act of driving. Trouble is, all this was happening on an open stretch of a national highway. I'd like to spend time with this engine in typical city conditions and then give a proper feedback on it. But, one thing is for certain - overtaking on the highway is a greatly calculated episode with this engine.
The 1.5-litre diesel is the absolute opposite of the reluctant petrol. This 8-valve (huh, still!) engine is borrowed from the Fiesta and makes 98.6bhp and 215Nm. That will make Fiesta (that makes 90bhp) owners a heavily fuming lot! The response to the throttle input is fairly good even from low revs and the mid-range is extremely strong. It's a very flexible engine and is very compliant with the driver's inputs. While the gearbox doesn't really give much to complain about, I'd have liked the gearshift action to be just a slight bit more engaging and the clutch to be lighter and the bite to be a bit more progressive.
What left me disappointed was the suspension setup. No, it left me confused. Yes, confused would be the right term. I've had absolutely great times with Ford products in the past. I loved the Ikon and the original Fiesta (now Classic) in India and the first ever proper fun premium sedan I drove was the Mondeo. One thing that's been a constant across all these vastly different cars is the ride-handling balance. The Aspire changes that trend - sad day for Ford enthusiasts. The suspension is extremely city-biased and does a great job of going over bumps and potholes. It's only when you turn into a corner really hard that you compress the suspension to its limit and feel it getting a bit rigid - at that point it can be good fun. You'll be silly to do that, but it'll be hilarious good fun. For most part, it's a soft car for regular home-to-office commute. The steering, too, unlike the Fords from the past, has literally no intimate relationship with you. It's a fairly precise and direct unit, but feels emotionless. Ford has done a great job of designing and packaging the Figo Aspire for its intended use. In the process, though, it has also alienated the Aspire from its DNA and it comes across as a very un-Ford-like experience.
My disappointment with the dynamics aside, the Figo Aspire looks very promising indeed. It's smart and well-engineered, comes with a long list of features, and scores heavily in its crucial test - being a good city car.
Ford Figo Aspire Technical Specification
Engine: 1.5-litre Diesel / 1.2-litre Petrol
Power: 98.6bhp @ 3,750rpm / 86.8bhp @ 6,300rpm
Torque: 215Nm @ 1,750-3,000rpm / 112Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Also Read: Upcoming Ford Cars in India