The Ford Aspire 1.2 Ti-VCT has been with us for more than a month now and has done over 1,700 km including city commute and highway runs. It has become the most wanted car despite being a petrol amid other long-termers with us, all of which are powered by a diesel engine. The reason for this is the impressive driving dynamics offered by the Aspire along with a reasonably powerful engine. The highlight of the 86 hp engine is its smoothness and at 100 km/h on the highway, the noise of the tyre-roll is louder.
We do feel however that the low-end response from the engine could have been better as at times, one is forced to shift to 1st gear in traffic to get going. Once moving, though, the engine offers decent acceleration and even closer to the redline, the engine doesn't sound gruff or unpleasant. We've already taken the car to Ludhiana once and overtaking trucks on the highway was not much of an issue as long as the tachometer needle was hovering around the 2,000 mark. On this highway run, we recorded a fuel-efficiency of 16.2 km/l, with a constant speed of around 100 km/h. Even in the manic rush-hour traffic of Delhi, the little Aspire has managed to run 12.7 kilometres for a litre of petrol. For its segment, these numbers are impressive.
There is an Achilles heel in this brilliant powertrain though and that's the five-speed manual gearbox. Shifts are notchy and feel rubbery, which takes away some of the driving pleasure. In terms of handling, the Aspire scores high. The suspension, although tuned on the softer side compared to other Ford cars, offers a good balance between ride quality and cornering abilities. Around a corner, the Aspire sicks to the intended line, primarily due to the chassis setup. The direct steering too offers good feedback, increasing the driver's confidence in the car. In absence of any electronic aids, the amount of pure mechanical grip offered by the Aspire is good.
The cabin of the Aspire features good build quality and the tactile feel of most buttons is good. Readouts are clear and ergonomics too are in place, highlighting the focus on the driver. The front seats offer good side support and can accommodate larger people to with ease. At the rear, legroom is average and taller occupants might find their knees brushing against the front seats. The one thing, however, that needs an update in the cabin is the phone-styled keypad with a small display screen. Although the SYNC-equipped system offers connectivity options at par with segment standards, the design looks dated. Beyond this, the cabin of the Aspire is a good place to be in as the ride quality is good and occupants remain insulated from most of the shocks arising from bad surfaces. Ford India has also loaded the Aspire with impressive safety features. Our car being a higher Titanium variant sports six airbags along with ABS, while the lower trims feature dual-front airbags as standard.
Ford India has been quite vocal about its improved after sales service and low-maintenance costs. There are tools on the company website now, which will give you an estimate of the cost for a particular service. For the Aspire, the company claims lowest replacement costs for many wear and tear parts. In addition, the Aspire, like other Ford vehicles allows child parts to be fixed, which in simpler terms means that you only pay for the part gone bad and not the entire assembly. Based on these figures and claims, the Aspire should prove to be competitive in terms of maintenance costs. In our hands, the car has been through rains, bad roads, traffic and highways and there aren't any rattles or squeaks from anywhere yet, which speaks well of the build quality.
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The Ford Aspire is positioned in a segment inherently focussed on value and practicality. While the Aspire does deliver well on both these parameters, it offers something extra that most of its competitors miss out on. As you would've guessed it by now, that extra thing is driving pleasure. The Aspire isn't as good as the older Figo or the Fiesta but it offers a good balance between comfort and handling. Having driven every car in this segment on sale today we can safely say the Ford Aspire is the best handling sub-four-metre sedan on sale today. There are some areas where the Aspire lags behind the competition but after the recent price-cuts, the value-for-money quotient of this car is one of the best in its segment at Rs 6.29 lakh, ex-showroom.