It’s a challenge to design compact sedans, more so which are under 4 metres in length. Designers either compromise on looks, roominess, aerodynamics, safety, comfort or storage spaces. If in one compact sedan the boot seems to have been forcibly added, in the other there is a huge shortage of space. However, innovation can help overcome most challenges. Ford, which had been working on the sub-4 metre Figo Aspire for over two years now, has precisely done that—designed a compact sedan that doesn’t really compromise in the said areas.
The inverse trapezoidal grille now forms the core of Ford’s design DNA and adds a premium appeal to its cars. This Aston Martin-like look makes the Figo Aspire stand out proudly among the crowd. The large headlights extend all the way back to the fenders. Add to that the clean, crisp lines across the body and you have a design that looks right, natural and relevant. The chin, especially, adds a lot of aggressiveness to the front. From the sides, too, the car looks fresh. But as you reach the rear, you are greeted by a love-me-or-hate-me pattern. Clearly, there is nothing extraordinary about the tail-lamps and the thick band of chrome on the boot lid doesn’t liven up things. However, the good thing is that the band makes the rear section look wider than it actually is. Overall, while the Figo Aspire is not a stunner, it has a pleasing design.
A lot of thought has gone into space management and this is apparent as soon as you open the doors. First, the cabin feels well put together—there are intelligent and usable storage spaces all around. Second, the quality of plastics and switches is good. Third, there is ample headroom and legroom—the rear seat can easily accommodate three passengers. Fourth, the list of equipment is long, even in the entry-level variant. Fifth, and this is a bold but much-needed step, the Figo Aspire is the first car in the segment to get dual front airbags as standard and has six airbags (including side and curtain airbags) in the top-end variant. Sixth, the stalks behind the steering wheel are now the way most Indians are used to—indicators on the right, wipers on the left. Depending on the variant, there are features such as climate control, electronically folding outer rear-view mirrors, leather seats, steering-mounted controls and so much more. The boot space is a decent 359 litres.
Mention must be made of MyFord Dock, which allows you to store, mount and charge your mobile phone, MP3 player or satellite navigation system, and integrate these devices into the car’s entertainment system. MyFord Dock is mounted on the dashboard and can be accessed easily.
The Figo Aspire, like most Ford cars, gets the SYNC voice-activated system. Using the SYNC, you can pair your Bluetooth-enabled phone to make calls, use text-to-speech technology, and play music—using just your voice. Ford claims that in the unlikely event of an accident that activates an airbag or shuts off the fuel pump, the SYNC Emergency Assistance will call emergency services and share your exact GPS location.
The SYNC AppLink enables you to access apps on your paired smartphone using your voice. The car also gets the new MyKey system—you can programme your key to a restricted driving mode setting which can, among other things, limit vehicle top speed and regulate audio volume.
There are three engine options. The first is the 1.2-litre petrol which delivers a peak power of 86.8 bhp and has a claimed fuel-efficiency of 18.2 kmpl. The second is the 1.5-litre diesel which offers a peak power of 98.6 bhp and a fuel economy of 25.8 kmpl. Both are mated to a five-speed manual transmission gearbox. The third is the 1.5-litre petrol that delivers a peak power of 110.5 bhp and has a fuel-efficiency of 17.2 kmpl. This engine gets Ford’s PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission which, the company says, is backed by a 10-year or 1 lakh km warranty.
Fire any of the engines, press the accelerator, let the car gain speed and you will realise it is a Ford in every respect. The unadulterated acceleration, the way the car absorbs bumps, the steering response, fun-to-drive character … all make the Figo Aspire one of the best handling cars in the segment. While the car does get jittery on some really bad roads and there are some vibrations at high speeds, for most part the drive is comfortable and the cabin a quiet place to be.
Although Ford has taken time to enter the compact sedan segment, it appears the time has been well-spent, with the company leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the Figo Aspire meets the success it so rightly deserves. The customer in this segment is value-conscious and Ford has played the price card exceedingly well. The Figo Aspire range starts from Rs 4.9 lakh and goes up to Rs 8.25 lakh. The car handles well, sets a segment benchmark in safety, gets the required equipment, and has been engineered for customers in developing markets such as India and Brazil. Yes, it doesn’t look stunning at first glance. But it doesn’t have to. After all, handsome is as handsome does.
(Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi)