Though the popularity of SUVs is reigning over the demand for sedans globally, there's one particular segment of these three-box style vehicle that refuses to go down. I am talking about the sub-compact, under-4-meter sedan segment, of which India is the birthplace. Propelled by the tax rebates, this segment had and still has all the major car manufacturers gunning for it. As a result of this, we now have up to 6 models of different makes competing with each other in order to grab the biggest slice of the pie. However, just like other budget segments, it is Maruti Suzuki that currently has the biggest portion in its plate. That said, there are customers with different requirements in the market and hence multiple options exist. One such interesting option is the Ford Aspire. The 2018 Ford Aspire has recently joined Express Drives' long term fleet. This car is a perfect example of what you would call as an underdog.
Based on the Figo hatchback, the Aspire received its mid-life facelift last year wherein we saw it getting a minor exterior makeover, some additional features and an all-new petrol engine option. It is this very derivative, with the manual gearbox, that we will we evaluating over the course of time across varied parameters.
In the past month that this car has been with us, it has added close to 1,400 km to its odometer and nearly half of these have been covered on city roads during rush hour traffic and the rest on highways. This gave us enough opportunity to see how this car is going to perform in its natural habitat. For starters, the 3-cylinder, 1194 cc petrol engine, though not buttery smooth, is still quite refined and was an ideal companion in bumper to bumper conditions.
There is just enough low-end grunt to get you moving but not enough for treading in a higher gear at lower speeds. Consequently, this requires a downshift. However, one on the go, the tall gear ratios lets you cruise comfortably. Even when fully loaded, with a trunk full of monthly groceries, the 96 hp motor never felt out of breath. However, the driving fun comes at a price of fuel-efficiency. Despite driving with a light foot, we were able to manage an average city figure of 13.6 km/l. On the highways, these numbers improved to 17.4 kmpl, which is a decent number.
Supporting the engine's refinement and performance is the 5-speed manual gearbox with its slick shifts. The only gripe is the slightly heavy clutch pedal which can result in a fatigued left knee if you were to get stuck in a jam.
In terms of comfort, we would say that the suspension set-up of the Aspire deals with the regular bumps and potholes quite easily, despite it being inclined slightly towards the stiffer side. The front seats offer decent under-thigh support, though we felt that the seat backrest could have been a little bit wider. Our test car had close to 7900 km on its odometer with there being no noticeable rattle inside the cabin. However, one thing which stood out was the rather tacky feeling in the operation of the indicator and wiper stalks.
In the past month, the Ford Aspire has done everything its been asked for. During the course, we will be evaluating it over other parameters including cabin comfort, high-speed handling and share the feedback with you in our future reports. That said, this sub-compact sedan is a good pick for those looking for good driving dynamics without sacrificing cabin comfort and practicality.