Ford recently announced a price-cut on its Figo and Aspire models, between Rs 25,000 to Rs 91,000, across variants. With no changes to the equipment list and a significant price-cut, these cars offer better value-for-money, especially since they now undercut the price of the new Honda Amaze and Volkswagen Ameo. With a decent amount of kit and impressive driving dynamics, the Aspire/ Figo already left me impressed at the time of their launch. Now though, it was time to check how the car behaved in day-to-day driving cycle and what value enhancement does the price-cut bring in for the consumer. As a result, we have the Ford Aspire 1.2 Ti-VCT being introduced to the long-term fleet of Express Drives.
In a segment riddled with disproportionate-looking cars, the Ford Aspire came across as the best-looking compact sedan in the country at the time of its launch. It sure isn't perfect with those small 14-inch wheels and also lacks a sense of sophistication to it. However, given the constraints of making a three-box car within 4 metres, Ford designers have done a better job than the competition. The Aston Martin-ish front grille and a boot-section that doesn't look to have forcibly been welded onto a hatchback, give the Aspire some brownie points in the looks department.
Our test car is the Titanium variant, which is the top grade in the petrol range, with the exception of the 1.5 L AT version. The engine is a 1.2 L unit, which delivers about 86 hp and 112 Nm of torque, and is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. One of the most impressive things about this engine is its smoothness across the rev band. While petrol cars are generally silent, the Aspire is a little better than most of its competition. The smooth engine coupled up with good NVH-proofing leads to a quiet cabin.
At lower engine speeds, the engine struggles a bit to get going but as the revs build up, the Aspire 1.2 Ti_VCT makes a strong case for itself. Once past about 2,500 rpm, the engine pulls strongly and starts to run out of breath only around 6,000 rpm. Acceleration felt strong in the car and the gearbox has well-sorted ratios, which makes life easy in traffic. We'll soon update you with exact performance and fuel-efficiency figures.
As you would expect from a Ford, the Aspire is a fun-to-drive car, although it lacks a bit of the sharpness of the older Figo. As a trade-off, it's more comfortable now and low-speed ride quality is much better. Around corners, there's noticeable body-roll but the Aspire holds its line well and the feedback from the steering gives the driver a better sense of control over things with the tyres squealing for grip. The gearbox too offers relatively short throws but the shifts themselves are a bit hard.
The cabin of the Aspire is a fairly well-appointed place with most things going for the car. Material quality is definitely better than cars such as the Honda Amaze. Space too is decent but not best-in-segment. That brings us to what I felt to be a shortcoming - the infotainment system. The phone-styled keypad alongside a cluster of buttons for various functions looks complex and cluttered. It also looks a bit dated compared to the system available on the new Volkswagen Ameo. The climate control panel in the lower part of the centre console however looks far more premium with chrome finishing and a neat design. Using the SYNC system, you can access hand-free telephony, stream audio from your phone and have text messages read-out.
The Aspire ranks high on the safety aspect and comes with ABS with EBD, dual-front airbags and driver seat-belt reminder. At Rs 6.29 lakh, ex-showroom, the Aspire surely promises a lot of value and fun. How much of that translates into real-world benefits however is something we'll find out over the course of the next few weeks. Stay tuned to our next update on the Ford Aspire.