What do you do when you have a car model that is well-known but doesn’t bring in the sales numbers. To make it more attractive, you end up giving it new stickers, different paint schemes as well as bring it out in limited numbers. At first look, Ford India seems to have done exactly this with the new Freestyle Flair. On its own, the Ford Freestyle is a very competent car with nice-t0-drive powertrains, a decent feature set and safety equipment. However, for some strange reasons, the Freestyle doesn’t sell in the intended numbers. So, the Ford Freestyle Flair is expected then to bring in a bit of err…flair to the mix. Does it manage to do that and how will this help Ford in the short run? We find out.
To burst the bubble, unlike the Figo S that was available a few years ago, the Freestyle Flair doesn’t have any mechanical updates. All you get is the red colour on the roof rails, skid plates, and mirror caps. There is also the contrast black roof, along with black alloys. While these are done tastefully, I fail to understand the use of the garish graphics. These look cheap and give the Flair a “demo” car feel. Even Volkswagen which had launched TSI Editions of the Polo and Vento did away with the graphics before customer deliveries happened. Inside you get an all-black layout with the door pads getting the red treatment (tasteful), front seats get the Flair lettering as well as red piped stitching. You also get Flair badges on the door sill. If these were illuminated (am sure Ford aftermarket will have an option), they would have looked smashing.
The enjoyable factor that was dialed in the Ford Freestyle from the beginning is still there. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is a three-cylinder engine and is naturally aspirated. In its price bracket and among similar engines, this motor produces the highest power and torque – 96hp and 120Nm. The engine is free-revving and is mated to a slick 5-speed manual. Ford engineers have tuned this powertrain to ensure good bottom-end torque as well as tractability. In the city you are required to do minimum gear changes. The car climbs to speeds very quickly and while there is an initial wee bit of three-cylinder thrum vibes in the cabin, these smoothen out once the revs climb.
The suspension is also tuned to offer very good ride quality. At low speeds, the suspension devours potholes for lunch and it is when the speedo needle climbs to three digits that minor road imperfections make their way to the cabin. The steering is a very light unit at city speeds but has enough feedback for the highway too. Drive this car around corners and the experience will plant a wide grin on your cheek. Given that we had to do more than required runs for the pan shots, I wasn’t complaining a bit as the minimal body roll ensured that taking J-turns was easy. The disc/drum combination ensures that there is ample stopping power on offer.
A 100hp/215Nm, 1.5-litre diesel engine is available with the Freestyle Flair as well. Even this engine is paired to a 5-speed manual and is quite a sprightly as well as frugal performer.
A tad more features wouldn’t have hurt. For example, the touchscreen system could have got Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. In the same vein, it could have been an 8.0-inch unit as well. The rear door pads could also have got bottle holders. There could also have been rear AC vents. The instrument console could have done away with the usual Ford blue lighting. On the subject of lights, there are no projector headlamps or interior ambient lighting.
The Flair is a regular variant and is available at an introductory price of Rs 7.69 lakh and Rs 8.79 lakh for the petrol and diesel variants respectively. They are based on the top-spec Titanium+ variant and hence come loaded with six airbags, switchable traction control and more. To answer the question, yes the Flair does bring in some attractive elements but to be honest, it doesn’t justify the Rs 30,000 price hike. It may though be said that if you indeed look beyond the looks and features aspect, the Ford Freestyle Titanium+ will keep you as much happy and perhaps leave you with a tad more cash in hand than the Flair.
Images by Pradeep Shah and Lijo Mathai
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