Ford Freestyle review: A Ford that can play in mud

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Published: July 23, 2018 1:11:24 AM

A crossover is a vehicle that combines the features of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with those of a hatchback or a sedan. It’s an interesting, and practical, body shape.

The Freestyle is a compact utility vehicle, not a proper SUV. Yet its tall ground clearance, large tyres and capable engine ensure you won’t get stuck in slushy conditions if, by chance, you encounter them

A crossover is a vehicle that combines the features of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with those of a hatchback or a sedan. It’s an interesting, and practical, body shape. It offers a unique sense of presence to a customer, generally has a spacious cabin, and can be made to look good, i.e. it is customisation-friendly. Pity we don’t have many such vehicles in India. In the ‘popular’ segment, the most popular crossover is Hyundai i20 Active, followed by Toyota Etios Cross and Fiat Urban Cross/Avventura. The latest to join the company is Ford Freestyle—what a name for a crossover car! We drive it in and around Delhi, and then in some mud, slush, and even inside a pond.

It’s a CUV
Ford calls the Freestyle a compact utility vehicle, or CUV. It borrows design lines from an SUV and marries it with a hatchback’s practicality. Add to that innovative in-car technology, powerful and fuel-efficient engines, and presentable looks. The Freestyle also strengthens Ford’s fun-to-drive credentials with the all-new 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 96PS of peak power and 120Nm torque. This engine is mated to, again a new, five-speed manual transmission. Unlike other crossover cars that borrow only the design elements from an SUV, the Freestyle actually gets some SUV features, including Active Rollover Prevention and Hill Launch Assist, among others. Lastly, it is equipped with Ford’s SYNC 3 connected car technology—with a high-resolution 6.5-inch touchscreen—and the top-end variant gets six airbags (front two airbags are standard). Apart from the new petrol engine, it is available with Ford’s trusted 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine that generates peak power of 100PS and 215Nm of torque.

Looks unique
It doesn’t really have super-handsome looks, but the Freestyle won’t get lost in the crowd—whether on or off the road. Its commanding stance matches that of some more expensive mini SUVs. The unique grille with a three-dimensional mesh gives it a sporty character. The front bumper has sculpted sections, and the skid plates on the front and rear add to its SUV-like rigidity. What stands out is its best-in-class ground clearance, of 190mm, and large 15-inch tyres, which not only help the Freestyle easily navigate bad roads, but also help you have a better view of the road—because you sit higher compared to hatchback cars. The unique alloy wheel design complements its rugged looks.

Decent interiors
While the cabin gets dual-tone treatment, the quality of plastics is not the best in class. The overall cabin design looks like it is from a decade ago. But the cabin is functional—there are 20 storage spaces, and the boot with a 257-litre capacity easily accommodates two large suitcases and a lot of small bags. The seating space is abundant—the rear legroom of 871mm and headroom of 959mm is among the best in the hatchback segment.

On the road
I drove the new petrol variant. This naturally-aspirated engine has a lot of grunt, and in the right gear you just don’t feel the car is being pulled by a three-cylinder engine. Even a slight push to the accelerator pedal results in good acceleration. Small engines are generally noisy, but in the Freestyle, at almost all speeds, the cabin is quiet and minimal road or tyre noise enters the cabin.

Off the road
The Freestyle is a CUV, not a proper SUV. Yet its tall ground clearance, large tyres and capable engine ensure you won’t get stuck in slushy conditions if, by chance, you encounter them. In fact, I took it inside a pond with a wading depth of about a foot, and the car kept on moving as it would on a non-metalled road. Mention must be made of technologies such as Active Rollover Prevention—no other crossover has it—which applies brakes on relevant wheels to decrease engine torque and help prevent any potential rollover situations. However, because it’s not an SUV, it’s not suggested to intentionally take the Freestyle off the road. It simply leads to more clean-up job later on.

Is it a good buy?
It’s available in four trims—Ambiente, Trend, Titanium and Titanium+. Ex-showroom, all-India prices of the petrol variant start at Rs 5.09 lakh, going up to Rs 6.94 lakh. The diesel is priced from Rs 6.09 lakh to Rs 7.89 lakh. At such prices, the Freestyle is an interesting buy. As a product, it’s clearly better in almost all aspects than a hatchback car in this price range. And although it’s not an SUV, it gets features from SUVs a segment above. It might not be the best car in its segment—the plastic quality inside the cabin should be improved—but as far as driving pleasure is concerned, no other crossover, or even a mini SUV, comes close. And yes, there are six colours to choose from.

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