Ford Freestyle Goes Off-Road, Sort Of
Indian roads are no short of slushy beaten tracks during the monsoon, but Ford thinks its crosshatch can make easy work of them. We get behind the wheel of the Ford Freestyle on a specially prepared off-road track to find out whether the claim holds any weight
On an overcast afternoon with numerous off-road obstacles before us, we prepared ourselves for some mud-splashing fun on a Sunday afternoon. Interestingly though, we didn't have any purpose built off-roader at our disposal. What we did have, though, was Ford’s latest launch, the Freestyle, to test out its capabilities in a controlled environment.
The track, laid out in a private compound, had a mix of variations which would putt he Freestyle’s safety features and ground clearance to the test. It was also meant to test the engine grunt from its new 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder Dragon series petrol engine and the proven performer, the 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder TDCi diesel engine. We had a go at both the cars on the track and here’s how the Freestyle faired on the obstacle course.
True to the Ford DNA, the Freestyle features some segment-first safety features under the ARP (Active Rollover Prevention) umbrella which includes hill launch assist, electronic stability program and a traction control system. To test it out, we scaled three-fourths of a slope, where the instructor asked us to leave the brake pedal. And thanks to the HLA (Hill Launch Assist), the car didn’t roll back for three seconds. It gives a precious window that allows you to change gears and accelerate in bumper-to-bumper situations when the car halts on a slope.
This was followed by a bunch of uneven articulation patches, the kind you’d come across in a distant village road. The Ford instructor here insisted that we leave the accelerator and let it crawl by itself which the Freestyle petrol did at around 15kmph in first gear. The bashing from the road didn’t reach our backs but its noise certainly did, calling for improvements in sound deadening. Also Read: Ford Aspire, Figo Facelift Revealed; India Launch Soon
We were then asked to go flat out on a curved right-hand turn whose surface was laced with light sand. The speed wasn’t high enough for the ESP and TCS to intervene but the Freestyle felt well under control here. On our road test, however, we did manage to have some off-road fun on an open field. And with TCS on, any slight wheel spin caused the safety systems to cut power and bring everything back under control. If you wish to read how the Freestyle fares in the real world, head to our Ford Freestyle: Road Test.
The Freestyle not only features tough bodywork but can also breeze over uneven surfaces. It has a ground clearance of 190mm compared to the Figo’s 174mm and, it also has a 30mm wider track than the Figo. While the higher ground clearance has the obvious benefit while going over higher obstacles, a wider track helps in improving cornering stability and reducing the turning radius slightly. Related: Clash Of Segments: 2018 Honda Amaze vs Ford Freestyle - Which Car To Buy?
After the articulation section, we had to drive through a pond, which was shallow enough on the periphery for the Freestyle to ply without trouble. Ford hasn’t revealed the water wading capacity for the Freestyle, unlike the Endeavour, but the Freestyle didn’t break any sweat in bumper-deep water. I was again asked to keep my feet away from the pedals and despite my apprehensions, it went without a fuss.
The short duration of the drive and the fact that we didn't go beyond the second gear left no scope for engine assessment. But what it did reveal though was the fact that the diesel was the gruntier of the two, owing to the abundant torque available from much lower in the rev band.
We drove both, the new 1.2-litre Petrol which churns out 96PS@6500rpm and 120Nm@4250rpm of torque and the 1.5-litre diesel which produces 100PS@3750rpm and 215Nm@1750-3000rpm. The new Dragon petrol engine managed to match the diesel in terms of tractability and being a petrol, felt slightly smoother as well. Its throttle response was immediate in the first and second gears which should prove helpful while darting in and out of the traffic gridlocks.
Price & competition
The Freestyle range starts from Rs 5.09 lakh and goes up to Rs 7.89 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). In the crosshatch space, it competes with the likes of Honda WR-V, Hyundai Active i20, Toyota Etios Cross and Fiat Avventura.
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