Left Foot Saviour! - Ford Figo Automatic Review
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Watch First Drive of All-New Ford Figo
Let’s face it, the traffic situation isn’t going to get any better. Yes, there’ll be new towns, better infrastructure, better roads - the lot. What isn’t going to change however, is that traffic snarl at your most hated junction on your way back home. It has been there for ages now, and will be roughly the same in the coming years. Add to that the alarming rate at which Indians are buying cars. Doesn’t really paint a pretty picture now, does it, I have long pondered over why there’s incessant unnecessary honking, loud screeches and even louder voices yelling at every crowded signal or jam packed road I see. I’ve begun to think it’s because of the frustration developing in the left foot - by depressing and releasing the clutch a million times. Fortunately though, there’s a better way of dealing with the traffic, other than shouting at the top of your voice or honking the neighboring car deaf. You simply buy an automatic, let the left foot relax; maybe let it tap to the music. Sit back and enjoy the chaos.
Now, there are a number of questions in the minds of the average Indian consumer about automatic cars. You see, the market is just about warming up to the concept of automatics. It used to be looked upon simply as an expensive car that sips more fuel for no apparent reason, but now - almost every major auto firm has an automatic hatchback on offer. The Blue Oval joins the fray, with the new Figo - which is pretty versatile, really. It is compact, chuckable, has all the bells and whistles one expects, can shift gears itself and in our case, bright orange! I say it is versatile because of the sheer amount of competition it can take on. For starters, if you consider size - the Hyundai Grand i10 seems the closest rival, consider features and the Swift is under threat and one look at the power figures and you realize that the top-spec Polo GT TSi is well within the Figo’s crosshair as well.
The Figo is the only hatchback in Ford’s portfolio right now. While the original Figo is a bit of a legend in its own right, the new one wants to pickup fights with almost everyone. Has the Figo bitten off more than it can chew? Read on…
The design on the Figo, in one word is, ‘inoffensive’. It won’t be winning any design awards nor be garnering a pool of haters for the way it looks. There are no overtly flowy lines like you’d see on say a Hyundai, nor is it full of straight lines like a Mahindra. The curves and straight creases are balanced just right. The Figo looks identical to it’s compact sedan sibling. The large mouthed face houses a large chrome grille, which in my opinion is the best design element on the car. The pulled back headlamps are indeed very Punto Evoish, but they do lend the car a mildly aggressive face. The foglamps are neatly tucked away on the lower extremes of the bumper and look a size smaller than what would’ve suited the Ford.
The side profile is dominated by the large windows and that thick C-pillar. The indicators are mounted on the wing mirrors, while a small chrome tab finds a place on the front quarter panel. One clean sweeping line runs across the profile and vanishes into the tail-lamp - a design trait that pays tribute to the first generation of the Figo.
The only grudge I have against the Figo’s styling - especially from the side, are the wheels. The 14 inch rims look a size too small. Ford should have at least provided 15 inch rims as optional extras.
The rear is rather clean as well. Just a set of large tail-lamps that house a pair of reversing lamps and fog lamps, a high-mount stop lamp and some badging. The exhaust is neatly tucked away under the bumper too. A sharp crease runs from tail-lamp to tail-lamp adding some character to a bland rear profile.
Overall, the Figo carries a balanced, neutral design. It looks especially nice in the Orangish Golden shade that we had and there are six other shades to choose from as well. It does get quite a few glances on the road and a few people even mistook it for the Grand i10. While I attribute the latter to the color which is awfully similar to the one on the Hyundai, the former is definitely because Ford has played it’s design cards safe.
What I really like is how wide the doors open. Once seated, a familiar Ford layout welcomes you. Since the automatic is available in the Titanium (one down from the top-spec Titanium+) variant, it does miss out on certain features. Ford missed an opportunity not offering the automatic in the top-spec version, I firmly believe it would have totally been worth the extra money. The screen is replaced by what Ford calls 'MyDock' - a small area that houses a USB and an AUX port. The idea is to dock your phone horizontally, connect the USB or AUX to play music and use navigation too. Weirdly, the dock refused to charge my LG Nexus 5 for some reason. That said, the dock is most definitely a super convenient location for the cell-phone.
The plethora of buttons on the centre console are disorienting at first and the system does take a lot of getting used to. It took me forever to figure out how to sync my phone via bluetooth - it was much easier in the top spec Titanium+ version that had the Ford 'Sync' system. The tiny screen will show you the time, the name of the song that's playing or the radio station that you are listening too. The screen is almost unreadable under direct sunlight though - the blue backlight makes it a pain to decipher anything. Audio quality through the system is acceptable, not many will feel the need for an upgrade.
The Figo scores really high on storage spaces. There’s storage in the doors, around the centre console and also behind the handbrake. There’s also a small cubby hole on the side of the dash, just in case you need to hide something from your fellow passengers. Job well done there, Ford! Another nifty addition to the cabin are the height adjustable seat-belts. You do tend to sit quite low in the Figo; the option to adjust the height of the seat-belt is more than welcome. Coming to the seats, they offer nice support - even for someone who’s 6 ft tall and not in the best of shape. The front seat adjusts for height with a healthy range. Unlike the top-spec Titanium+ the Titanium variant gets fabric upholstery. That is something that can be changed easily; but if you intend on keeping them, they will get soiled very easily. From the driver’s seat, you’d immediately notice three things.
One - the instrument cluster is a couple of sizes smaller than what it should have been. Although I have no complaints about readability, it does look very tiny. Secondly, the rear-view mirrors are not wide enough - both internal and external. Reversing the Figo is a bit more of task than I originally thought. The lack of reverse parking sensors just made the whole ordeal worse. For the record, parking sensors are optional extras, and you should definitely tick that option. Lastly, the steering wheel is borrowed from the Ecosport. It gets buttons for the music & calls and can be adjusted for rake. The unit has a hard, grainy feel on the sides and a smooth finish at the top and the bottom. It’s a rather light steering by Ford standards, but we’ll let that slide since this is meant to be a city slicker. The only other fly in the otherwise smooth ointment, is the lack of a dead pedal.
The rear bench is a nice place to be, for two. The scooped out front seats liberates that extra bit of knee-room. Shoulder room is decent too and the large windows don’t let you feel claustrophobic. The head-room at the rear will definitely be an issue if you sit upright, though. There’s no central armrest, nor does the Figo get any rear ac-vents. The lack of vents at the back won’t bother you a lot - the rear-half of the cabin gets cooled quickly.
Speaking of which, the Automatic Climate Control behaved erratically during its week long stint with me. Pressing the power button would make the system start up with the temperature dialled up to max for some reason. The saving grace was that the Figo’s system gets a button that reads ‘MAX A/C’ - a button that sets the temperature to low, and the fan speed to full. A really nifty feature, it really chills the cabin very quickly.
The Figo, is a good place to be in. The layout is clean, there’s enough space for four and it has a really nice air-conditioning system. It ticks all the right boxes for being a comfortable hatch in a chaotic city. And one last thing, the blue backlight on the switches look super cool at night!
The build quality on the Figo - is strictly average. The paint quality, although better than the likes of the Swift or the Bolt, is just one notch below the Grand i10. The doors, hood and the boot don’t really close with that reassuring thud that Fords were associated with. They feel light and clangy and don’t really make the best sound when closed. There’s a similar story on the inside. To maximize space, the door pads are super thin. Due to this, the door pads will flex in and out when you operate the power windows. Not the best feeling in the world when someone puts down more than half a million rupees for a car, I say.
How’s it to drive?
One look at the specsheet and one might think the Figo automatic is fun to drive. Over 100 bhp, a dual clutch transmission, compact proportions - there’s a lot going for the little Ford. But, it isn’t the hot hatch everyone was hoping it would be. It is a casual, convenient city commuter - and that’s about it.
The DCT is an absolute boon when it comes to commuting within the city. The car does not require you to have your foot on the brake while shifting from Neutral to Drive. Once you shift to D, the car sets off smoothly and the upshifts are nothing short of seamless. No jerks or vibrations during shifts whatsoever. The vehicle is evidently tuned for efficiency - the gearbox will upshift at every feasible instance. Unlike in a VW, the Ford does not get a gear indicator. There’s no way of knowing what gear it is in at any given speed, unless you quickly shift to ‘S’ mode. Whilst in Sports mode,the MID displays the selected gear and the gearbox holds on to the revvs for longer. If you have pinned the throttle down to the floor, the upshifts happen only at the redline. Else, it will upshift at ~4000 rpm. There are two buttons on the side of the gear lever, marked ‘+’ and ‘-’ which can be used to change gears manually. If you attempt an upshift a bit too early or downshift whilst the revvs are too high, the gearbox will override that command and stay in the gear it deems fit. The gear indicator on the MID will blink a couple of times, reminding you that you’ve chosen the wrong gear. The torque figure on the Figo let’s the whole package down. There just isn’t enough of it for that gearbox to exploit and deliver. The gearbox also seems properly confused at inclines, it usually drops a gear more than required. This results in the revs climbing a bit too high. It is possibly the only condition under which the DCT isn’t polished. For everything else, it does just fine.
The ride quality on the Figo is appreciable too. It is on the softer side which results in it absorbing
the undulations on the road relatively easily. We tackled some monstrous potholes inside Mumbai and the Ford didn’t budge one bit. There’s no thudding noises of any sort - just a well tuned suspension doing its duty. The passengers at the rear do get tossed about slightly over broken roads, but other than that it is comfortable. The softer suspension does translate into a patch of body roll for the Ford. Add the fact that the skinny tyres aren’t exactly the confidence inspiring kind to the mix and you’d realize it is best to keep the Figo away from fast paced corners. With some fatter rubber, there’s no doubt the Figo would tackle bends better. The steering is a tad bit too light - especially by Ford standards. It does feel slightly dead and void of feedback while cornering, but works well whilst slipping through traffic. While the steering does weigh up slightly when you speed up, it still feels slightly nervous and twitchy at triple digit speeds.
The small dimensions, light steering and needless to mention, the automatic transmission make it as perfect as a city car can get. Yes, it will straddle along the highways calmly too. The driving dynamics are better than say a Grand i10 or even the Bolt for that matter. It’s a nice balance of fun and convenience. With the scales slightly tipped towards convenience that is.
The little Ford has come a long way from where it started off. Moreover, the pricing is near spot on too. At 7.1 lakhs ex-showroom, the Figo is the cheapest car with a dual clutch gearbox in the country. How do I sum it up? Well, it is a car you’d like to drive to work everyday. It won’t let you stress yourself out and will keep you comfortable too. For the weekends, it's got enough space for the missus and the kids. It is amongst the most sorted, no non-sense hatchbacks you can put your money on.