To take on the compact sedans of Maruti, Honda, Hyundai and Tata, Ford too launched its Figo Aspire in August 2015. With displays at shopping malls, the product was publicized days before its official launch. Ford seems to have done its homework well as the Aspire has been customised to Indian conditions. Much of the development work was done in the sub-continent and Brazil.
This sub 4 meter sedan comes in both diesel and petrol variants. The options include
• 1.5 litre TDCi diesel engine generating 98.6 bhp and 21.9 kgm torque
• 1.5 litre Ti-VCT petrol engine generating 110.5 bhp and 13.9 kgm toque
• 1.2 litre Ti-VCT petrol engine generating 86.8 bhp and 11.4 kgm torque
The 1.5 litre diesel and 1.2 litre petrol models are mated to 5 speed manual transmission and just for the 1.5 litre petrol Aspire, there is a 6 speed automatic gearbox.
How good is the Ford’s sub-4 meter saloon to compete with the rivals that have already activated competition in the market? Ecardlr does a 360 degree check of this new car:
Displaying balanced proportions, the Figo Aspire has Aston Martin looks with a large, hexagonal, chrome rich grille section. Its clean and crisp lines give it a discrete front end. The hood has a prominent bulge that is underscored by two vertical lines running from the Ford badge up till the windshield. The lines also blend with the depression on the roof and add a lot of character to the sedan.
Aspire’s large headlamps stretch all the way back to fenders and are embellished with chrome outlines. These are more of an evolved adaptation of the unit on current model of Figo. It is the chin of this sedan that adds largely to its aggressiveness. A lower grille smartly integrates with the broad bumper and fog lamps edged by black are further housed in trapezoidal caverns.
Viewed in profile, the Aspire does not look so proportionate and that is one thing going against the exterior looks of this car. Being a sub-4 meter sedan, it lacks a balanced form – the zone where presently Honda Amaze beats competition. To keep it under 4 metres in length (it measures 3995 mm), the rear end had to be cut short abruptly and the imbalance therefore becomes visible.
It is just the stretch of the headlamp and the prominent shoulder line that create a style statement. On this top end Titanium trim, Ford has used a chrome insert instead of the blinker on the fender. The variant therefore gets blinkers mounted on to its outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs). The window line rises as it runs to the rear and another line flows parallel to it on the body.
Ford Figo Aspire stands on 14 inch alloy wheels with 175/65 R14 tyres and has a ground clearance of 174 mm. The tail lamps slightly wrap around the sides and can therefore be partially seen in the profile look too.
On moving towards the rear end the boot looks stubby and there is a thick chrome strip running on the upper half of boot lid. The Ford logo sits in between. This chrome lining makes the rear appear wider than it essentially is. Boot volume for this car is 359 litres.
The tail lights appear nice but they do not have LEDs even for a top end variant. The rear bumper is somewhat flat – it has a black insert and few creases that give it some styling.
Stepping inside you will find yourself in a trendy black and beige interior. The dashboard will look familiar to those who have been in the cabin of EcoSport. Indeed, steering wheel, centre console and the information screen are quite like the units in both EcoSport and Fiesta. As per the variant, there are either gloss black or silver finished inserts for dash and door pads. Quality of fit and finish is just at par with competitors and not exceptional or class-leading. Knurled knobs for the climate control look nice though and feel better than what Ford has used in the EcoSport.
The steering wheel has audio controls. With its light blue illumination, the instrument cluster looks pleasant but the dials could have been bigger. The fuel gauge and tachometer are equal sized and make the cluster of dials look proportionate. There are circular air vents on the sides and they have chrome detailing in the top trim. Design of headlamp switches has been changed and they are positioned below the driver side air vent. The boot release button is also located next to it and is simple to access.
There are plenty of cubby holes to store knick knacks. A storage point with lid exists on the dashboard. Door pockets are big and can take in more than one bottle if required.
The airy cabin of Aspire has good amount of interior space. Range topping Titanium trim gets first-in-segment leather seats. There is sufficient support up front. All of the controls have been laid out well and owners will find them easy to use with this placing. There are plenty of buttons for the entertainment system but are organised and big enough for use. And the steering wheel is nice to grip with its thumb contours. The best part is that the steering stalks, taken from Ford's common parts bin, are now in a proper RHD configuration (that is - the indicator stalk is on the right).
For the rear part of cabin, the doors open at reasonably fine angle but the ingress and egress are not completely effortless. There is a narrow passageway and floor’s side beam is high. So your foot may whack against the B-pillar.
You will find the space at the rear on par with competition. The front seats have scoops at back for more knee room to rear passengers. It’s just that (as also in other sub 4 meter sedans) three adult passengers on the rear seat will just manage to sit but will be squeezed in. The one in middle may feel more uncomfortable because of the floor hump and the fact that the seat squab is moderately raised in mid. Rear seat also has a centre armrest. It is clad completely in soft materials and does not have cup holders. The fabric cushion next to the armrest is good.
The boot space in this car at 359 litres is less than that in Amaze and the Xcent but it is reasonably practical. The loading lip is high and the boot is adequately deep too.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
With its three engine and two transmission options, the Aspire gives a nice range of powertrains in its segment. There was an expectation that Ford will use the 1.0 L EcoBoost in the Aspire. But that would have increased the price as it is a direct import. What’s more, the 1.0L EcoBoost is not as fuel-efficient as you will want and it has a turbo-lag problem too.
Driving the Diesel 1.5 litre Aspire
This engine taken from the Fiesta and EcoSport has been tweaked for extra power. It now produces 98.6 bhp at 3750 rpm and 21.9 kgm torque at 1750-3000 rpm. You feel a shiver of the cabin as you start the motor. The engine noise is audible and it does feel like a diesel at idling. The clatter settles as the revs rise and then the Aspire feels more refined than some other cars in its segment.
On the road, the 1.5 litre engine feels linear and breathes well. There is not much turbo lag and you will get the surge of power as and when it is asked for.
With its power and torque ratings, the good performance of diesel Aspire is not surprising. The driveability in the city is amazing. At low rpms, there is ample torque and it does not feel lifeless as some sedans do below 2000 rpms. This car is well-mannered in the city and is good for daily commuting between home and office. Throttle responses are satisfactory and there is no need to downshift frequently. Turbo lag is also well controlled and even where the turbocharger does not kick in, the power delivery is linear.
So the 1.5 litre diesel makes driving a satisfying experience in the city but it is on the highways that it shows its stronger potential. If you put your foot down on the A pedal, the car goes over 110 km/hr effortlessly. It is nimble in straight line and is about 3 seconds faster for the 0-100 km/hr dash than competitors in this segment. Its strong mid range makes overtaking easy.
Although the TDCi can rev up to 5000 rpm when needed, the real progress is slow post 4000 rpm and will prompt you to upshift earlier. And there is an undesirable boomy sound that seeps in at those rpm levels. The 100 km/hr comes at 2300 rpm in fifth gear and 120 km/hr at 2600 rpm.
The 5 speed manual transmission is good to use and does the job expected for most part. Gear shifts feel smooth and the ratios are spaced out nicely to make full use of the torque. The clutch pedal is on the heavier side as compared to the petrol Aspire. While it is not irksome, there are competitors with lighter clutch pedals and they have a shorter travel range.
Driving the Petrol 1.2 litre Aspire
We also checked the performance of petrol Aspire briefly. This engine is a significantly tweaked version of the unit in Figo hatch. The changes include twin independent variable camshaft timing, a modified cylinder head intake port, low friction pistons and a variable displacement oil pump. Outcome is better fuel economy and higher power output. The engine churns out 86.8 bhp at 6300 rpm and 11.4 kgm torque at 4000 rpm. It is 17 bhp and 1.02 kgm more than the outgoing Figo. The maximum power and torque are delivered at almost the same rpm as the older engine.
As you crank up the engine, its refinement level impresses you. It is smooth, hushed and there are hardly any vibrations at idling. Just remember though that this is a simple commuter’s engine. It will take you from one part of the city to another but has no special feats.
The torque at low rpms is just adequate, not strong. A competitor like Zest offers better driveability than Aspire petrol. This one will fulfil your needs for city commuting satisfactorily but don’t expect it to fill in the traffic gaps swiftly. You will need to work through the ‘box and downshift if you need pep.
Because of the smaller engine, the Aspire 1.2 litre petrol feels unexciting at most points in the rev range. On the highways, the mid-range does not impress making it a car in the slower sub 4 meter sedans category. Overtaking fast moving vehicles will need planning. The 100 km/hr is manageable at 2900 rpm in 5th gear. NVH level is at par with other saloons in this category. With a cabin full of 5 occupants, it is wise to stick to a sedate driving style and keep out of the faster lane.
Ford may need to work more on this engine to take on the competition effectively.
Ride and Handling
The comfort focused design of the cabin is supported by the suspension. At low speeds the ride quality of Ford Aspire is compliant for both front and rear seat occupants. The rough patches are absorbed well and even at speed, this car continues to behave like a comfortable cruiser. The 14 inch tyres are grippy. However, with the increase in speed, the suspension feels softer and on highways the car does suffer from some bobbing and gets wallowy.
In terms of handling, this car is well tuned to mass market tastes. The steering feels light at city driving speed but keep the cornering in check as it tends to toe the intended line. It is easy to maneuver the car through traffic and in tight parking places. With that comfort oriented suspension, there is not much to car’s handling abilities. If you take on a corner speedily, the body roll comes in early. Push a little harder and understeer sets in. The mid-corner bumps can also disturb this sedan’s poise. It will be good to get a tyre upgrade for the diesel Aspire.
The stability on the highways is at par with competition. Once again though, the undulations on the tarmac will result in wallowy behaviour. This car is not for the enthusiasts – it has been built for the mass market and will drive like one. So just stick to reasonable speeds and you will have no issues.
The turning radius of steering wheel is short enough at 4.9 meters. With the increase in speeds, the EPS does weigh up but you miss the old Figo feel. A ground clearance of 174 mm is enough for the roads and it is second highest after Tata Zest petrol.
The brakes have a predictable behaviour and offer a good bite. It is only at braking from very high speed that the rear does not feel planted.
The ARAI rating for Ford Aspire diesel is 25.83 km/litre. And for the petrol 1.2 litre Aspire it is 18.2 km/litre. This should be satisfactory for the owners.
Ford’s Aspire is quite late to join the bandwagon of sub 4 meter sedans. But in the approaching festive season it can win a good share of buyers. The 1.5 litre diesel engine is particularly competitive and is also fuel efficient. A well-packaged cabin with adequate space, loads of features, comfortable seats and effective air-con will also prove attractive for buyers of this car. As a segment first, Aspire has dual airbags for standard and the top Titanium + trim gets 6 airbags.
Pricing starts at Rs. 4.90 lakhs for 1.2 litre petrol base variant and goes up to Rs 8.25 lakhs for top end diesel trim (all prices ex-showroom Delhi).
Value for Money: 3.5/5
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