Ford. A word, a company that immediately strikes a chord with my heart. This is a company that has been close to me since childhood. I have had the pleasure to test drive many cars, but the ones I actually look forward to are the ones that this American company manufactures. They make cars that are fantastic to drive and once you are hooked on to any of their cars, you get hooked onto the brand for life. This is why I was especially excited when Ford sent us a long term vehicle. A Figo Diesel. Having driven this beauty in the past, I was so much more excited to see how this sweet handler behaves as a family car.
The 1st generation Ford Figo was launched way back in 2010. That one received the frugal and responsive 1.4-litre TDCi diesel with a measly 68 HP and 160 Nm. Even with power deficit the Figo diesel sold well, mainly thanks to its frugal engine, spacious cabin and class leading driving dynamics. The second generation Figo Diesel was launched in 2016 and has been still trying to make its mark in the Indian market. The reason? Well, you might have to continue reading to get that answer.
The current Figo was reborn first in a sedan form, that is the Aspire, and Ford India later on got in the Figo hatchback in India. The Figo hatchback came and builds up on every good aspect from its predecessor. The spacious cabin, powerful diesel engine and frugality, although it somewhere lost its character. The Figo went soft with the second generation and didn’t feel as connected as before. But here were some misconceptions that grow upon you, when you own the vehicle for yourself. And that’s what exactly happened over the 4 months of experiencing the car from behind the wheel. Here’s a low down on all of those 4 months in brief.
My stint with the car began with me picking it up from our office in Thane. From here, a drive to Goa with the rest of the time evaluating it spent there. The drive to Goa itself was a fantastic one. The new Ford Figo Diesel gets a bigger 1.5-litre diesel motor that develops 100 HP and 215 Nm of peak power and torque. This motor can be classified as a true GEM and falls onto this side of Ford’s original 1.6-litre ROCAM petrol motor and the Honda 1.5-litre i-VTECs. The way this diesel engine revs is something I can describe for hours. It impresses every time you put your foot down on the accelerator. I was keeping up with the big daddies (Mercs, Beemers etc) on my drive down to Goa and boy, was it fun to race past them!
The engine is a 8-valve unit, but it is so hard to believe this fact. The engine was first debuted under the hood of the 2nd generation Ford Fiesta in 2012, followed by the Ford EcoSport in 2013. Initially, it was launched in a 90 HP avatar, but then was later given a boost of 10 HP with the launch of the Ford Aspire. Low end responsiveness is as good if not better than the old 1.4-litre TDCi units, and it also has a punchy mid range. Top end doesn’t feel strong, but there is so much torque offered in the mid range that you don’t mind upshifting early to the next gear. This also saves you from the rather loud noise this engine makes in its top end. But hey, we are not complaining!
The gearbox is a 5-speed manual unit that has been revised and used ever since the initial Ford Ikon. The IB5 gearbox feels fun to use but now is showing its age with a tad rubbery feel when shifting gears in gala mood. Clutch action is superior and the Figo benefits from a feature that holds engine revs temporarily when you upshift to the next gear. Call it auto blip for upshifts. This feature allows for jerk free gearshifts and adds to the driving pleasure. It makes you feel like you are driving an automatic for the most part and is the most underrated feature on the Ford Figo Diesel. Even the company does not talk about this feature for that matter.
Handling too, is great and you feel that Ford DNA lurking under the Ford Figo’s skin. But, there is a big but here! To improve ride comfort, Ford engineers have gone for a rather softer suspension setup. So in turn, that magic the earlier Figo offered in terms of handling is not present. The car rolls more in to corners and there is limited grip that is offered by the 175 section tyres. The electric power steering too doesn’t feel as responsive at centre, but weighs up adequately while crushing corners. The Ford Figo S that was launched early last year does a way better job in the handling department. For the common man though, the Figo feels adequately sporty to pass off as a proper Ford car. Although for us enthusiasts, the Figo S still is nirvana. The upside of the softer suspension setup is that you get a very comfy low speed ride, for everything else, the S still feels better.
Now that you know the regular chit chat about this baby Ford, lets talk about some practical bits on the insides. The earlier Figo was quite spacious for its small footprint, and the new one takes it to another level. There is loads of space on the inside and you can compare it to the Honda Amaze for the sense of space it offers. There is a decent amount of legroom in the back seat and you get great headroom upfront. The infotainment system gets Ford’s SYNC technology that lets you pair your phone via Bluetooth and offers features like Emergency Assist, App Link and Ford My Key. The monochrome display looks a bit outdated now, especially since rivals like the Hyundai Grand i10 offer touchscreen interfaces with the likes of Android Auto and Apple Car Play. So the Figo definitely needs a upgrade on this front, even though the current system is quite capable.
The Figo does have its own convenience features like follow me home headlamps, econometer etc. The car also comes with a feature which allows you to use the power windows for a few seconds after you turn off the ignition. Also, when you turn off the ignition and remove your key, the music system will play your music or keep your Bluetooth call on the car’s speakers until and unless you open the door. After this, the call gets automatically transferred to your phone ear piece and all this happens so seamlessly. You also get automatic climate control system on the top two trim levels. There is one big grouse though.
Till now, what we have said about the Figo will convince that this could be a great buy amidst mid size hatchbacks. But having the car for a long term has also magnified and cleared out why the new Figo isn’t selling as well as it deserves to. For starters, the build quality on this new car feels light and isn’t as reassuring as the previous generation car or even current generation cars like the Ford EcoSport or the bigger Endeavour. This was highlighted by the fact that the rear door squeaked noticeably on crossing a speed breaker or some sharp road undulations, and also the door shut noise for that matter, the looks aren’t something that will turn heads.
Secondly, the design of the new Figo passes off as just another regular hatchback with a traditional silhouette. Yes, the front end looks attractive with its Mustang-like grille (some call it Aston Martin like), but rest of the design doesn’t feel up there with the current trends. This is an area where the company really needs to work on the facelift that will probably come in later this year. It’s not that it is a bad-looking car, just that rivals are better. We enthusiasts would even forgive the looks of the new Figo because of the way it drives, but the janta can be unforgiving.
The next most important aspect of Ford is its after sales service. Now, I didn’t have any complaints here as the service outlet in Goa did a great job at it. Yes, the car had a few issues here and there that were swiftly addressed by the guys at the service centre. There is a huge myth that goes around when it comes to servicing a Ford in India. People conceive it to be more expensive than other manufacturers. But truth be told, it is completely the opposite. Ford offers one of the most well-managed after sales service that you will find in India. Being a Ford owner myself, I will go ahead and say it is better than a certain Indo Japanese manufacturer, at least in Goa, where I reside.
The Ford Figo Diesel that we received, apart from doing daily work duties, was also often taken for grocery shopping and countless airport drops. This reminds me of the boot space which is lower than the previous generation car. The new Figo gets a smaller boot than the outgoing car, even though it has more cabin space than the 1st generation model. It has a higher loading lip too, making it a tad bit difficult to load in your luggage. The ground clearance though has been rectified with the new car. Its seating position can feel low but the new Figo has enough ground clearance to clear out the biggest of the speed breakers.
After the 4 months I spent with the car, I have come to a conclusion that it has to be one of the most underrated hatchbacks to be sold in India. The car is involving to drive, and that stonking 1.5-litre diesel motor is an absolute gem. The car gets superb cabin space and comes loaded with the likes of safety features like 6 airbags offered on the top variant. There are also a few shortcomings in terms of the passe design language and the light build quality. These are shortcomings that can be ignored by us enthusiasts, but we are indeed a minority.
Coming back to the question, is it a good family hatchback? The answer is yes, and one of the best at it. It indeed lacks some of that excitement in the package, but the combination of space and performance it offers at its price, is unmatched and as you will see the fuel logs below, it is very economical to run too. For the time being there are 2 things that Ford India needs to do with the Figo to make it a valuable contender in this segment – 1. Freshen up the exterior and 2. Add some more goodies on the inside. Frankly no one really gives a darn if you offer class leading safety, unless you give them a great infotainment system and good looks.
We, for that matter, are definitely going to miss our long term Figo. The way the engine pulls in any gear is something that you need to experience. The adrenaline rush that it offers and the sheer driving pleasure is unmatched in its class, even though it is still a notch below its predecessor. This is a car I would happily trade in my current 1st generation Figo Diesel for, but someone needs to come and convince my family about it. Well, this is the problem with every Car Guy, you see!!