In a nutshell, the Figo Aspire is the long awaited replacement to the old Fiesta Classic. Launched in 2006, with two petrol and one diesel, the Fiesta was a terrific car. It sold in big numbers and Ford managed to keep it going for nine years – quite a long life cycle for any car, by modern standards. How they managed to do it , is down to how well – suited the Fiesta was for India. It was the right size, the right price, it felt solid, had a good ride quality, the diesel engine was quite frugal and the 1.6 litre petrol was fantastic to drive. The Figo Aspire which replaces it thus, has some very big shoes to fill.
The Figo Aspire and its upcoming hatchback (the new Figo) are developed for India and markets like Brazil which need a smaller, more cost effective car than the global Fiesta. The decision to launch the Aspire sedan before the Figo hatchback is a good move , to stop those who would otherwise call it a hatchback with a boot added on. For India, Ford had to make the Figo Aspire fall under the sub 4-metre mark to qualify for excise benefits ; pitting it against strong and established players like the Maruti Dzire, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent etc.
If anything the Figo Aspire gets right from the start, it’s the styling. Cars in this segment often have to compromise on the looks to stay within the prescribed 4 metre length but the Figo Aspire seems rather well proportioned than all its rivals. It is a bit tall – which it has to be – but the bonnet and boot seem to be well integrated and the design feels cohesive enough. The front end, as with all modern Fords, has the big Aston Martin like grille and a sculpted bonnet. The rear is kept simple with a rather flat boot lid with a long chrome strip straddling the large tail lamps. The 14 inch wheels do look small , set against the tall proportions of the Aspire.
The dashboard retains some of the familiarity with the Ecosport and the global Fiesta. The centre console, the high-set display screen for the audio system, the steering wheel etc seem to be designed along the same lines as the bigger offerings from Ford. What it lacks , however, is the solid feel one has come to expect of Ford. When you close the door the thud isn’t as satisfactory as it used to be, say, in the earlier Fiesta. Overall quality of plastics isn’t very good either, especially the door pads and the instrument console looks decidedly cheap.
The Figo Aspire has a suitably large cabin, thanks to its generous wheelbase and Ford’s clever utilization of vertical space. All the seats offer good cushioning and lateral support. The top end variants we tried out came with leather seats. The rear seats have ample knee room and offer a better seating than you would expect of such a small car. There are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin and the boot is a fairly large 359 litres.
The Figo Aspire comes with the choice of two petrol engines and one diesel. The 1.2 litre petrol model comes with 87 bhp and is adequate for city driving. It is quite refined and the gearshifts are light and precise. It is not an outright fun motor like the outgoing Fiesta’s 1.6 Duratec , but does its job rather well. Those who want more power have to look at the 110 bhp 1.5 litre petrol variant of the Aspire , although it only comes with the dual clutch automatic gearbox. The pick of the range for most however, will be the 1.5 litre diesel variant. Unlike most manufacturers who deliberately detune the lower segment models in the family ladder, Ford has given the Aspire more power than the Fiesta and Ecosport. While the Fiesta and Ecosport do with 90 bhp, the diesel engine in the Aspire produces almost 100 bhp. This coupled with the light weight of the car (1048 kg) makes for a good performance on the road. The engine has good tractability and pulls cleanly from 1500 revs. There is ample midrange power and though it gets a bit loud at high revs, it pulls all the way to 4000 rpm.
The Figo Aspire rides well on broken roads , with the suspension ironing out most potholes. The directional stability at high speeds is good, but what is lost is the magic of how it all revolved around the driver back in the day. Those who revere Fords for driving pleasure will find the steering a bit vague and off-centre, the chassis doesn’t feel as grippy and there is not much feedback from the suspension. To everyone, it is still better than the way most cars drive; but to a proper Ford enthusiast, it now drives like just another car.
So, the big question is, should one buy one? It looks fresh, offers good interior space, has decent engines, very practical interiors and comes loaded with equipments. It has a breadth of abilities that makes it a stand out from the crowd and with prices starting just under Rs.5 lakhs, the Figo Aspire looks ready to lock horns with its established rivals.