Do Compact Saloons Make any Sense: Ford Figo Aspire

The sub 4-metre rule might have created a new segment or two, but is it really worth the effort? We try to decipher that by driving the Figo hatchback and the Figo Aspire saloon.

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With the same set of engine and gearbox combinations available for both the new Ford Figo hatchback and the Figo Aspire compact saloon, the main difference is the body style. And while the Figo was introduced a little later (and is yet to find steady sales), the Figo Aspire has used its time in the market rather well – averaging at about 3k units every month.

Let’s see what really works in favour of the Figo Aspire:

Pricing

First and foremost, it’s the pricing that has helped both Ford products have a promising start in the market. Prices for the Figo hatchback start at Rs 4.3 lakh, ex-showroom, while with the added boot and a slightly different feature set, the Figo Aspire is priced at Rs 4.9 lakh onwards. Also unlike the Figo hatchback, there’s no ‘Base’ variant in the Aspire, so if you compare the base Ambiente trim of the saloon to that of the hatchback, there’s just a price difference of about Rs 30,000.

Space

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Ford Figo Aspire boot space

Although the two cars come with an identical wheelbase, it’s understandably the Aspire which offers more boot space. In comparison to the Ford Figo hatchback’s 257 litre of space, the Aspire offers 359 litres. Inside the cabin there has been a decent utilisation of space – there are enough cubby holes and bottle holders, and while the phone mount can’t hold a 6-inch wide smartphone (guess it’s not standard yet), the ability to mount a phone and use it as the screen for navigation is a good feature, nevertheless.

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Ford Figo boot space

What doesn’t work:

Looks

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While the design is identical at the front (save for a few minute differences), the overall proportions haven’t ever been right with the compact, sub 4-metre saloons. While the whole ‘boot strapped on to a hatchback’ is slowly making way for more cohesive designs, it’s still the Figo hatchback which looks better.

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In the Figo Aspire’s favour, there are certain things worth applauding in the car. The boot might not be a design masterpiece but there are visible changes made to make it appear better: a subtle curve on the taillamps (pictured here), the use of chrome applique on the rear, etc.

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But in the end, does it look as good as the new Figo? Sadly, not.

And what’s good with both of them:

Ride and Handling

In terms of ride and handling, the Figo Aspire offers a good combination. It soaks bumps well and the it is high enough (174 mm off the ground) to not let the regular-sized potholes or speed-breakers pose a threat to the vehicle’s underside. It remains stable at triple digit speeds, and if you’ve opted for an eager engine (more on which below), the car won’t let you down.

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In terms of handling, the vehicle is keen to respond to the steering inputs, but doesn’t feel as direct as previous Fords. The electric power assisted steering has some weight to it, so it doesn’t feel unnerving, but feels a little disconnected. Of course not so much to make this a deal breaker, because during regular driving it almost goes unnoticed, especially once you’ve spent some time with the vehicle.

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The 175-section R14 tyres can certainly be swapped for a size bigger, wider tyre and wheel combo. Having said that, in everyday scenario, the tyre upgrade might not feel a big jump but if you intend to do highway driving, do consider getting it done. Also, the current setup leaves a lot of space between the wheel arch and the wheel (called wheel gap among enthusiasts), which obviously is an eyesore.

Engines

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The Figo Aspire, like the Figo hatchback, is available with three engine and gearbox choices: a 1.2-litre petrol unit (NA with variable valve timing) mated to a 5-speed manual, a 1.5-litre petrol unit mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, and a 1.5-litre diesel. We drove the latter and it’s hugely likeable. Also see – India’s fastest affordable diesel hatchback.

The headline figures for the 1498 cc diesel engine include 100 PS @ 3750 rpm and 211 Nm between 1750 and 3000 rpm. For a vehicle that weighs just about 1,000 kilos (kerb weight), that translates to a commendable power to weight ratio. Obviously it’s not a performance oriented vehicle but one that performs really well for its size and market position.

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Unlike a lot of other diesels, this one isn’t keen on using the momentum in 2nd or 3rd to move for forward, you are likely to downshift (to 1st and 2nd respectively) to make progress. Shift quality isn’t the best either – you can sense the gears are getting engaged but it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel loose but there’s a certain rubbery feel to it.

And on top of it all, the vehicle isn’t going to disappoint you in terms of efficiency either. In our short meeting the digital readout maintained 15 kmpl, which might not be anywhere close to Ford’s claimed 25.83 kmpl but considering the Aspire had to undergo a varied set of condition, it’s not bad.

Verdict

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Ford has got the pricing right, and with features being evenly spread across the range the Figo Aspire appears to be a good option. What stands out, apart from its decent handling and the diesel engine, is the vehicle’s cabin. Unlike the Figo, which sports a darker interior (looks good, though), the Figo Aspire’s dual tone black and beige combination makes the cabin classy. Safety-wise the base versions get dual airbags while as you move up the range, ABS becomes standard and the top spec version gets a total of 6 airbags. The automatic (not available in top-spec) comes with driver aids like Traction Control and Hill Start Assist.

It’s easily the best choice among the sub 4-metre saloons, if you consider the features, the way it drives, and also its looks. The Figo hatchback does look slightly better, but if you use the boot often, then this one’s a clear winner.

Also see – 10 beautifully modified everyday cars