New Ford Figo to Jalori Pass: One capable car in the mountains

India can be pronounced as one of the most diversified countries in the world. From the islands in the south to some dramatic beaches which are internationally famous form the identity of the country. One such geographic asset that India is proud of is the great Himalaya. Lakhs of people attempt to climb the heights of the world’s youngest and greatest mountain range. The magnetic effect of the mountains gets you addicted and consumes you in a good way.

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To mark India’s yet another Independence anniversary, spending time with India’s greatest valour seemed like a perfect plan. A little-known place called Tirthan was set as a destination and the roads to this interior location of Himalaya are not the best. After giving a lot of thought on which will be the best chariot to carry our bodies to such a place, many cars popped up and fought against each other in my head but the new Ford Figo won the race.

Why the Figo? India is still in love with the hatchback segment. Many people are giving in to the increasing population of the crossovers in the market but the major chunk of sales are still driven by the hatchbacks. I have always been little biased towards the American hatchback because of its handling capabilities and ride quality and the pull towards it became much stronger when the new Figo came out with the vigorous 100 PS diesel engine. After spending a short time with the car long back, when the car was very young in the market. I really wanted to test the good looking car in the mountains, which is nothing less than a third home, if you count my office as the second one.

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Given the long weekend, starting at night gave us an edge to take the lead in the traffic. The infamous rain of Delhi did create initial delay but it did give me a chance to test the Figo in the traffic. The car feels much smaller than its size in the traffic because of its quick direction changing abilities. The steering feels very stable and light during slow city speeds. The car is very agile. Soon after crossing the border of the National Capital and seeing the roaming sign on our phones, we were gunning towards the higher altitudes. The roads opened up nicely and the Figo felt very planted on the road.

The car does not look like a fast car but is a very capable one. The speed limit on the Asian Highway 1 is 100 km/h and the Figo had no problem matching up to the speed limit. After hitting the first toll at Panipat, we moved forward. We already did around 115 km and that took only an hour and forty minutes.

After crossing the second toll barrier at Karnal, we generally stop at the famous Jhilmil Dhaba but we were carrying snacks and to tell the truth, the car feels very comfortable. We skipped the routine stop and headed straight towards the mountains.

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The highway becomes single lane after taking right from Ambala city. There is not a single street light and the highway crosses a lot of villages. Even though it was around midnight, such paths are not very safe. The new Figo has good illumination and spotting potholes and animals on the road were not very difficult at all. We were zooming past the road signs and with the layer of 6-airbags around, you really do not feel anxious. Sudden spotting of potholes did kick in the ABS system and the brakes have a very good bite in them.

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Soon after gulping the tarmac on the plains, we reached Kirtapur from where the mountains take over the geography. This stretch has been under construction for a long time now and the rainy season makes the condition even worse. Treading on the good parts of the road slowly, we started climbing the mountains.

I always find driving in the mountains easier at night. The roads are less crowded, cities like Sundarnagar don’t delay you because of the huge market traffic and you get to see the light from the oncoming vehicles while taking the blind corners. That makes things very easy at night.

The best thing about driving in the mountains is the curvy roads. The unwinding roads can put you off if you don’t have a vehicle that handles well but with the Figo, I faced no such issue. In fact, the car is fun to drive on such stretches. The almost negligible body-roll induces a lot of confidence in you.

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With the first ray of sun, we reached near Aut tunnel. Now, I really did not expect to reach so quick and that too during the rainy season. Driving the Figo gives you a lot of confidence along with power which is missing from other vehicles in the segment. We stopped for sometime to admire the star lighting up our planet. The Figo looks immensely good and even while we stopped to admire a waterfall, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the car. The beautiful lines on the body make it very muscular while the modern front face makes it an arguable winner in the segment, but there was nothing else to compare and I would happily crown the Figo as the most beautiful car in the segment.

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Tirthan is a lesser known place in the mountains and the roads are not very well paved. As the sun became stronger, we inched towards our warm beds waiting for us. The whole drive did put a smile on my face.

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We explored the Tirthan village in the evening and it became very difficult for me to click any pictures without putting the Figo in the frame. We called it a day with good memories of the car.

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As Tirthan is very close to the treacherous Jalori pass, the thought of doing it with the Figo bounced back and forth in my head several times but after putting in a lot of thought we decided to go ahead and turn back if things did not look good. The roads to Jalori Pass were covered in mud, slush and continuous rain made the situation worse. Jalori pass is situated 10,800 feet above sea level and the roads are inclined steeply.

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Even though the roads did not offer any help, the 174mm ground clearance of the car did not touch a single point. Thanks to the agile steering which allows quick movements and the ESC takes care of anything that you may do wrong while making quick changes on such roads.

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The gearing on Figo is perfect for mountain climbs. The engine starts to deliver power at a lower rpm that makes it easier to climb. We reached Jalori and seeing a few vehicles stranded because of the road conditions was a horrific sight.

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A road block for clearing the landslide even put a thought in our head to turn back but now that we were so close to the top, we waited for a couple of hours. Jalori Pass is a famous stopover for people doing Manali-Shimla route. The small dhabas offer warm tea and spicy maggi to wake you up.

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The next day we came back to the base and the total distance covered by Figo was 1233 km. It is a very efficient car and returned 18 km to a litre including the Jalori pass stretch of 60 km (return) during which I had to drive in either first or second gear.

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The good music system with the SYNC is something you can’t miss in the car but something I really missed was the navigation. Nonetheless, my love for Figo only became stronger after the mountain date we had and I hope to see the car in my garage very soon, especially after Ford dropped the prices and made it one car you can’t miss in the segment.

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Know more about such liberating journeys that you can take across India here: Go Further Journeys