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09 Mar, 2017 ,
The compact four metre sedan market in India is growing exponentially with various carmakers coming up with their products. After the launch of EcoSport, Ford has come up with its sub-four metre sedan christened as ‘Aspire’ which is the basically a second generation Figo with an added boot. Now the Aspire has been developed by Ford from the scratch for India, keeping Indian conditions in mind. But can it stand against the top players like Maruti Dzire, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent and Tata Zest? Is the Aspire good enough? Read on.
The Figo Aspire has a premium and dynamic design language which features Ford’s Kinetic design philosophy. The bold hexagonal chrome grill along with the four slats makes the front of the Aspire look smart and distinctive. The bonnet although well sculpted bulges out and is highlighted by two vertical lines running from the Ford logo until the windshield. The bonnet and the grille does remind you of the Aston Martin. The sliding headlamps look like an advanced version of the current generation Figo and are large in size. The bumper houses the protruding fog lamps and features a few defining lines.
The headlamps and the prominent shoulder line add some character to the otherwise tedious side profile. Instead of an indicator a chrome insert has been placed on the fender. The top Titanium variant which we have here today gets indicators mounted to the mirror however the lower variants will have it placed on the fender. The window line flows upwards to the rear while another line runs parallel to it on the body. The 14 inches 8 spoke alloy wheels although small for our liking gels well with the overall design. The rear end has been cut short to keep the car length under 4m and its very evident from the side angle.
Coming to the rear profile, the overall design is smartly done with the striking D shaped tail lamps. The tail lamps miss out on LED lighting though. The chrome strip which runs across the width of the car makes the rear look wider. The bumper is almost flat considering the shortened rear. A few lines and a black insert sum up the overall styling. Ford took its own sweet time to react to this segment, which it finally has and we are impressed with the aesthetics that Aspire has to offer.
Get in to the cabin, you will notice the two tone treatment of the dash. The fit and finish is immaculate and on par with the segment. The black and beige sections also stand out well with the interior design. The steering wheel, gear knob and wing shaped centre console look similar and feels solid. The knobs for the climate control system do look well-off and sorted. The quality of the door pads and the lower half plastics of the centre console is about average. The design of the instrument cluster is very simple and boring while the tachometer and fuel gauge are similarly sized.
The cabin of the Aspire focuses on practicality too. The cabin space is longish thanks to the generous 2491mm wheelbase. The boot space stands at an impressive 359 litres and the doors open wide enough to give an easy access to the cabin. Talking about practicality and storage there are plenty of cubbyholes and spaces to store your stuff in the cabin. The glove box is spacious enough, there are two bottle holders on each of the front door pocket and the centre console houses three cupholders too. The rear doors on the other hand don’t come equipped with any bins. The stalk behind the steering wheel is placed on the right side instead of left.
Moving on, there is a rubberised ledge for keeping your bits and pieces in front of the gear lever. Now there are a couple of smart tech innovations that comes with the Aspire. The MyKey system allows you to preset things like speed and volume limits for the driver. There is also a nicely executed MyFord Dock atop the centre which is basically a rubberised phone/device holder. It works pretty well and you can place your valuable devices in it without any second thoughts and is best suitable for people who rely heavily on GPS. The Aspire Titanium+ variant gets a 4 speaker sound system and a 4.2 inch mult-function display. It’s not a touchscreen unit though. The system supports AUX, USB, MP3, CD and Bluetooth audio streaming. You also get ‘SYNC with AppLink' system that deciphers voice commands as well. The display unit also shows the door ajar warning and changes to climate control settings too.
The Aspire is one of the best sedan in the market today as far as comfort is concerned. At the front, the front seats offer tremendous thigh and back support. The top end variant gets leather seats and the cushioning is just ample and perfect. For the driver’s seat, there is a lot of seating adjustment options along with a low dashboard which gives ample visibility. The rear seat is more spacious than it looks and offers excellent knee room even for tall passengers. The cushioning, thigh support and backrest feels plush and accommodating at the same time. Overall the cabin is a lovely place to be in the Ford Aspire.
The Ford Aspire comes with a 1.5-litre diesel, a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Out of the three engines trims the diesel unit turned out to be our favourite.
The 1.5 TDCi Diesel engine found on the Ford Aspire is the similar unit present on the EcoSport and Fiesta but in a slightly powerful state of tune. The power plant produces 98.6bhp along with a healthy 21.9kgm of torque. The diesel Aspire has a tweaked ECU, an intercooler and fixed geometry setup. The block and head are made out of aluminium. Turn on the ignition and you will find that the cabin faces a lot of clattering and the diesel is quite audible.
On the move you will notice how fun and torquey the engine is. We found the diesel unit to be much livelier than the 1.2L petrol. We will talk about the 1.2L petrol unit later. A healthy dose of torque is available below 2000rpm and does not feel sluggish like other sedans in the competition. The Aspire diesel is the perfect companion for your every day city commutes. You don’t need have to downshift too often as the throttle response is satisfying without any turbo lag. Power delivery is very linear while the turbocharger kicks in.
On the highway the engine shines out and given its power and torque rating, this came as no surprise. Cruising at 120 km/h or beyond is an easy affair and the Aspire feels very quick in straight line acceleration. 100 km/h comes up at 2,300 rpm in 5th gear, while 120 km/h comes up at 2,600 rpm. Healthy mid-range ensures quick and easy overtaking. You don’t have to downshift for that extra performance. The diesel revs up to 5000rpm when required but then it feels strained and you can hear a roaring sound. Progress after 4000rpm is slow thereby provoking you to upshift early.
NVH levels are contained well. The engine note is audible at certain rpm levels but doesn’t bother much. You can feel the vibrations on the pedals depending on the level of rpm. The 5 speed manual gearbox feels good to use and it does its job for the most part. The clutch lever could have been lighter and the travel range could have been shorter.
The 1.2L petrol on the Aspire churns out 86.8bhp and 11.4kgm of torque. The engine pumps out 17BHP and 10NM of torque more than the outgoing Figo. This is due to the host of improvements that include twin independent variable camshaft timing, a modified cylinder head intake port, low friction pistons and a variable displacement oil pump. The max power and torque are delivered at the same rpm as the older motor though.
Start the petrol motor and you will immediately notice the level of refinement and it barely vibrates or makes any noise. Same is the case when the car is on the move. Now don’t expect any punchy performance from this unit as this car’s sole purpose is to get you from a starting point to the end point. The Aspire petrol is an absolute city car designed for maximum efficiency and low maintenance. The torque delivery is not strong like its predecessor (Figo’s 1.2L which had better response at low rpms). At low speeds coupled with civil driving mannerisms the engine manages to perform well. If you want to pep up and fill the gaps in city traffic you will have to plan in advance, downshift & work the 1.2L.
On the highway you can clearly feel the lack of mid range on the Aspire 1.2L. Flooring the pedal is of no use and overtaking big buses and trucks will have to be thoughtfully done. You will keep on downshifting to 4th and 3rd with the car fully loaded with passengers. 100km/h is achieved at 2900rpm in 5th gear, while 120km/h comes in at 3400rpm. By this time the power already starts to fade. The 1.2L from Ford requires some improvements as the competitors offer much more potent 1.2L petrols.
NVH levels on the petrol Aspire is damn good and doesn’t emit any sound or vibrations into the cabin. The gearbox is best suited for sedate driving style, and the clutch is very light and favourable for city commutes.
The riding dynamics of the Ford Aspire solely focuses on comfort. The suspension setup feels apt for Indian conditions and Ford has nailed it with the tuning. Potholes and rough patches in the city are dealt with aplomb! Even during high speeds on highways the Aspire doesn’t let undulations seep into the cabin.
The steering feels adequate for the city and handles like any other family sedan. Don’t expect the Aspire to be agile as the suspension doesn’t allow the car to steer swiftly. Body roll is easily noticeable when you throw the car into corners. Enthusiasts will be very disappointed but then again, the Aspire isn’t meant for them either. The Electric Power Steering feels much better on the petrol than the diesel. The 174mm ground clearance is well suited for our roads. The tyres on the Aspire could have been better in terms of grip and tractability. Braking in low speeds offer good bite and control. High speed braking gives the rear brake a loose feeling.
Ford has upped the game in the safety parameter with dual airbags coming as standard. Higher variants get 6 airbags and the safety aids also include ABS with EBD and a high strength steel cage which is commendable. The automatic variant also gets ESP, traction control and hill launch assist.
The ARAI rating is 18.2 kmpl for the petrol. We managed to get 10kmpl in the city and 14kmpl on the highway. The ARAI rates the diesel’s fuel economy at 25.83 km/l. In the city we managed to get an impressive 20 kmpl. Out on the highway at sedate speeds the diesel returned a surprising efficiency of above 25kmpl.
Ford still has issues with spare parts availability. The service network compared to the peers is almost negligible. But Ford is making efforts to improve their service network. Cost of servicing and spare parts is on par with the competition and is easy on the pocket. Service quality from the dealerships still remains a mystery though.
Ford may have been late to the compact sedan party but the new Aspire has the potential to become the new benchmark in the market segment. Ford has put all their efforts and money to give their buyers the best features, safety, comfort and efficiency. Priced closed to the segment leader the Swift Dzire, the Aspire can manage to ruffle a few feathers by managing to give out all to the masses. We are impressed with the outcome and we see tremendous potential in this product by Ford to carve a niche for itself in this highly competitive sub 4 meter sedan segment.
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