We test the Ford Figo, the small sedan from the brand’s Indian operations. Does it have enough going for it to take on the Japanese competition?
The biggest problem with trying to sell a small sedan is communicating value without being able to get the customer to really spend a lot. This does not mean that car manufacturers wouldn’t like to sell more of the breed. Despite all the profits associated with selling larger cars and SUVs, most of the world’s first time car buyers shop around in the A or B-segments and usually buy a sedan if they have a little more money. That’s why Ford makes the Figo in India, for the country’s burgeoning car buyer base and the Figo meets the need of this market.
But what Ford has done in keeping with its new approach to markets is to build the Figo to a quality and with powertrains that broaden its appeal outside the home market. While the Figo is sold in India with two diesel engines and two petrol engines, it is only the petrol engine choices that have migrated to the middle east (for obvious reasons).
The Figo sells in the region with the 1.2-litre and 1.5-litre inline 4 cylinder engines, but the automatic 6-speed gearbox is only attached to the latter. You can get the manual 5-speed box with either engine. depending on the variant offered, (i.e ambiente, Trend or Titanium) the options change, with the smaller engine only on offer with the Ambiente. Interestingly, the Indian mindset on the car has a fallout on interior package on offer. The Ambiente version offers the ability to plug in your mobile phone and doubles up the top storage hatch into a convenient mobile holder to compensate for the lack of Sync on the variant.
The test car we got was a trend with the larger engine and the 6-speed gearbox. The engine is part of the Ti-VCT family of new age engines and offers 110 hp@6300 rpm and a torque of 136Nm. The engine is more than adequate for the car’s weight and the gearbox is rarely taxed.
in terms of styling, Ford has migrated its surrent grille treatment onto the small sedan but it doesn’t quite carry the finesse of any of the European small cars. The side looks a touch bland and the rear is almost devoid of embellishments. The 14” wheels that the car is shod with look good and fill up the small wheel wells.
But the designers score better when it comes to individual elements like the headlamps and instrumentation. The entire central assembly inside is quite well thought out, with the air-conditioner and Sync controls mimicking the EcoSports as much as it does that of the slightly bigger and better appointed Fiesta.
Figo features Ford MyKey technology that allows owners to program car’s keys with restricted driving modes such as increasing seat belt use, limiting vehicle top speeds and regulating audio volume
The cabin also benefits from a good uncluttered layout with clearly legible instrumentation and bluetooth as standard.
We really didn’t expect the car to be as refined as it turned out to be. The engine comes to life with lowest of vibration and once you engage the gearbox you get only a slight whine under acceleration. The gear ratio spread is more than adequate for the power delivery. Electric power steering also cuts out any likelihood of aberrations from the steering linkages communicating back to the wheel. Road feel is good, with a slight deadness around the centre but effort required is minimal.
Once the car gets moving you really begin to enjoy the value of this car. The engine purrs along, the gearbox does it job adequately and the suspension has just a degree of stiffness dialled in for the quality of Indian roads.
The car even offers features like Hill start assist and hill hold in the top spec version.
Boot space, a feature that is really important for the segment, is among the best in class at 430 litres. Frankly, the Figo looks like it ticks all the boxes of a first time buyer even in the Middle East.
How does the Figo fare?
The segment is rather crowded with direct competition from the Toyota Yaris, Honda City, Suzuki D’Zire and to some degree the Mazda 2. Mitsubishi have the Attrage that comes out of Thailand and then there is Nissan with the Tiida. If you are willing to expand the price bracket slightly, a whole lot more of competition exists. The point here is that there is very little latitude to offer more than the regular pack of power windows, mirrors, central locking and the likes. When you factor in bluetooth and advanced audio controls, the Figo seems to build on the Korean-inspired mantra of being able to sell cars on the feature pack.
The Figo has a lot going for it – it looks better and feels solid compared to the D’zire or Attrage. However when it comes to the City, Tiida and Mazda 2 it matches quality at best, but falls short on styling and appeal.
The Figo will most likely sell on the interface as well as to customers who take a drive in it. The NVH level is good, ride quality firm and responsive and the narrow tyres aid in the nimbleness and small turn circle.