- Published On: 9 April 2018
- 5 min read
Is the new Figo-based Freestyle cross-hatchback a mere cosmetic job or something more substantial?
The Freestyle is a rugged, cross-hatch version of the Figo. Ford has raised this car’s ride height, given it wider tracks and it even has a bespoke electric power steering tuning, so what you get is something more than just a jazzed-up Figo. Also, Ford’s sees a new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, as well as a new five-speed manual gearbox debut.
At 190mm, the raised ride height (up 16mm) gives the Freestyle a more substantial appearance than the standard Figo hatchback. Naturally, this car comes with cross-hatchback elements like scuff plates at the front and rear, cladding that wraps around the wheel arches and the lower portion of the body, and roof rails (which aren’t just a showpiece, they can hold 50kg). The car has bigger 15-inch alloys and the split four-spoke design is attractive. The Freestyle also previews the look of the facelifted Figo hatchback and Aspire compact sedan, which the company will launch soon. The ‘V’ of the bonnet is more pronounced and the grille looks sharper.
The Freestyle’s appearance features C-shaped fog lamp enclosures, smoked-effect headlights, a sporty mesh for the grille, a contrast effect for the wing mirrors and a few other SUV-like styling elements. Overall, this car looks handsome.
The cabin is similar to the Aspire and the Figo, but the unique chocolate-on-black colour theme gives the Freestyle’s cabin a different vibe. You also get a 6.5-inch screen (shared with mid-spec versions of the EcoSport), which Ford has fit into a redesigned centre console. And you also get Ford’s latest Sync 3 touchscreen unit, which is one of the best systems around. The unit also offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get keyless entry and go, auto climate control, auto headlamps and Ford’s MyKey function. Dual airbags and ABS are offered as standard, while the top versions get six airbags, traction control, electronic stability program (ESP) as well as the unique active rollover protection or ARP feature.
The large front seats, with their long base, are nice and accommodating. The steering feels a little too big for a car this size and the overly simple instrument cluster looks outdated now. Some of the plastics are also below par. There’s lots of storage spaces in the car and there are two USB slots up front, as well as a 12V charging socket. At the back, legroom is good and the windows nice and large, but the seat is a bit soft and there’s only one bottle holder here. The boot is identical – it can hold 257 litres.
What’s it like to drive? In one word, fun. This is the first Ford in India to feature the naturally aspirated, 1.2-litre, three-cylinder Ti-VCT engine that makes 96 horsepower. The car builds up speed in a linear manner and the engine is peppier from the get-go. Once you cross 3,000rpm, that’s when the engine really wakes up – you can extract quite a bit of performance. Whether you’re a driving enthusiast or just an everyday commuter, you are sure to like the Freestyle’s new Getrag-sourced five-speed gearbox too. This unit is light, crisp and comes coupled to a well weighted clutch.
The diesel Freestyle uses the 1.5-litre engine from the Figo, Aspire and EcoSport. The unit in this car makes 100hp and 215Nm and power build-up for this engine is nice and linear too. The engine does get a little noisy above 3,500rpm. But, for long-distance cruising, this fuel-efficient motor is great.
Ride quality is impressive - there is a bit of jiggliness at low speeds, but the suspension overall beautifully softens all road imperfections. Even at speed, the suspension filters out most thuds and only little of that road shock is transmitted to your hands on the wheel. This is no SUV, but it is a rugged little performer. High-speed stability is impressive too.
The car handles well around corners - it feels agile and there’s loads of grip from the tyres too. The electric power steering will also delight enthusiasts.
So, should you get one? Ford has said that the Freestyle and the EcoSport’s prices won’t overlap, so we expect pricing in the range of Rs 6-8 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom), which is about Rs 60,000 more than the standard Figo. As a product, the Freestyle feels made for bad roads, and it shines on twisty ones, plus the strong petrol and peppy diesel engines are rather nice too. You also get a lot of goodies and safety kit as well. And, while it may not have the most premium cabin and may not be the most spacious, this is a car you buy if you like to drive.