“Figo automatic? Ford Figo?”, my friend asked, in a tone that sounded half-puzzled, half-condescending (as in “excuse me, did you just recommend a Ford to me?”). This was over the phone, and I could almost visualize his baffled expression at the other end. I was about to give him a full-fledged, albeit verbal, review of the car I had recently tested – the Ford Figo Automatic – but I acted with restraint. “Yes, the Figo automatic is the variant for you!”, I still replied though, staying true to my profession. “But how’s the Baleno?”, he was now asking about it for the second time, seemingly determined to buy only a Maruti. “Don’t know, haven’t tested it yet.“, I replied, while exchanging silent smiles on Maruti’s reluctance in engaging online media in drives, events, and car reviews. “Okay, thanks, will check the Figo as well.”, he said and the conversation was over. Now it’s quite normal for us auto reviewers to get calls from friends in auto PR / Corporate Communications for suggestions regarding their next motorcycle or car purchase, but this one was a little different.
The gent in this case happens to be a very dear friend who was madly in love with his Swift 1.3 petrol, but had also realized that time had come for them to part ways. He drives around 80-100 km daily, six days a week, but was still adamant on buying a petrol car. And it had to be a hatchback. I also figured that he was ready to buy any as long as it came from the Orient. Naturally then, the Figo, despite offering a choice of two petrol engines (and a diesel) was nowhere on his radar. But, less than a week later, he calls me and says that he has booked the Ford Figo Aspire (Figo with a boot) diesel! Yes, someone who just abhorred the idea of a diesel car; was against sedans, and just did not acknowledge anything other than the Japanese and Koreans, suddenly found the Ford too good to be missed. He told me that he did not buy the car in this review, the Figo automatic, because it was beyond his budget. So if you drive a lot and want the best value-for-money Ford, stop reading any further and buy the 1.5 diesel Figo or the Aspire. But if you are in the market for an automatic hatchback, you may want to stick around…
Exterior design of everything, not just a car’s, is something that’s highly subjective. One’s sugar could be another’s poison, and vice versa. So if you like the Pontiac Aztek, you’re not really answerable to anyone. Heck, when I’ll meet you I might be wondering if you’re running a Trans AM’s block in it. Still, as a reviewer, I have to tell the readers how my eyes see the vehicle in question. Now you all might have gotten tired of hearing stuff about the Figo like “the grille has been inspired by Aston Martin’s” and that “the rear is uninspiring”, et al, so I would skip the poetic analysis, and come straight to the point – for me, the Figo comes third in hatchback design rankings; the first position being jointly held by the Fiat Punto and VW Polo, while the Hyundai i20 coming in at a close second place. The Figo’s is a clean and mature, no-frills, design which might not make you go weak in the knees, but won’t offend you either. I mean, you won’t hear anyone say, “that’s too flashy for my taste” for the Figo. Also, it is the only hatchback (along with the Kwid) that does not look feminine. I don’t know why but I can’t help thinking that if all the aforementioned cars were human, the Figo would come across as the most dependable.
And I was so relieved to not encounter beige when I opened its door. See, to me, beige and dual tones, in hatchbacks, shout “Middle Class!”. In fact, if they were any more middle class they would be Chhole Bhatoorey. Don’t get me wrong; I love them (the food, I mean) and am definitely not an elitist (my pay slab ensures that I still hunt for the cheapest street food in my city) but visions of six overweight kids, three ladies and two men (all obese) emerging out of a new maroon hatchback, with beige interiors of course, parked outside Haldiram’s, is too strong to look past. Thankfully, the Figo is different.
The all-black interior exudes class and has been given just the right amount of silver and grey to avoid making it feel like the Grim Reaper’s chariot. The quality of everything inside feels nice too and one can sense that all stalks, buttons, dials, etc., will stand the test of time. The fit and finish looked nice to me and nothing rattled, hissed, or squeaked over the rough stuff.
The front seats are fantastic! The squabs are long and broad, so under-thigh support will never be a problem for drivers/passengers of all shapes and sizes, while thoughtful lateral support ensures that they stay in place under spirited cornering. Also, good lumbar support means that their spines will never complain as well.
The rear seats are again very comfortable and the legroom is generous too, thanks to a clever, scooped-out, design of the front seats’ backrests. There’s ample headroom as well so families suffering from Gigantism will certainly find solace in the Figo.
But there’s something else that I just love about all the Fords I have driven yet, the last-gen Endeavour being an exception. I am referring to the dashboard height. In most other cars, it is set so high that shorter people such as myself are just lost behind the steering wheel. Those dashboards remind me of my past relationships with taller women – engulfing, intimidating, and you just can’t look beyond them. Thankfully, the Figo presents a more cordial set-up. The shortest of us will be able to look ahead, and the even shorter folks can make use of the height adjustable driver’s seat to find the perfect driving position. But, like all good partners, the Figo also does not want you to look into the past that much, and as such the rear visibility is not equally great.
The air-conditioner in the Figo is a powerful unit and chills the whole cabin quickly enough to avoid thoughts of bunking office crossing your mind. Yes, I said ‘whole cabin’, which means the absence of rear vents won’t be missed at all even if your car has an RJ registration plate.
Talking about Rajasthan (RJ does not always mean Radio Jockey) and other hot climes reminds me to tell you that if you’re one of those who believes in drinking 50 litres of water everyday, the Figo is good news for you. There are seven cup/bottle holders – two each in the front door pockets, and three in the centre console – and there’s still more space left in those pockets to stack a couple of more water bottles (or whatever beverage you prefer). Ford guarantees that you’d never die of dehydration.
In fact, as compared to in other hatchbacks, your life expectancy would actually increase in this one. Two airbags, one each for the driver and passenger, are standard and, at this price point, I think it is the only car that comes standard with ESP (Electronic Stability Program), TCS (Traction Control System), and HLA (Hill Launch Assist). That being said, it’s appalling that this variant, despite being more expensive than the top-end Figo Titanium+ does not get six airbags, which the plus variant gets. The brochure says they are optional on the Titanium MT variant, but you can’t get them even as an option on the AT version! Even the height adjustable seat belts are exclusive to the Titanium+ variant. Not done, Ford! Still, it’s common knowledge by now that the structural integrity of most American and European cars is way better than anything and everything being sold in the segment in India by the Japanese and Koreans. The thud you hear in the Figo upon closing its door is a reassuring testimonial in itself.
I’ll skip telling you about the other in-cabin features of the car; that’s what the company’s brochure is for. And there are anyway many gadget reviewers and fashion bloggers ‘reviewing’ cars and motorcycles too nowadays, so if you want to know about the stereo, Bluetooth, goggles, mascara, and stuff, you know whose review to read. I would rather tell you about the unimportant things like performance, ride & handling, or, in short, how the car is to drive and all.
Pretty darn good – that’s how it is to drive! The old Figo diesel was a stonker and the new one is no different. But the old petrol model never really impressed anyone with its power or fuel efficiency, due to the lack of both essentially.
I haven’t driven the new 1.2 petrol but I hear that it’s much better than the older car. It should be; it produces around 15 more horses more than the old one while the cubic capacity remains the same at 1196 cc. But the car in this review hides a 1.5-litre petrol engine (if it wasn’t clear by now) under its hood that puts out 110 hp at 6,300 rpm. The torque figure is also not bad – 136 Nm at 4,250 rpm. All that power and torque is handled by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that also has a Sport mode, and a manual mode as well. The result? An eager car in normal auto mode, and a boy racer’s delight in Sport mode. Don’t bother with the manual mode as the stupid +/- buttons on the gear lever to upshift/downshift are anyway non-intuitive. But I like the fact that you do have a choice. Again, don’t bother as the Sport mode is enough to keep the performance enthusiast in you always elated.
I’ll reiterate – this motor makes the Figo a fast car even in the normal auto mode; it’s just that the downshifts are not quick enough here. But that’s okay really, because it’s taken care of in the Sport mode as mentioned above. The downshifts quicken, rewarding you with instant bursts of power through almost the entire rev range. This is a brilliant motor, folks, and it sounds really good when you smash that loud pedal! I suggest you use the sedate mode on weekdays, and whenever you have the family in tow, as it would be a very calm experience for all, thanks in part to the excellent ride quality and NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) levels. The car will still make quick progress and you will always have power on tap for overtaking those 60-80 km/h lorries, but it will all be done without giving wide-eyed moments to any of the car occupants. And the Figo should be more fuel efficient too in this mode.
I hate to disappoint you here but I could not calculate the fuel efficiency figure as we did not get to keep the car long enough to do the customary tankful-to-tankful test. I will request Ford India to provide the car to us sometime in the near future, so that I can test the fuel efficiency properly. Still, the movement of the fuel gauge needle, with respect to the number of kilometres I could clock, gives me a hint that the fuel consumption in the city might hover around 11-13 km/l (Ford claim 17 km/l for this car). But don’t take my word for it yet; talk to a few owners if you can; read ownership reviews, or pray that the good folks at Ford India listen to my plea and allow me to spend some quality time with this one so that I may update the fuel efficiency figure here later on.
But, other than that, and I hope you’ll agree, the rest is all covered in this review. If not, then do let me know in the comments section, and I’ll either provide the information or will ask you to hold on for when I next get the car. As of now, in addition to the amazing performance of the engine what I could also test in this short drive is the sublime balance in ride & handling that Ford India have been able to achieve in this one! The Punto is still the benchmark in this department, but the petrol Punto is so disappointingly underpowered that it’s like having access to the best food in the world but no teeth (the analogy that first came to my mind was too gross to be written here).
And don’t talk about the Abarth Punto as it plays in a whole different territory altogether. Moreover, since none of the Puntos come with an automatic transmission, one should not look at this section (ride & handling) of the review as a comparison; I mentioned the Punto just for perspective.
So, yes, when it comes to choosing a petrol hatchback (automatic or otherwise) with the best balance between ride and handling, I’ll pick the petrol Figo over any other in its segment because not only is it almost on a par with the Punto in this department, it also gives me the firepower to exploit that handling, which the petrol Punto doesn’t. No, the VW might be equally good (or even half a notch better) in handling but it doesn’t come anywhere near these two when it comes to ride quality. I also reckon the Figo to be an even better handler if it gets the 15-inch wheels from the recently launched S variants.
That said, even right now, on its 14-inchers, the Figo handles beautifully and the ride quality is exceptional as mentioned. You will never have to slow down on broken sections like, say, you would do in a Swift; in fact, in the Figo, you can pound the bad roads into submission
while silently showing the impolite finger to the Municipal Corporation of your area. Yes, you can take one hand off the steering wheel occasionally because, like I said earlier, the handling of the Figo is very precise. These two traits (sublime ride quality and sure-footed handling) mean that not only the Figo will prove to be a comfortable carrier for you and your family on long journeys, it will also be a hoot to drive in the twisties. No, the comfortable ride does not translate to a lot of body roll here. It’s well contained, so you can definitely have a lot of fun in the corners. Grippy rubber, and brakes with ABS (Antilock Braking System) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) keep things in check while you indulge.
What else? The ground clearance at 174 mm is pretty good too (the Polo’s is 165 mm) while the boot space of 257 litres is less than what you get in the Polo (280 litres). And the Baleno (339 litres) just laughs on all of them. But I hear that its loading lip is both higher and narrower, thereby requiring you to be a pro first at one-arm dumbbell rows. But, unless you’re into activities like smuggling gold biscuits, such differences in boot size won’t really matter much. If they do, try the Maruti Omni then.
So what’s the verdict, you ask? I have written more than 2,400 words up till now so, ideally, you should be drawing your own inferences by now. But if you still want to know the verdict from me, I shall certainly oblige. See, in spirit, the VW Polo GT TSI is the only true competitor to the Figo AT. These are the only two options for enthusiasts who want a fast petrol hatchback, but with an automatic transmission. But, at INR 9.20 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) it is hilariously expensive, not only than the Figo AT (INR 7.62 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi), but also for what it is – a 1.2-litre hatchback. The price would have still been justified if it did at least eight out of ten things better than the Figo, but that is not at all the case! On the contrary, it is the Ford that does that and is still 1.58 lakh rupees cheaper!
Then it’s the Baleno AT that’s the closest competitor if we only think like accountants or car salespersons. At INR 7.64 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), for the Zeta variant it perfectly matches the Figo in price wars. Heck, like the Figo AT cannot be bought in the Titanium+ trim, the Baleno AT too cannot be bought in the top-end Alpha trim. The Maruti also offers more ‘visible’ goodies than the Ford – a CD player (Figo’s doesn’t play CDs), adjustable steering for both rake and reach (only the rake is adjustable in Ford), and a couple of other such “feel-good” stuff.
The Ford offers more ‘invisible’ features that most mortals would always remain oblivious of – the aforementioned ESP, TCS, and HLA. Both cars carry an identical 3-star NCAP rating (I must mention that it was the Figo Aspire that was tested by NCAP though, and not the hatchback) but somehow, the frequency with which we all have witnessed / seen pictures of / read about the absolutely totalled Balenos ever since its launch, I don’t know what to think about its structural integrity. Its being more than 100 kilos lighter than the Figo only increases my doubt…
And the knockout punch comes in the form of Figo’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder 110 hp motor on the head of Baleno’s 1.2-litre four-pot mill that produces only 83 hp in comparison. You can’t really argue with muscle, especially when the chap is the most muscular of them all. If you didn’t get that, I meant that the Figo AT is the most powerful hatchback in the segment. And whichever way you look at it, you’ll find that it remains a tough nut to crack. I guess that’s because it’s a car that appeals as much to your head as it does to your heart. That’s rare!