Ford Figo 1,4 Ambiente (2010) Driving Impression

Ford Figo 2010

Until very recently, shopping for a budget car meant either buying an archaic “reinvented” oldie, or a very small supermini from a relatively unknown brand. But times are changing, and a car that is at the forefront of this change is the Ford Figo, the brand's new entry level contender. Made in India, and based on the previous-generation Fiesta, the Ford Figo is a well-priced contender that could lure many first-time buyers into the Ford stable. But has the de-speccing of Fiesta resulted in a car that is too obviously cheap, or has Ford managed to retain its iconic B-segment hatchback’s sparkle?

Ford Figo looks more expensive than it is

Transforming the Fiesta into the Ford Figo has thankfully not resulted in a cheap-looking car. In fact, quite the opposite is true. There’s a new front-end that now incorporates Ford’s latest “Kinetic” design language and a few other minor changes, but most people will identify the Ford Figo as a Fiesta. This is not a bad thing, because the Fiesta was still a crisply styled, good-looking car at the time of its replacement. Even in Ambiente form the Ford Figo retains a lot of colour coding, and the black door handles and mirror housings do not cheapen the appearance. Even the plastic covers of the 14-inch steel wheels manage to look like upmarket alloys.

Similarly, Ford has managed to retain much of the Fiesta’s appeal in the cabin. The basic architecture is the same, but it does without the smart soft-touch upper facia panel, for example. All the plastics are hard to the touch and quite shiny, but the build quality is reassuringly solid. And at least there’s still some design flair – the round ventilation outlets remain and there are some gunmetal plastic trim pieces to break the monotony of black. The instruments, too, are simple but very neat. This is a car that manages to look more expensive inside than it really is.

Being based on a previous-generation B-segment champion has other advantages, too. The Ford Figo is more spacious inside than the A-segment rivals priced at around the same level, which will especially benefit those seated in the rear. The boot, too, is bigger than most at this price level – it measures 284 L. Pity the rear seat can’t be split 60/40 when folding… In front, the driver’s seat doesn’t offer height adjustment, but the set position will be acceptable to most drivers, especially because the steering wheel can, surprisingly perhaps, adjust for height.

Given the price positioning, Ford has been aggressive with the standard specification. Most important – because this car could be bought by many inexperienced drivers – is the standard fitment of dual front airbags and ABS with EBD. But it also gets power steering, air-conditioning, a radio/CD player with auxiliary support, central locking and a rear demister and wiper. Sure, you have to wind the windows manually but that’s pretty much as good as you’re going to get at this price.

Willing Engine

The Ford Figo weighs only 1 070 kg, so it doesn’t need a great deal of power to move around. The 1,4-litre 16-valve engine under the bonnet seems to be more than up to the task. It delivers 62 kW and 127 Nm of torque and, while neither figure is particularly impressive, the engine is keen to rev and remains smooth when doing so. Coupled with a slick five-speed transmission that also feels very robust, the little engine powers the Ford Figo to 100 km/h in 13,1 seconds, but it feels faster, especially around town. The top speed is nearly 170 km/h. As the Ford Figo is mostly likely to do duty within the confines of the city or town environment, its nippiness and refinement will be widely appreciated. Fuel economy is also good, with a figure of 6,6 L/100 km actually being achievable with a little bit of concentration.

Finally, there’s the matter of dynamic ability. The Ford Figo has a head start in this department seeing as it makes use of the underpinnings of an old class champion – the Fiesta was always a fun car to drive. Its spirit lives on in the Ford Figo, because the keenness to change direction, the good body control, supple ride and precise steering are all still present. Combine these attributes with the willing little engine and slick gearbox, and you’ve got an entry level car with superior ride and handling. In fact, it towers above its price rivals…

Ford Figo - Verdict

If you’ve read this far, then you’d have realised that the Ford Figo is incredibly hard to fault. There are smaller cars at the same price that maybe pack a few more features, but they’re all compromised in terms of packaging and driving enjoyment. At the same time, Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo, the spiritual replacement for the iconic Citi, looms large in the Figo’s sights, but we feel the Ford has the edge. It offers a far more comprehensive standard package and is much more fun to drive. Ford is going to do very well with this one!

We like:

• Upmarket looks • Cabin comfort • Quality • Standard specification • Safety features • Fun to drive • Value

We don’t like:

• Single-piece folding rear seat

Fast Facts:

Engine: 1,4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol Power: 62 kW @ 6 000 rpm Torque: 127 Nm @ 4 000 rpm Transmission: Five-speed automatic Wheels: 14-inch steel Top speed: 169 km/h 0-100 km/h: 13,1 seconds Fuel economy: 6,6 litres/100 km


Also consider:

VW Polo Vivo 1,4 Base: More expensive and it lacks ABS and a sound system as standard. Still, the Vivo appeals because it comes across as a more upmarket product, courtesy of its Polo facia and excellent build. But the price gap is too big.

Chevrolet Spark 1,2 LS: New on the market and quite impressive. It combines funky looks with very good interior packaging as well as a good standard features list that includes the required safety items. The boot is a mite small, though.

Hyundai i10 GLS: A very popular choice with good reason. The i10 offers neat, inoffensive styling, a surprisingly upmarket cabin environment, and reasonable specification package, but it lacks safety features. Pity.