In an effort to stay relevant in South Africa’s ultra-competitive budget car segment, Ford has revitalised its Figo hatchback, which now features improved exterior/interior styling, equipment upgrades and a new engine! We attended the launch in Gauteng this week to experience the changes for ourselves…
The Figo competes with a host of well-established products, including the Suzuki Swift, Toyota Etios, and, of course, the dominant Volkswagen Polo Vivo. Ford holds a 6.0% share in the budget segment and, with this latest Figo, the Blue Oval is aiming to increase that number substantially.
Ford Figo: Highlights
The Figo gains a new grille design that gives it a cleaner, more sophisticated look.
We headed to Pretoria to sample the latest Figo in both hatchback and sedan guises. Although an aesthetic critique is entirely subjective, most people will probably agree that the look of this new Figo represents an improvement over that of the previous version – the new grille design is perhaps its most striking feature. In range-topping Trend specification, the grille is finished in chrome and it gives the Figo a more sophisticated look.
The juicy news, however, comes by way of a new 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine that now powers the Figo range and offers a heady 88 kW and 150 Nm of torque. Buyers favour petrol engines in this segment and Ford is therefore no longer offering a turbodiesel engine in the range.
The Figo's new 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine offers good performance courtesy of peak outputs of 88 kW and 150 Nm.
Our launch route started behind the wheel of the Figo Trend hatchback fitted with a new 6-speed automatic transmission.
We were delighted with the performance of this perky new engine. The Figo surges forward with purpose and felt punchy from the get-go. Granted, mechanical noise increases substantially under hard acceleration (as the transmission holds on to the gears to squeeze the most out of the engine), but we quickly learnt that feeding power moderately yielded the best results. If you want to achieve smoother, seamless acceleration, the automatic transmission is best driven with a measured approach. Hill Start Assist will help you achieve the perfect pull-away on steep inclines.
The steering, although a tad vague, felt playful and the Figo delivered a relatively pliant general ride quality during our 130-km test drive.
The interior has improved somewhat, but mounted steering wheel controls and steering reach adjustment are not offered.
The launch of the Figo incorporated an interesting tour of Ford’s Silverton production facility, where Ford Ranger and Everest derivatives are built for the local and international market. The facility was recently upgraded in preparation for production of the new Ford Ranger Raptor in 2019. We were soon back on the road and set the Figo on a course for the mining town of Cullinan.
The interior has improved somewhat with a new design for the centre console and we particularly liked the smartphone docking solution seen on the top of the dashboard. You simply plug your smartphone into the USB port provided and then prop it up with the lid, which gives you easy access to your navigation while driving. The standard radio system is basic, but it offers Bluetooth and is connected to 4 speakers. What more do you need?
A smartphone docking station is a useful feature found in the Figo.
However, the Figo also has its flaws. Firstly, the steering wheel is only adjustable for rake and does not come equipped with mounted steering controls. We also found rear legroom to be tight; taller rear passengers will probably struggle to find comfort on the rear bench.
Also, with a bit of prodding and poking, we discovered that some of the cabin's plastic trims are of marginal quality. The storage area ahead of the gear lever felt fragile and its rubber floor finishing came undone far too easily. What's more, the plastic trim around the gear lever felt poorly finished.
We also spent some time in the Ford Figo sedan on our return to Pretoria, but this time equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission. The manual had a positive action and it seems to make the engine’s potential performance far more accessible. Buyers in this segment prefer manual transmissions and the bulk of Figo sales are expected to be manual derivatives.
In terms of safety, 2 airbags, ABS with EBD are fitted as standard.
The Ford Figo offers more value than before and features an extended service plan.
We really liked the lively engine in the Figo and we think the stylistic changes will certainly make it more competitive against its newer rivals. Also, buyers should appreciate that Ford now includes a standard 4-year/60 000 km service plan on the Figo, over and above the 4-year/120 000 km warranty, which is included in the purchase price.
However, while this latest Figo is a significant improvement over its predecessor, we are not convinced it has its rivals licked in terms of overall value. Nonetheless, we should have the newcomer on test soon, where we will put it through its paces and make a definitive assessment.
Ford Figo – prices in South Africa (June 2018)
1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Hatch 5MT - R181 300
1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 5MT - R190 600
1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 6AT - R205 700
1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Sedan 5MT - R187 200
1.5 TiVCT Trend Sedan 5MT - R196 000