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Ford Figo Aspire vs Hyundai Xcent comparison

10th Aug 2015 10:35 am

Read on to see how much bearing the X or rather Xcent factor has on the new Ford Figo Aspire’s chances of success.

To know how good the Ford Figo Aspire actually was, we had to see it in light of the segment benchmarks. In the petrol compact sedan space, that benchmark came from the smart Hyundai Xcent. So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into the Ford Figo Aspire’s first-ever comparison.

I’ll start with a word on design and styling. Well, those with an eye for proportion will find themselves drifting towards the Xcent. It’s got the more conventional three-box shape and there’s greater balance to the design on the whole. What’s more, the Xcent’s more defined boot section can also hold more luggage – 407 litres to the Figo Aspire’s 359 litres. Personally, though, I wish the Xcent had a more character-rich face; it looks a bit meek, and the appearance is not helped by the car’s relatively narrow body. The Figo Aspire, on the other hand, looks refreshingly different but not necessarily attention-grabbing. The Aston Martin-esque grille up front looks nice; the stubby boot not so much. Ford could have complemented the Figo’s long wheelbase (best-in-class, actually) with suitably large wheels; the 14-inchers appear small.

Still, the objective section of the comparison only begins when we make our way into these cars’ cabins. Points for the Hyundai first, whose cabin has always stood out and continues to do so for its good quality fit and finish. There’s a pleasing blend of colours in use here and even the dashboard is neat and logically laid out. You’ll also like the convenient positioning of the gear lever and the multitude of storage spaces scattered across the cabin. But the front seats are smaller and firmer than we’d like.

To the contrary, the seats are among the best bits of the Figo’s cabin. The second-from-top Titanium trim (pictured here) has fabric seats that are well-cushioned, if a touch soft at the lower back, and the top-spec Titanium+’s full leather seats are better still. But as well finished as the Figo’s seats are, cabin quality on the whole isn’t as consistent as in the Xcent and a few elements like the small instrument panel look quite low rent.

The nicely shaped dash also bunches up too many buttons on the centre console – not ideal when you want to adjust settings on the move. That said, Ford’s mobile phone dock (available on middle variant versions) atop the centre console is superbly positioned, especially for those who use their phones for GPS guidance.

In the competition for the better back seat, the Aspire comes across as the clear winner. Sure, there’s ample legroom in the Hyundai Xcent, but the cabin feels unduly narrow and it’s also got the firmer seat. The Aspire’s seat is better padded and there’s also that crucial bit more headroom. Both cars do get foldable rear centre armrests, but the Xcent does additionally feature a rear AC vent. This aside, comparing the top-spec versions of both reveals they are quite well matched on equipment. Modern-day necessities such as a CD player with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in, steering-mounted audio controls and automatic climate control are available on both. Features exclusive to the Xcent SX are its 1GB of  onboard music storage, rear-view camera, push-start and a cooled glovebox. The top Aspire Titanium+ does make its value case by offering leather seats, Ford’s SYNC infotainment system and as many as six airbags. Worth a mention here is that while even base Aspires get dual airbags as standard, the Hyundai is available with airbags only on the top-spec version. Even then, ABS is a paid option.

Another facet a brochure-to-brochure comparison will reveal is how similar the Ford Figo Aspire and Xcent’s petrol engines are in size and architecture. Both engines displace 1.2 litres, both rely on twin cams to operate their 16 valves and both feature dual variable valve timing. Interestingly, while the Ford’s engine does make more power (86.7bhp to the Xcent’s 81.8bhp), the Aspire is actually the slower car here. In fact, our preliminary acceleration figures suggest it’s the slowest of the petrol compact sedans in the 0-100kph dash. In reality, the Ford motor doesn’t like being pushed and operates best at light to medium loads. Even then, some zing in the mid-range would have been nice. The Xcent, in comparison, feels more responsive through the rev range. In fact, the Xcent’s sharp bottom-end throttle responses take some getting used to, especially when negotiating bumper to bumper traffic. The Xcent does have the smoother gearbox and lighter clutch though.

At slow speeds, both cars are equally easy to drive, thanks to their light steerings, but the two differ in the way they tackle broken surfaces. Where the Figo absorbs most of what’s underneath, the Xcent is unable to fully filter out the bumps. It feels stiffer sprung than the Figo. That stiffness does translate to slightly less vertical movement than the Figo at speed, but there’s no getting away from the suspension’s general clunkiness. The Ford should also be your pick if you intend to have some fun behind the wheel. Sure, it doesn’t come across as tight as the Fiesta or EcoSport, but relative to the Xcent, it’s the more rewarding car to drive. The Xcent’s numb steering just robs it of any driver engagement.

In the end, when you tally the scores, it’s the Figo Aspire that earns more points across more parameters. The Xcent remains a good car, no doubt, with its well-finished cabin, long list of equipment and peppy engine being the prime reasons you should be interested in one. However, the Figo edges past by offering better all round comfort, more in terms of safety and, for what it’s worth, also more verve around the bends. Given that there won’t be much between the two in terms of pricing either, the Figo Aspire does win its first ever comparison to become the new petrol compact sedan segment leader.

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