I’ve just driven the Ford Freestyle – the Figo-based cross-hatch – and let me begin by saying it’s a fun, fun car to drive. A great steering, excellent ride and a gutsy diesel engine make it a car that you can really enjoy on good roads and bad. But this piece is actually about another element that’s so vital to my liking of the car – the new touchscreen infotainment system.
The Freestyle’s cabin is an evolution of the Figo’s and Aspire’s and the changes are quite literally centred around the new 6.5-inch touchscreen system. Ford had to redesign the centre console to incorporate the unit – no simple task – but, as a former Ford Aspire user I can tell you it’s been well worth the effort; that 6.5-inch screen has singlehandedly brought the dash into the present. The touchscreen doesn’t look like it’s just been shoved in there either, but comes across as an integral element of the dash. No sea of buttons to navigate, no dot matrix display to squint into….all the essentials are now just a touch of a screen away.
The Freestyle’s 6.5-inch touchscreen system is what you’d see on mid-spec EcoSports (top ones get an 8.0-inch system) but what’s remarkable is that it’s no bargain-spec unit. It’s bright, easy-to-read, well-positioned and super slick to use. I think it’s just a notch or so below earlier-gen iPads for screen sensitivity, and in my book, easily the best system you can have for the money today. I also love the fact that its lightning quick to connect to devices via Bluetooth (waiting is so outdated) and that it comes bundled with Android Auto (there’s Apple CarPlay too), a feature I consider an absolute essential in a car today. There’s loads else including WiFi connectivity (for downloadable apps I presume) and old timers will also like that there’s a CD player onboard. However, easy, voice-activated access to my music, phone and Google Maps is all that I really care for.
Ford did have a clever solution to make up for the lack of a touchscreen on the Figo and Aspire – a phone holder atop the dash that would have your mobile double as an infotainment screen – but the real thing, it wasn’t. There was the whole process of connecting the Aux wire and fitting the clamp in place, and then you also had to stretch far out just to access your phone… not convenient. The new touchscreen? It easily gets a double thumbs up from me.
Now if only Ford would do something about those boring speedo and tacho dials as well.
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