What is it?
We’ve always loved the Ford Figo for what it is – a car that strikes the right balance between practicality and performance, especially in its diesel form. It did the job well but felt watered down to mass market tastes and didn’t really catch the fancy of driving enthusiasts, as it lacked the sparkle seen on previous-generation Fords. The market’s response then towards the Figo has been lukewarm at best. To revive interest in the hatchback, Ford has just launched a sportier version called the Figo Sports Edition (Figo S), with a few tweaks, at a price of Rs 6.32 lakh for the 1.2-litre petrol and Rs 7.22 lakh for the 1.5-litre diesel.
To set it apart from the regular hatchback, the Figo S gets some cosmetic enhancements like a new honeycomb design on the front grille, a smoked effect on the headlamps and a black finish for all the chrome bits on the car. Continuing the theme is the black roof, black outside mirrors, body vinyl (at the doors and rear bumper) and a new roof spoiler. The new 15-inch black alloy wheels with meatier 195/55-section tyres complement the car’s sporty character well and give the Figo a much-needed visual boost.
There’s hardly anything different in the cabin other than a new leather-wrapped steering and red double stitching on the seat fabric and the gear lever boot.The Figo Sports Edition carries forward the same all-black theme, but now piano black inserts replace the silver bits, and features from the Titanium variant of the regular car. These include ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, automatic climate control, electrically adjustable and foldable outside mirrors, and reverse wiper and washer. There are no parking sensors though, and there’s no touchscreen or Ford’s Sync infotainment system either, but this version of the Figo gets a cleverly designed dock to hold your mobile phone.
What’s it like to drive?
Ford is offering the Sports Edition with the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 100hp and 215Nm of torque, and the 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 88hp and 112Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission. There is no automatic version on offer.
We got to sample the 1.5-litre diesel version and, as ever, the engine impressed. It's responsive right from the word go and boost kicks in from as low as 1,600rpm. There’s a mild surge thereon, until a little over 4,000rpm after which power delivery begins to taper. Still, the motor will rev until its redline of 5,000rpm, with it getting more vocal and coarse-sounding at higher revs. The car has gained 14 kilos on account of the bigger wheels, chunkier tyres and roof spoiler. But its lightweight construction translates into an impressive 95hp/ton power to weight ratio; almost identical to the more expensive Polo GT TDI’s, making this one of the fastest mass-market diesel hatchbacks around. As a result of the added weight, claimed fuel efficiency has dipped by 1.5kpl to 24.29kpl, compared to the regular car’s 25.83kpl.
Enthusiasts will remember the Fiesta S and its razor-sharp handling that were a result of its reworked suspension. We’re happy to report the Figo Sports Edition comes with some suspension tweaks of its own to improve the handling. For starters, there’s a beefier anti-roll bar in the front which does result in a sharper turn-in and good mechanical grip in the front end. Then, there are the coil springs that have been re-engineered to make the car more chuckable. Push hard and turn into a sharp corner and the tail end will step out too – but just enough to keep things exciting and not suggest a loss of control.
The fatter 195mm tyres have made a difference too. The steering feel has improved a bit and grip levels around bends are better now. In fact, the wider tyres also keep a check on any unnecessary wheelspin under hard acceleration and help put the power down in a nicer way compared to the regular car’s 175mm rubber.
There is some degree of roll, but the Ford engineers we spoke to said it was essential to find a suspension compromise that balances sportiness and everyday usability. And it must be said, the Figo S has a very comfy ride. It remains flat and composed out on the highway, and absorbs bumps within the city really well. The brakes are perfect with the pedal offering just the right amount of feel and bite.
The clutch, however, is a bit on the heavier side and its release action is a bit springy. It does take a bit of getting used to, to drive smoothly. The five-speed manual gearbox isn’t very smooth, rather it feels a bit rubbery; the gates are well-defined though.
Should I buy one?
For a premium of Rs 50,000 over the regular Figo, you’re getting the same practicality and set of features, but in a more sorted package, dynamically. With the Figo Sports Edition, Ford gives driving enthusiasts the tool they desire. It finally shows signs of the Ford DNA that seemed to be missing all this while. The diesel engine is a gem – it’s very tractable in the city and delivers an enjoyable performance out on the highway. Even the minor exterior modifications seem to do the trick here and enhance its sporty quotient. The difference, in terms of character, between the normal Figo and this car might not be as drastic as that between the Fiesta and Fiesta S, but it still is a rare mass market car that carries off its ‘Sports Edition’ suffix with aplomb.