Ford Freestyle

Thrilling new com­pact cross­over

Auto Today - - Dashboard - PIC­TURES Gur­deep Bhalla

Based on the Figo, Ford re­cently launched the Freestyle in In­dia. Can it fill in the blanks that the In­dian mar­ket had been wait­ing for?

The Figo is cred­ited to have re­vived the for­tunes of Ford In­dia sev­eral years back. For its time, the Figo of­fered sat­is­fac­tory fea­tures and the over­all drive qual­ity was de­cent as well. How­ever, with time ev­ery ve­hi­cle has to go through a trans­for­ma­tion and the Figo was no ex­cep­tion. The new Figo then came with next gen­er­a­tion looks and was quite a hoot to drive.

But to sa­ti­ate the ever-in­creas­ing ap­petite of au­to­mo­bile en­thu­si­asts, man­u­fac­tur­ers have had to con­stantly up the game. Which meant adding new crossovers and mid-sized SUVs. Ford too needed to fill in this space of a car that was not as SUV­like the EcoS­port, but at the same time ready to face the rough road. Us­ing the tried and tested Figo plat­form as the base, and in try­ing to cre­ate a new seg­ment which Ford calls Com­pact Util­ity Ve­hi­cle or ‘CUV,’ what emerged is the new Freestyle. So what’s spe­cial about the Freestyle you ask?

In the Freestyle, Ford de­sign­ers have spruced up the looks by adding scuff plates both up front and rear. The bumpers are new and so is the cladding which one can spot in pro­file. The Freestyle’s in­te­ri­ors are not over­done and come across as sub­tle ad­di­tions from the Figo. While the head­lamps get the smoked treat­ment, day­time run­ning lamps have been given a miss. Up on the roof one can spot roof rails. But they are prop­erly use­able units and one can mount a roof box or cy­cle mounts to them. Quite handy we think. At the back the bumper ap­pears to be larger and the load­ing lip is low. The over­all look of the Freestyle is unique thanks to the raised ride height and chunkier tyres. Ground clear­ance has in­creased by 16mm at 190mm as com­pared to the Figo.

In­side, the dash is car­ried over from the Figo, ex­cept for the all-new in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. The unit fea­tures Ford’s Sync 3 sys­tem and is Ap­ple and An­droid ready. The touch­screen unit is easy to use and the dis­play is bright. The Freestyle also gets au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, Ford’s MyKey fea­ture along with au­to­matic lights and wipers. Ford is also of­fer­ing six airbags and trac­tion con­trol on the top of the line Ti­ta­nium+ vari­ant. There are plenty of stor­age bins within the cabin—all easy to ac­cess. Though the qual­ity of plas­tic used on the dash could’ve been bet­ter. Space at the back is good but can­not, by any means, be re­ferred to as best in class. The boot re­mains iden­ti­cal to the hatch and can take in 257 litres of cargo. While Ford is of­fer­ing the Freestyle with a choice of both petrol and diesel en­gines, we took the new 1.2-litre petrol this

IN TRY­ING TO CRE­ATE A NEW SEG­MENT WHICH FORD CALLS ‘CUV’

OR COM­PACT UTIL­ITY VE­HI­CLE, WHAT EMERGED THERE­AFTER IS THE NEW FREESTYLE

THE FREESTYLE HAS GOOD BUMP AB­SORP­TION CA­PA­BIL­I­TIES. RUTS ARE IRONED OUT WITH­OUT FUSS AND THE FREESTYLE HOLDS ITS

GROUND STRONG AND COR­NERS RATHER WELL

time. The new 3-cylin­der en­gine pumps out 96bhp and 120Nm of torque. The mo­tor is also cou­pled with a new 5-speed re­spon­sive man­ual gear­box.

A quick start and the en­gine is clearly au­di­ble in the cabin. How­ever once it set­tles down, the cabin be­comes slightly less noisy. The en­gine of­fers a de­cent amount of tug and the midrange is ex­tremely strong. One doesn’t need to go for down­shifts fre­quently even when slow­ing down for small un­du­la­tions on the road. The en­gine works smoothly as a rev-happy mo­tor and gets to the red line with ease. How­ever at the top there is no give and that feels a bit odd. Ford claims a fuel econ­omy of 19kmpl and we be­lieve that this is achiev­able only with ‘care­ful driv­ers’. The gear­box slots in with­out fuss and the cogs are easy to find.

But be­ing a Ford, the most im­por­tant as­pect is han­dling and steer­ing. We think the Freestyle of­fers good bump ab­sorp­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ruts are ironed out with­out fuss and the Freestyle holds its ground strong. What fur­ther helps mat­ters is that the Freestyle cor­ners rather well. The steer­ing adds to the over­all drive feel by of­fer­ing good feed­back. We also took the hatch off the road on a dry lake bed and it felt right at home. Sure it still is a stan­dard FWD hatch, but thanks to the added clear­ance and larger tyres, it can han­dle a de­cent bit of green lan­ing.

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