Thrilling new compact crossover
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.