New face, new engine and more features
The Ford Aspire has always been a rather likeable product. Launched in July 2015, the Figo-based compact sedan impressed us with its driving dynamics, space and safety equipment, which coupled with the brilliant 1.5-litre diesel engine from Ford, made it a very compelling package. But it had its flaws - a weak petrol engine and the lack of certain features to name a few. Now, Ford has given the Aspire a makeover complete with a new petrol engine, revised exteriors, additional features and a more aggressive price tag. Sounds promising then, doesn’t it?
Although there weren’t any major complaints about the way the Aspire looked, Ford has freshened things up a bit for good measure. There are new bumpers, a new front grille, accompanied by hard to notice tweaks to the headlight and tail light geometry. There is a new White Gold colour option lifted from the Freestyle’s palette while the Sparkling Gold (read orange) shade has been dropped. But what really lifts the appearance is a set of new 15-inch alloys replacing the older 14inchers which seemed a tad small for the car.
More than the exterior, though, it’s the changes under the hood and inside the cabin that matter. Starting with the latter, the dashboard houses a 6-5-inch touch screen lifted from the Freestyle that features Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment setup with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. The Aspire now comes with an engine start/stop button, electro chromic rear view mirror, automatic headlamps and rain sensing wipers making it one of the most feature loaded offerings in its segment. Like before, the top end Titanium+ trim features six airbags, while dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, and rear parking sensors are standard across the range. One of the few grouses we have is the lack of rear door pockets and it would have been nice to have rear air conditioning vents as well.
Ford’s new 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine that debuted with the Freestyle replaces the older 1.2-litre 4-cylinder unit. Power and torque outputs of 96bhp and 120Nm translate into an increment of 8bhp and 8Nm. While that may not seem like much, the characteristics of the petrol
MORE THAN THE EXTERIOR, THOUGH, IT’S THE CHANGES UNDER THE HOOD AND INSIDE THE CABIN THAT MATTER
variant have improved. The Aspire petrol feels quicker than before and feels more comfortable being driven hard. To get the best out of it, though, you have to rile it up beyond the 3,000 rpm mark. The engine itself is refined with a counter balancer cutting out most of the vibrations characteristic of 3-cylinder units. The 5-speed gearbox impresses with its short precise throws and the petrol variant is definitely much nicer to drive now.
The Aspire continues to enlist the services of the 1.5 litre 4-cylinder engine for the diesel variant. Like before, there is 100bhp of maximum power and 215 Nm of peak torque. The 5-speed manual transmission used here is new and its smooth shifting nature adds to the joyous driving experience the Aspire diesel offers. Overall claimed fuel efficiency has gone up from 25.83kmpl to 26.1kmpl. Despite the improvements to the petrol variant, our loyalties still lie with the diesel. In fact, it is one of the best diesel compact sedans one can buy, if not the best.
Ford is offering the Aspire with not one but two new petrol engines. The second one comes from the EcoSport - a 1.5-litre 3 cylinder petrol with 123bhp and 150Nm paired exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This combination, on paper at least, seems exciting but sadly we could not get our hands
on this variant during the drive.
Ford doesn’t seem to have fiddled with the ride and handling and steering of the Aspire and that is no bad thing. The Aspire is still one of the better handling vehicles in its segment thanks to its suspension setup that strikes a nice balance between comfort and sporty. The chunky steering wheel is not only nice to hold but responds to inputs well and has the right amount of weight at all speeds. Chucking it into corners is fun but there are instances where the tail gets a bit squirmy especially during sudden changes in direction. Ford claims that the Aspire petrol returns 20.4kmpl overall. This figure comes down to 19.4kmpl in case of the Titanium and Titanium plus trims thanks the use of bigger 195/55 R15 tyres.
Despite all the additions and changes, Ford has managed to bring the price down. The new Aspire is around Rs 20,000 cheaper than the one it replaces. The 1.2 petrol manual variant is priced between Rs 5.55 lakh and Rs 7.24 lakh (ex-showroom) while the diesel variant retails for Rs 6.45 lakh to Rs 8.14 lakh (ex-showroom). The 1.5-litre petrol AT available only in the Titanium trim is price at Rs 8.49 lakh (ex-showroom).
Updates to the cabin include a 6-5-inch touchscreen with the SYNC3 infotainment system, minor changes to the instrument panel and a longer list of features with the addition of an engine start/stop button, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers and an auto dimming IRVM