Ford Aspire First Drive Review
By definition, a sedan which doesn’t fit in the conventional dimension and is smaller in length to avail the excise duty relief is a compact sedan. Hyundai Xcent, Tata Zest and Maruti Suzuki DZire are the right examples of the same. Most of these sedans are derived with an addition of a boot over their hatched offerings and are also lucratively priced.
While others are already in the compact party, Ford has decided to enter now. They maybe late, or that’s what some might think, but seem to have a justified reason for it. Their team in India have put in brains and efforts to make a compact sedan tailored for Indian conditions. Also, they claim to have worked on the demerits of its rivals and bettered it all in their new offering.
The Aspire is Ford’s take on a smart sub four meter compact sedan which has its priorities straight with safety and technological innovation in prime focus. As much as it looks strong on paper, the real feel is always a decision maker. Will it set a new benchmark or is it too aspirational? Our first drive report is here.
Do the looks inspire any excitement? Not really. If there is anything that makes a strong statement on the outside, it has to be the brand new solid trapezoidal grille, which draws inspiration from, a no brainer on that, Aston Martin. The four wide slats along with its surround are done in chrome and leave a positive impression indeed. Such high praise, unfortunately, doesn’t continue across its design.
Sweep back headlamps occupy a large chunk of the front quarter and are not exactly any modern to look at. The front bumper gets a curvy profile with standard shaped fog lamps and an air splitter underneath. The arrangement surely looks subtle if not sophisticated. Wonder why Ford shied away from suiting it with modern gizmos like projector headlights and day time running lights.
There is a power bulge on the bonnet with stronger lines flowing along the side. If you go through our Fiesta review, I went bonkers for those Indy racer styled alloys but the ones on Aspire aren’t any impressive. The R14 tyres look a tad small for the overall wheel well. It measures 3995mm in length, 1695mm in width and 1525mm in height, which makes it shorter and narrower than the Tata Zest however, at 2491mm, it has a longer wheelbase than the Zest and DZire.
Seen from some angles, it looks like a shrunken Fiesta as the overall design language is similar. The B-pillar is blackened and the door handles are body coloured. One aspect where the Aspire is more suited for Indian roads is its higher ground clearance of 174 mm meaning even with all occupants, this one won’t scrape on tall speed breakers.
The excitement of the front gets subdued on the side and descends even further in the rear. It has a clean rear profile for sure but the large proportions of metal keep you wanting for more elements. To compensate that feeling, there is a chunky chrome strip joining the tail lights. It gets model branding with Figo written in larger fonts highlighting the lineage. So overall, the Aspire doesn’t leave a wow effect in terms of its exterior design.
Inside the Aspire, it looks all very familiar as it shares much of its trim design and architecture with the Fiesta and EcoSport. Not that I am a big fan of it but for the Aspire, Ford has gone in with a dual tone interior instead of an all black coloured, and that is a good thing.
Because, the cabin feels a lot brighter and roomier than it actually is. The full feature high end titanium+ variant comes with the best of everything including neatly stitched leather seats. The beige coloured lends a premium feel and is also a please to the eye. The seats are comfortable with the right amount of support.
The driver seat gets mechanical height adjustment lever for all kinds of passengers. Except for the titanium+, other variants get two tone fabric seats and they surely don’t feel premium. It gets plenty of knee room around the front passengers again helping the tall kinds to sit with a relaxed feel. The rear seats are reasonably comfortable with decent space making it in league, if not the best, of its rivals.
The instrumental cluster is basic, shows essential vehicle information including distance to empty and fuel consumption. It gets SYNC connect with emergency assist, again only on the titanium+. It made a debut with the Ford EcoSport and since then has been carried over on all cars. It is impressive to see Ford equip the Aspire too with the same. It can read out text messages, operate infotainment and make calls with the help of voice assist. The system works with almost all accents.
Lower variants get an innovative feature on the dashboard - MyDock. It is a creative use of front dashboard recess which allows you to store mount and charge mobile phone by placing it on the holder where the lid bites on to it and also doubles up as a navigation screen by integrating phone’s functions with the car. The rubber pad buttons on the central console feel less premium on lower variants. The AC control unit gets glossy dials with soft touch buttons.
The USP of Aspire has to be the numerous storage options; 20 to be precise. Front door pockets can hold 2 containers of 1.5L and 1L each. In addition, there is room for an umbrella too. Just below the AC control unit, is a smart mobile storage area with an anti-skid pad. The glove box can swallow in a full size laptop and still has more space. There are three cup holders for front seat occupants while rear passengers have to make do with one bin placed on the central zone. Rear passenger doors get no bottle holders. Most importantly, there is a secret pocket located peculiarly on the right side of the dashboard towards the driver which can be accessed only when the driver’s door is open. Lastly, it gets a 359L boot space which is sufficiently generous.
All Ford Aspire owners would agree that the diesel performed way better than the petrol as the latter felt totally powerless when driven hard. Good news is Ford has finally heard everyone. They have made the petrol engine powerful, not that it has got as exciting as Honda’s i-VTEC but then it does a decent job. Also, in addition to a manual transmission, there is an automatic too solely with a higher spec 1.5L engine. For the more popular diesel seeking, there is a 1.5L option.
More horses have not changed the scheme of things drastically in the 1.2 petrol variant which now makes 88 PS and 112 Nm. The initial response post stand still is not encouraging. The motor needs to be pushed to higher revs in case you wish to juice out some performance out of it. In city traffic, the lacklustre response gets too tiring to deal with. The five speed manual transmission is again not the best in the business and tends to get notchy with frequent shifts. Daily commutes are still manageable but the lack of power gets you on highways where the motor begs for lower shifts the moment you wish to overtake. At higher speeds, it gets more audible than normal which leaves a need for further refinement.
The diesel on the other hand is far better. It is the same that does duty on the EcoSport and Fiesta except for the one in Aspire gets a minor tweak. The remapping of the ECU has resulted in a stronger power delivery. This 1.5 diesel motor makes 100 PS and 215 Nm of torque. After driving the petrol, the diesel feels way more confident making it feel like a motor boat compared to an oared one.
The engine doesn’t come alive with a touch of a button. Yes! Ford, for some reasons, have not offered a push start button on this one and instead have gone with the conventional crank and start system. Also, along with the standard key, there is something called as MyKey, again to be seen only on the top end variant. This key helps the owner to programme max speed, seatbelt reminder and also limit audio unit volume. It acts as a guardian angel for doting parents.
Back to the diesel motor, there is no lag felt at initial engine speeds. It has a strong lower range as well as mid range power delivery. The higher torque of 215Nm comes in handy at the right occasions. The lighter steering makes it easy to manoeuvre. The shift quality is better though we recommend not fiddling with it too much. Driving it on highways makes you realise the right place for the diesel motor. Like the petrol, this one too doesn’t like to be quiet while it works hard. There is too much of clatter as the tacho needle keeps climbing across the range. However, it drives better and also reaches higher speeds with great ease.
If the motors couldn’t make me sing praise for it, the suspensions surely did. It has McPherson struts with anti-roll bar in the front and semi-independent with twist beam setup in the rear. It has a strong potential to keep swallowing uneven undulations and bad surfaces. With all occupants, the ride quality isn’t that great. The pint looking R14 tyres try really hard to claw on the tarmac but aren’t as effective as they should ideally be. The NVH levels are considerably low even when the suspensions are battling with potholes and speed breakers. Great insulation has been done inside the cabin to insulate it from redundant noises.
|Engine||1.5 TDCi (Diesel)||1.2L Ti-VCT (Petrol)||1.5L Ti-VCT (Petrol)|
|Power in PS/RPM||100 / 3750||88 / 6300||112 / 6300|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||215 / 1750 - 3000||112 / 4000||136 / 4250|
|Gears||5 - MT||5 - MT||6 - AT|
|Wheel base mm||2491||2491||2491|
|Ground clearance mm||174||174||174|
|Fuel tank capacity (l)||40||42||42|
|Tyre Spec||175 / 65 R14||175 / 65 R14||175 / 65 R14|
|Leather Seat Upholstery||No||No||Yes|
|Driver Seat Height Adjustment||No||Yes||Yes|
|Guide Me home headlamps||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Automatic Climate Controls||No||Yes||Yes|
|Steering Mounted Audio and Phone Controls||No||Yes||Yes|
|SYNC with Voice Control||No||No||Yes|
|Driver & Passenger Airbags||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ABS with EBD||No||Yes||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Engine||1.5 TDCi (Diesel)||DDiS||Multijet|
|Power in PS/RPM||100 / 3750||74 / 4000||89 / 4000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||215 / 1750 - 3000||190 / 2000||200 / 1750|
|Gears||5 - MT||5 - MT||5 - MT|
|Wheel base mm||2491||2430||2470|
|Ground clearance mm||174||170||165|
|Fuel tank capacity (l)||40||42||44|
|Tyre Spec||175 / 65 R14||185 / 65 R15||185 / 60 R15|
If you love driving and were hoping the Aspire to be as much fun as the Fiesta, you will be sorely disappointed because this is a car for every day commute. The performance of the petrol engine will completely wipe off any happy grin from your face. The diesel does act as a saviour there by offering more torque and low end grunt; however, it’s not sufficient to encourage a zesty drive. The mileage conscious have something to rejoice as the 1.5L diesel delivers 25.83kmpl whereas the 1.2L petrol offers 18.16 kmpl and the 1.5L automatic isn’t too behind at 17.2kmpl.
Even though the exteriors aren’t something to elaborate, it still has enough feel to look appealing to some. Inside, the door plastics and panel fittings aren’t the best but the well stitched seats, roomy interiors and a world of storage options make up for it. The only place where Ford really makes an impressive mark is not compromising on the safety of occupants.
Firstly, driver and front passenger airbags are standard across all variants. The top trim gets 6 airbags which is not only a first in class feature but also a necessary one. It also features emergency assistance, a system which automatically makes a call to emergency services in case of an accident and then there is MyKey, a safety feature for the less experienced drivers. Overall, the Aspire is suitable for those who want the benefits of a compact sedan without compromising on safety and efficiency. Clearly, it is far away from setting a benchmark.