Ford Aspire CNG first drive review

Okay, so this is the first time that Ford is officially introducing a CNG trim of its existing car in India. The Ford Aspire CNG is available in two trims- Ambiente and Trend+. Small changes have been made to the Aspire to accommodate the kit. This includes mechanical as well as revisions to the suspension. So let’s delve deep into this exclusive review of the Ford Aspire CNG. A note though. We got to drive the base version, which is likely going to be a darling of the taxi brigade.

Ford Aspire CNG

Engine and transmission of the Ford Aspire CNG

Ford Aspire CNG
The engine bay looks quite busy

The Ford Aspire CNG comes with a 6kg cylinder. While the claimed efficiency numbers haven’t been revealed yet, expect the vehicle to go around 30km/kg of compressed natural gas. The petrol engine still boasts 96PS/120Nm from its 1.2-litre naturally aspirated mill. A sequential CNG kit from Lovato is fitted and comes with a two year/1,000,00km warranty. Ford says services are 10,000km/1 year apart. The CNG kit system requires service every 20k kms. 

The big question then is how is the Ford Aspire CNG to drive

Quite smooth! The transition from petrol to CNG is barely noticeable except for the single audio chime that tells you that it has happened. In terms of pickup, we didn’t feel any difference from the petrol version. The clutch travel though is long while the footwell may foul with a larger footed driver. The gear shift too seems a tad rubbery.

Ford Aspire CNG

With three well fed folk on-board, the Aspire CNG. in CNG mode had no issues climbing up an incline in third gear. All this without any clutch slipping. There are minimal vibrations and Ford has done a good job of noise insulation too. The car pulls well and the peppiness that I so love of the 1.2-litre petrol engine isn’t lost on the CNG as well. All in all, I will say this was a good move by Ford.

Ford Aspire CNG
That’s the only indicator inside that this engine is a bi-fuel unit

My gripe with the way Ford on how things are done is that Maruti does a better job of CNG integration. You get warning signals on the dashboard. Here, you get an inconspicuous switch on the right side of the steering wheel. Looks too aftermarket and executed in a hurry. 

Ride and handling of the Ford Aspire CNG

Ford has added a stabiliser bar in the front while the rear bushes too have been stiffened to take in the additional weight of the 6kg CNG tank. The steering still is light and is adjustable only for the height. We like the handling of the Aspire and it’s only when you push do you realise the smidgen extra weight you’re carrying around.

Ford Aspire CNG
Headroom as well as legroom is at a shortage if two 6ft people sit one behind the other

As far as ride quality is concerned, the Ford Aspire CNG has a softer setting for the suspension. It absorbs the low speed bumps well, something taxi passengers will appreciate. The car also has sufficient ground clearance to clear the nasty speed breakers. 

Ford Aspire CNG

One cause of concern with CNG-equipped cars is the brakes. Many have said that aftermarket CNG kits have caused brakes to lose bite easily. Ford has addressed this by retuning the system. This ensures safe braking without any panic or whatsoever. There is also the added safety of ABS with EBD on both the trims. Plus, Ford claims that this is the first taxi-ready car to provide driver and passenger airbags plus seat belt warning indicator for front seat occupants. 

Verdict of the Ford Aspire CNG

To be fair, Ford is a bit late. The Maruti Dzire as well as Hyundai Xcent are being offered in the taxi segment for quite sometime now. Plus the fact that most of the aftermarket companies are more than happy to equip the bigger Etios with a CNG kit too. At Rs 6.27 lakh ex-showroom, the Ambiente trim of the Ford Aspire CNG is the base one you can buy. This is apparent from the 80kmph speed governor that comes pre-installed. The as-of-now top spec trim in CNG, the Trend+ (Rs 7.12 lakh) is a good option for private car owners.

Ford Aspire CNG
Ford Aspire CNG

In all, I feel that if you want a factory CNG-equipped sub-4m sedan today, there is no one else apart from Ford. By this, I mean for private use. You have a massive enough warranty to cover your booty. The service costs too are reasonable and if you don’t believe me, take a look at the Ford website. They are damn reasonable. Only for 60k kms does the regular cost exceed Rs 7,000.

Trivia: Before this, rarely did privateers convert a Ford car into CNG. Don’t believe me? Check on any used car portal and you will know. It was said that Ford engines didn’t take kindly to Compressed Natural Gas. But now with the Aspire, it seems they do.

Things we like about the Ford Aspire CNG

Smoothness, braking as well as ride quality, warranty as well as service costs

Things we don’t like about the Ford Aspire CNG

Boot space is compromised, still no rear AC vents or door bottle holders at the back

We are the only ones to have driven the Ford Aspire petrol automatic. Do take a look at the review


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