This one looks like a spin-off on the Figo. Come to think of it. The Ford Figo in its second generation wasn’t the most successful car the company made. Instead, it struggled to find buyers despite having impressed everyone with its specifications. Then why is the Ford Freestyle here? I will explain. We are an SUV crazy nation (the world itself prefers SUVs now). While the EcoSport does business in the Rs 9-14 lakh price bracket, there was a need to have something below it. Something that resembles an SUV but actually isn’t. Ford did it first with the Fusion, then Hyundai did the i20 Active. Toyota and many others also joined the race. So what does the Ford Freestyle offer and more importantly does it actually deliver on those promises? Let’s find out.
Ride and handling of the Ford Freestyle
Hey, isn’t this section usually reserved towards the end of the review? You’re right. However, I didn’t want to save the best for the last. The Ford Freestyle rides on independent McPherson units in the front and semi independent shock absorbers at the back. These have been tuned just perfectly. When you go over a series of bumps, the Ford Freestyle will handle these like a much bigger vehicle. It is only the largest of bumps that require you to slow down. Enroute the shoot location, near Turbhe where the roads are in an abysmal condition, I didn’t as much bother about tip toeing my way. The raised ride height also helps immensely. But bear in mind that the Freestyle is no SUV and caution has to be maintained while trying to attempt climbing spaces reserved for the bigger bullies.
When the time to attack a corner shows up, the Freestyle delivers a smile on your face. It corners as if on rails and helps increase driver confidence immensely. I though didn’t like the steering as much. It could have been a tad lighter in operation. The Active Rollover Protection or ARP helps in maintaining body control if you overcook things. Simply put, this is one of the best budget cars I have driven in a while.
Since this is a petrol, the NVH was on the lower side. The engine is a 3-cylinder unit, however there are minimal vibrations to speak about. It’s only on cold starts that you feel slight vibrations from the steering and the clutch pedal. Also, one sits a tad higher up than the regular Figo here and this means decent visibility. That been said, at the rear, things due to the narrow glass area, you can see out much. The camera with guidelines and the parking sensors help out. The wing mirrors too are wide enough for you to see what’s happening behind.
Engine and transmission
The car we drove was a petrol and it comes with an all-new 1.2-litre 3-cylinder Dragon series engine. This engine has been localised and is built at Ford’s Sanand plant in Gujarat. It makes 98PS of power and 120Nm of torque. These are the highest numbers in its class and Ford claims that the Freestyle will deliver 19kmpl fuel efficiency. In our tests though the Ford Freestyle mileage was 14.3kmpl overall. The top speed is around 160kmph.
What these numbers don’t really tell you are that the engine is a bit hesitant to rev till the redline but is very tractable. This means even if you slot third gear at 20kmph, the engine doesn’t protest and neither will you need to downshift to gain instant momentum. The bottom as well as mid range have been tuned to extract maximum performance. The 5-speed gearbox is also very smooth to operate and the clutch is also on the lighter side. Towards the top, the Ford Freestyle doesn’t seem too enthusiastic and that could be one reason for the not-so high top speed. However, given that we stay in India and there are less chances of reaching these speeds, the vehicle acquits itself nicely.
The cabin of the Freestyle will remind you of the Figo’s unit. The first as well as the second generation that is. In layout, it resembles the latter while in terms of upholstery as well as dashboard colour choices, the former. Ford has used brown layered plastics for the Freestyle’s upholstery. I didn’t like it as much but there was no question of loathing either. The freshness in the cabin is infused with the new 6.5-inch touchscreen music system. Again, like the ride and handling package, this has got to be the best unit out there. Its responsiveness as well as the graphics are a sight to behold. There is Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay. However, navigation is available only for Android Auto. On-board WiFi is also available. This can be used to update the Sync3 apps. Even in glaring sunlight, the system is legible and the best part is that it is placed in the driver’s line of sight.
The foam used for the seat caresses your derriere nicely, however the thin side bolsters mean that you will not enjoy long stints in these seats. Legroom at the back is decent enough. However, the headroom and shoulderroom are a bit lacking. There are no cup or bottle holders at the backBoot space of 257 litres though is decent enough for a few suitcases. Ford will only give you a smaller spare tyre.
Quality of materials used in the cabin is good enough. However, there are a few areas where you feel they should have used softer plastics. For example, the lower part of the dashboard. Build quality though is seemingly good. In terms of features, there are auto headlights, front and rear fog lights, automatic climate control, ample storage spaces in the front and more. The
In terms of safety, this Titanium + version of the Freestyle petrol gets six airbags, ABS with EBD, ARP as well as traction control. The latter can be switched off via a button on the central console. Dual airbags and ABS are standard across the range that has Ambiente, Trend, Titanium and Titanium + trims. Height adjustable front seat belts as well as a auto dimming mirror along with parking sensors and a rear camera are also offered.
I kept this part for the last because the Ford Freestyle is basically a derivative of the Figo. It is likely that the Figo may get a facelift soon and this is going to be exactly the same face. There will be minimum differentiation between these two cars then. Keeping all this aside, for the Freestyle, Ford has used very less chrome. The grille itself is a dark mesh unit whereas the even the fog light enclosures are done in a C-shape with black plastic around. The silver skid plate at the front and back do uplift the ambience a bit. The brushed grey 15-inch alloys are plain looking but overall add to the look of the vehicle. I particularly like the glossy finish for the ORVMs as well as the satin finish roof rails. All around the car, you will notice the black plastic cladding that adds a sense of ruggedness to the design.
At the back, the lights are claimed to have revised internal elements but carry the same shape from the Figo. Faux vents at the lower portion of the bumper are also present.
If you were in the market for buying a cross-styled hatch, what will be your options? The Hyundai i20 Active, Toyota Etios Cross, Volkswagen Cross Polo, Fiat Urban Cross and the Maruti Suzuki Celerio X. A new car, the Tata Tiago NRG will also join this mix soon. Out of all these cars, the best of the lot should be the Ford Freestyle. Ford Freestyle petrol price in India start from Rs 5.09 lakh with the car you see here being priced at Rs 7.04 lakh, ex-Mumbai. Given that it offers six airbags and lots of useful features, this one is a steal. The Cross styling will keep you aside from the regular hatchback while the handling as well as petrol motor will keep you entertained.
Things we like in the Ford Freestyle
Brilliant ride and handling package, infotainment system and safety features
Things we don’t like in the Ford Freestyle
Styling could have been radically different from Figo and not so spacious rear seating
Trivia: The Ford Fusion was a bigger and spacious car when it came out sometime in 2006. If Ford had toed a similar line while keeping the price same as the current Freestyle, the list of buyers would have increased multi fold.
Images by Donald Dsouza