DRIVING IMPRESSION: Ford Figo sedan 1.5 Titanium Powershift

BY CHARL BOSCH - APRIL 11, 2016

It might be an overused and frankly annoying adage to use, but Ford South Africa’s initial decision to replace the terminally aged Ka with the Indian sourced Figo six years ago once again proved why you should never judge a book… or in this case budget car, by its cover.

Using the then-discounted sixth generation Fiesta as a base with a slightly re-sculpted nose, different interior trim and minus a few toys, the Figo proved to be a massive hit with buyers given its proven underpinnings and still impressive levels of kit when you factored in the R109 990 asking price of the base 1.4 Ambiente.

Backing these credentials further up, it also garnered a South African Car of Year finalist gong in 2011, and regularly featured among the country’s top ten best sellers with 9 889 units finding new homes last year.

The arrival of the second generation Figo however signals a change in market approach with the newcomer aiming to move away from its budget beater origins, to a more upmarket offering while still slotting in below the Fiesta on price.

This renewed tactic has also seen Ford offering the Figo as both a five-door hatch and four-door sedan for the first time, as well as the option of manual or automatic gearbox with engine choices again made-up of a single petrol or turbodiesel.

Being the two newest additions to the range, it somehow only seemed natural for the booted version with the self-shifter to come under the spotlight first.

Like the previous Figo, the newcomer continues to make use of the same underpinnings as the current Fiesta, but with the “borrowed” looks dropped in favour of the latest iteration of the Blue Oval’s Kinetic 2.0 styling language.

Characterised by the now familiar Aston Martin inspired chrome grille, oversized swept back headlights, deep front airdam and more rounded nose, the Figo, especially in the Ruby Red colour of our tester, arguably rates as more stylish than before despite the 14-inch alloy wheels appearing somewhat lost in the flared wheel arches.

Often the downfall of some hatches converted into sedans, there is very little to suggest that the Figo’s rump has simply been welded on as an afterthought. Not as controversial as that of the Fiesta sedan, the boot section seamlessly integrates with body’s structure and while not the most striking, cannot be described boring or ugly.

Open the front door, the Figo’s Fiesta origins are more prominent with the same smartphone-inspired dashboard layout used in the EcoSport and Transit / Tourneo Connect.

With a mixture of soft-touch plastics on most surfaces and high-gloss black finishes on the steering wheel, door handles, around the air vents and gear selector display, the layout looks neat and, dare I say it, sporty with a particular interesting touch being the storage shelf located underneath the easy-to-operate climate control switches.

Unlike lesser models, the Titanium also gains the same 4.2-inch static display infotainment system that debuted on the Fiesta, and although most of its functions are still button controlled, it can be offset by using the first generation version of Ford’s SYNC media interface with voice command.

Despite its compact dimensions, interior space in the Figo sedan can be hardly be called cramped. With a number of family members, tall and small, acting is volunteers in the front and the rear during the one-week rendezvous, complaints of head and leg room shortages were non-existent with the opposite being highlighted on a number of occasions.

What surprised many observers given its segment positioning was the size of the boot. Capacious and deep, Ford claims the Figo sedan would swallow a total of 455-litres with the single-piece rear seat up folded down. A rather curious addition was the fitment of an emergency boot release tag located on the lid, which appeared to have come straight from a number of models sold in the United States.

As expected, standard spec in the Titanium warrants for very little and includes the aforementioned SYNC system with Bluetooth, Aux input and USB, electric window all around with one touch up/down function for the driver, body coloured bumper and door handles, electric mirrors, auto lock doors, full-trip computer, four-speaker sound system, six airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP and Hill Start Assist.

Along with its newfound looks, the Figo has also been given a new heart with the old 1.4-litre unit making way for the same 1.5-litre Duratec mill used in the EcoSport, which produces 82 kW and 136 N.m of torque.

Teamed with Ford’s six-speed Powershift dual-clutch gearbox, the sole option on the Titanium sedan, the engine feels lively despite the modest torque output, while the box responds by being smooth most of the time and responding on time when shifting down.

Although the Powershift offers a Sport mode that allows gears to be changed manually via buttons on the gear lever, its response and operation on a daily basis never warranted it to be moved out of Drive during the seven days.

Later during its stay, the Figo also had the opportunity to prove itself on the open road when tasked with ferrying its minder to two working commitments in Paterson and Grahamstown on separate days.

Rated by some as one of the worst roads in the PE area, the notorious R335 / R342 passing Addo failed to unnerve FC 25 BC GP much as its ride, no doubt as a result of the road conditions in its native India, remained compliant and comfortable despite the potholes and badly patched sections of tarmac this road is known for.

The hilly nature of the N2 leading to Grahamstown also failed to unseat the Figo as it look the rollercoaster-like road in its stride, never feeling underpowered when going up, or the box deciding to long where to shift down when the route started to climb. Throughout both trips, fuel consumption was impressive with the latter seeing the trip computer registering a smidge over 6.0 L/100 km.

It might have moved away from its budget car roots and seen its price go up since being launched, there is still little doubt about the newfound appeal of the second generation Ford Figo. With more standard kit than before and the added option of a sedan with and/or an auto box, expect it to continue where its predecessor left off.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 1,498 cc
MAX POWER 82 kW @6300 rpm
MAX TORQUE 136 N.m @4250 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed dual-clutch
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] 12.0 secs
TOP SPEED 175 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 6.0 L/100 km*
EMISSIONS 142 g/km
PRICE R205 900

*As claimed during test period