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Ford India first introduced the Aspire (then called the Ford Figo Aspire) back in 2015. Aimed to be a strong player in the country's booming compact-sedan segment, the Figo Aspire came with enough and more to take the eyes away from the market leader — the Maruti Suzuki Dzire.
Now, the 2018 Ford Aspire has been launched at a starting price of Rs 5.55 lakh and Rs 6.45 lakh ex-showroom (India) for the petrol and diesel models, respectively. The new Aspire is also available in a 6-speed automatic format, mated to a 1.5-litre petrol engine. With the competition becoming even stronger lately, how does Ford's compact-sedan stand apart from the rest?
Driving fun is the answer!
We drive the 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel variants of the new Ford Aspire in the lands of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, to see how much of a fun-to-drive compact-sedan, it is. But in a quick sum-up, if you have the love for driving, is space-conscious but has the budget to settle for a 'smaller' sedan, the new Aspire is definitely the way to go.
Ford has always been popular when it comes to making fun-to-drive cars. If we look at their portfolio, current and previous, there will be some cars to cater to a niche yet important community on the market — the car enthusiasts aka the petrolheads. To name a few such models, there is the Figo S, EcoSport S and how can a ‘car guy' ever forget the old Fiesta 1.6 S!
In a market where everyone is concentrating more on price, space and fuel efficiency, Ford has prioritised looks, safety and driving-fun as their key objectives; that too in a compact-sedan. Being a category exclusive to the average Indian buyer, the traits of a sub-four-metre sedan have always been about space and function. In the new Ford Aspire 2018 however, things take a different approach.
In typical Ford fashion, most of the changes have happened under the body rather than on it. For the same reason, the new Ford Aspire looks quite identical to what it was before, to an untrained eye. But almost all the aesthetic elements have been given a retouch.
Design & Style
The new Ford Aspire is relatively* a very good-looking compact-sedan. Ford has tried their best to hide the ‘deliberately-shrunken' looks of a compact-sedan by giving adequate attention to other visual components. The sedan also rides noticeably high, making it a good choice for the occasional unforgiving paths.
*We used the term ‘relatively' since compact-sedans can never be that aesthetically pleasing no matter how much the designers break their pencil leads. Sedans are meant to be long and low, while a compact-sedan is essentially a mutated hatchback with extra boot space. However, the concept seems to work really well for the Indian market.
The hexagonal grille now comes with cells or pellets finished in silver and lies in perfect harmony with the semi-blacked-out swept-back headlamps. Chrome is minimal but not non-existent as they form an embracement for the grille and a ‘C-shaped' enclosure for the fog lamps on the redesigned front bumper. The raised bonnet has got a bulge at the centre too; adding a bit of sportiness to the front.
The side profile is compact yet tall, proving what segment it belongs to. The character line evolves from a chrome jewel on the front fender and extends towards the tail lamps, through the door handles. The C-pillar cuts sharply from the roofline to accommodate the boot; a common design trend of compact-sedans.
The 15-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels compliment the overall design really well. The four-lug rims are finished in silver and fit perfectly-spaced between the arches and overhangs, even while giving the car a good 174mm of ground clearance.
Towards the rear, there is a union of elegance and sportiness. A thick chrome garnish connects the wrap-around tail lamps while also having the ‘Ford' logo embedded on it at the centre. Though Ford calls the car just the Aspire, the ‘Figo' badging still remains prominent. Further drama is added by the pair of side vents on either side of the otherwise-minimal rear bumper.
To brief down the overall aesthetics, the Ford Aspire does look pleasing for a sedan cut short to under four metres. Ford, with the new Aspire, has done a good job in packaging both form and function in the best possible way.
The interiors do not carry a major overhaul except for the central console. The dual-tone dashboard, finished in gloss black and subtle chrome highlights, is familiar from the previous model but the infotainment system is what which makes the main difference.
Stereo & Infotainment
The SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system spans 6.5 inches diagonally and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to the navigation offered through the mobile connectivity platforms, there is also a small compass on the home screen. First seen in the new Ford Freestyle, it is an interesting addition.
Connectivity options also include two USB ports and a 12V output. They are placed just below a small storage compartment on the dashboard, sized perfectly to keep your phone or wallet.
Practicality, Comfort & Boot Space
The tiltable steering is large and the rim fits perfectly in the hands of a driving enthusiast. Fords have always been praised for their excellent steering feel and feedback; the Aspire being no exception. However, at least some would prefer the old hydraulic power steering over the current electric unit.
The instrument console looks similar to that in the previous model but now gets a coolant temperature gauge. The dials are put up in a good fashion and the values are easily legible. Information such as distance-to-empty, average & instant fuel economy, average speed and outside temperature are shown along with a gear shift indicator.
The seats offer brilliant support and have got adequate amounts of cushioning. The beige fabric looks pleasing to the eye but we suspect it might get dirty really quickly, especially if you have a habit of driving with the windows open. On the bright side, the beige certainly brings an airy feeling to the cabin, combined with the sufficient greenhouse. The driver seat is height-adjustable and the driving position is great for anyone, any size.
Coming to the rear, everything seems to be just fine but not great. The seats can accompany three adults but not with the best comfort, especially if they are six-footers. However, the legroom is decent enough to accompany a six-footer both at the front and rear, back-to-back. Some may find the headroom to be a bit tight and tall passengers might get a grazeon the hair.
The middle passenger gets some extra space for the legs due to the absence of a rear AC vent but misses out on a headrest. The armrest is broad and soft but does not come with cup holders.
If you are on the nitpicky side, you might find some things concerning — such as the absence of a rear grab handle, rear-bench not being foldable and the availability of only one cabin light at the front.
But there are a lot of intelligently-integrated storage spaces all around and the glove box is deep enough to swallow up a lot of stuff. Overall, the Ford Aspire's cabin is a nice place to be in.
With a 359-litre boot capacity, the Ford Aspire can take up all your family's luggage for a vacation. Some may find the loading area to be a bit hit from the ground but is certainly not that effort-requiring. The compartment is illuminated with a small lamp and a non-full-size spare wheel (175/65 R14) hides under the floor.
Engine, Performance & Driving Impressions
Since we drove both the petrol and diesel variants, let us explain our driving experiences separately. Both power plants showcase good driveability but in two different ways. While the petrolvariant is meant for those who like to drive using the engine's full potential, the diesel is well-suited for the pedal-lazy yet torque-thirsty.
Ford Aspire Petrol
The 1.2-litre Dragon series petrol engine was first introduced in the Ford Freestyle and we had a lot of good things to say about it in our review. With 95bhp and 120Nm of torque, it is the most powerful engine in its class and offers a good balance between smoothness at the lower band and dynamism on the upper.
On paper it is still a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated three-cylinder but the way it performs is on a different league for a small car. As with most three-cylinders, the engine does lug a bit under 2000 RPM but once the revs climb past it, the car really moves; so much so that hitting 100km/h on second gear isn't a deal-breaker.
The new 5-speed manual gearbox (15% lighter; 40% lesser oil consuming) from Getrag — one of the leading suppliers of automotive transmission systems in the world — has also been borrowed from the Freestyle. The short-throw gear lever is quite engaging but we wish it came with a better knob design (though it goes well with the elegance of the Aspire). If you are really challenging the engine for some reason, the shifts can be a bit harsh but at all other times, theyhappen with a nice ‘clunk' to it.
Ford Aspire Diesel
The diesel engine on the new Aspire is familiar from a lot of other Fords on the market, including the EcoSport and the current Figo hatchback. The engine is really capable and as with any modern turbocharged diesel power plant, the torque surge is quite overwhelming. As we said at the beginning, the diesel engine is perfect for those who wish to seek the best performance without digging too much into the throttle.
For most of your drives (unless on the open highway), you wouldn't even have to shift to fifth as the gear ratios are adequately spaced out and the engine is fine-tuned to give a linear power delivery across the band. Obviously, there is the inevitable turbo lag but not in an amount to complain.
The diesel engine is mated to the same Getrag transmission but unlike the petrol variant, the gear lever has got a lock-out pull ring. This means that if you have to engage the car into reverse, you would have to lift up the gear knob and move the lever. We have asked the engineers at Ford the reason behind it and they told us that it is to accompany a sixth gearif required (probably in some other Ford model).
Overall Driving Impressions
The Ford Aspire boasts of a well-balanced chassis capable of showcasing the best of both ends: performance and comfort. The suspension seems to be on the stiffer side on level roads but when the wheels hit broken paths, the springs loosen up. This quality enables the Aspire to have a planted ride at high speeds while also being a comfortable car over the occasional undulations.
Fast turns see minimal body roll thanks to the new anti-roll bar while the nicely-weighted steering wheel instils confidence on the long high-speed straights. With a low turning radius of 4.90 metres, manoeuvring the car in tight parking spots is also a breeze.
NVH controls are not the Aspire's strong suit and the engine noise really creeps into the cabin, especially in the diesel variant. Regarding the petrol variant, the noise seeps in only at high RPMs and you wouldn't mind that at all.
The pedals have got great feel and are neatly placed apart. The absence of a dead pedal might be a letdown to some but that is an easy addition which Ford can introduce at a later stage.
Despite all the minor and ignorable flaws, we guarantee you that the new Ford Aspire is definitely a car you wouldn't regret buying.
The Ford Aspire is also available in a petrol-automatic format — a 1.5-litre Dragon series TiVCT three-cylinder engine which makes 121bhp and 150Nm of torque. The automatic gearbox is a 6-speed ‘PowerShift' DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) unit which promises smooth shifts. Unfortunately, we couldn't drive the Ford Aspire automatic but we expect it to be as fun as the other variants.
Here are all the essential facts and figures of the new Ford Aspire 2018 in a glance:
|Engine||1.2-Litre TiVCT (NA)||1.5-Litre TDCi|
|No. Of Cylinders||3||4|
|Transmission||5-Speed Manual||5-Speed Manual|
|Claimed Mileage (km/l)||20.4||26.1|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1043||1080|
|Tyre Size||195/55 R15||195/55 R15|
Safety & Key Features
The Ford Aspire features all the essentials and ticks a lot of boxes in the safety department. For instance, the car comes equipped with Ford's Emergency Assistance — a system which automatically calls emergency services through a paired smartphone, at the event of an accident (by detecting airbag deployment or fuel shut-down). To ensure that no unnecessary calls are made, the system asks for your permission before proceeding the call.
In addition to such a class-leading feature, here are some of the other things offered on the top-trim 2018 Ford Aspire:
- Electric/remote boot release
- Steering-mounted audio controls
- Automatic climate control
- Push-button start/stop
- Automatic headlamps
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Electrically foldable & adjustable ORVMs
- Six airbags
- Engine immobiliser
Variants, Pricing & Colours
The 2018 Ford Aspire is available in 11 variants (five petrol, five diesel and one petrol-automatic). Prices for the Aspire start at Rs 5.55 lakh ex-showroom (India) and go all the way up to Rs 8.49 lakh. Here's a simple break-up:
|Ambiente||Rs 5.55 Lakh||Rs 6.45 Lakh|
|Trend||Rs 5.99 Lakh||Rs 6.89 Lakh|
|Trend+||Rs 6.39 Lakh||Rs 7.29 Lakh|
|Titanium||Rs 6.79 Lakh||Rs 7.69 Lakh|
|Titanium+||Rs 7.24 Lakh||Rs 8.14 Lakh|
|Titanium (Automatic)||Rs 8.49 Lakh||N/A |
The new Ford Aspire comes in a choice of seven colours: White Gold (diesel review vehicle), Moondust Silver, Smoke Grey. Absolute Black, Deep Impact Blue, Ruby Red (petrol review vehicle) and Oxford White.
Competitors & Fact Check
In the India-exclusive compact-sedan market, the Ford Aspire faces some real competition from brands such as Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Tata Motors and Hyundai. With the Maruti Dzire — the current fastest-selling car in India — in the lead and the Honda Amaze coming close, the new Ford Aspire has to offer enough to be on the map. The competition showcased by the new Tata Tigor and Hyundai Xcent is also strong.
Here is a brief comparison of the new Ford Aspire with two of its main rivals:
|Data (Petrol/Diesel)||Ford Aspire||Maruti Dzire||Honda Amaze|
|No. Of Cylinders||3/4||4/4||4/4|
|Boot Space (Litres)||359||378||420|
|Starting Price*||Rs 5.55 Lakh||Rs 5.60 Lakh||Rs 5.59 Lakh|
Maintenance & Warranty
Ford is one of the first manufacturers in India to openly share the full maintenance cost break-up of their products on their official website. The rather bold move (still not undertaken by most other brands operating in India) has helped in building a good trust between the company and their customers, over the past few years.
Below are the maintenance and warranty details of the new Ford Aspire:
5 years or 1,00,000km (two-year factory + three-year extended warranty)
- Running costs
38 paise/km (petrol) | 46 paise/km (diesel)
The Ford Aspire stays true to the title we've unofficially given it — ‘the compact-sedan for the driver in you'. With a well-engineered chassis, competitive pricing (a lower starting price than the previous model), ample amounts of equipment and a whole lot of driving fun, Ford has once again done it!
Abhinand Venugopal Thinks!
The amount of dedication by Ford towards making driver-focussed cars is unmatchable. While the rest of the party goes only behind fuel-efficiency, features and pricing, the new Aspire covers almost all the spheres of a perfect car.
But still, we are waiting for them to introduce a full-size sedan once again; possibly a new Ford Fiesta. Just the right formula and we might see a strong contender in the current C-segment market, dominated by the likes of the Honda City, Hyundai Verna, Maruti Ciaz and a few others.
Ford India, are you listening?