Recently unveiled, the Ford Freestyle is a compact crossover based on the Figo hatchback. Flaunting a higher, 190mm ground clearance, the car has wider tracks. Powered by a new 96bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, and a new five-speed manual transmission, the car could be also had with a 100bhp, 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. Substantial looking than the Figo hatchback, the Freestyle employs scuff plates at the front and rear. A black cladding runs around the lower portion of the car and the wheel arches.
In the front, the car sports ‘smoke-effect’ head lamps instead of the clear lens units of the Figo. The hexagonal grille is of wire mesh unlike the chrome-slate grille of the Figo. The bonnet has been subtly tweaked to flaunt a more pronounced ‘V’. The bumper has been tweaked too, to include ‘c’-shaped fog lamps enclosures. They, along with the scuff plate and the cladding, add to the rugged look of the car. Marking the sides are the roof rails that can support up to 50kg of load. The 15-inch dia wheels over the Figo’s 14-inch dia wheels fill up the wheel arches, but look a bit smaller. The wheels are fitted with higher aspect ratio, 185/60 R15 tyres. The redesigned tail lamps help the Freestyle stand apart from the Figo.
Cabin not so spacious
Though the cabin is similar to the Figo’s, it has subtle differences. The chocolate-black colour theme is different, and at the centre of the dash is a new 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. To accommodate it, the centre console was redesigned. The Sync 3 software, the infotainment system uses, is friendly and among the best found in cars. It quickly pairs with the phone via Bluetooth. Though there is no sat-nav, the system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Featuring keyless entry and go, auto climate control with dials that look top-notch, Ford MyKey function that allows the pre-setting of maximum volume levels and of speed limits, dual airbags and ABS — the Freestyle, in top-spec guise, offers six airbags, traction control, electronic stability programme (ESP) and a unique active rollover protection function.
The large front seats are supportive and comfy. From behind the steering, the view ahead is good. The instrument cluster is easy to read and looks simple. It may not be liked by all. The front door pockets provide good storage space. Between the front seats, there are two cup holders and two USB slots too. There’s also a 12V charging socket. Legroom at the rear is good. Large windows make for an airy feel, and the seat is supportive though a little soft. The storage space at the rear is of 257-litres.
The petrol version of the Ford Freestyle is impressively quiet at typical city speeds. It exerts a good pull as the revs climb past 3000rpm. Not the most free-revving, the engine feels livelier at mid and higher revs. A good amount of power is had at higher revs; almost until the redline. The engine does sound a bit buzzy at higher revs, but not to an extent of being annoying. The five-speed transmission supports precise and light shifts.
The diesel engine, also found on the Figo, Aspire and EcoSport, provides good driveability. It supplies good power from lower revs and makes for an easy drive. Capable of clocking 0 to 100kmph in 12 seconds, the Freestyle, due to the availability of power at lower revs and a linear built-up of power, makes a good long distance cruiser. The clutch is a bit heavier than that of the petrol version, however, the five-speed gearbox, like that of the petrol version, makes for light and precise shifts.
Displaying an impressive ride quality, the car feels dynamically apt. There’s a bit of a stiff edge to the ride at low speeds. The tyres do a good job of absorbing road shocks. There’s an amount of road and wind noise at speeds, but what impresses is the high-speed stability of the car and it can tackle corners with ease. Inspiring confidence, the electric power steering provides good feedback.
The Ford Freestyle is expected to cost anywhere between Rs 6 and 9 lakh.s Though it may not flaunt the most premium or the most spacious cabin in its category, but doesn’t disappoint you with its performance, ride and handling.