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Ford Freestyle: Road Test Review

  • Aug 03, 2018
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Ford has surprised us with a crossover version of a hatchback even before launching the updated version of the new Ford Figo we now expect toward the end of 2018. And it’s not just another hatchback with roof rails and plastic cladding added on.


Ground clearance has increased by 16mm over the Figo to 190mm and it also features a 30mm wider track to help it better grip the road and give the taller hatchback more stability. Ford have also beefed up the suspension and anti roll bars, further adding stability and resisting the roll that is common after the ride height of a car is increased, but more on this later.


How does it look?


A proper crossover must look the part and Ford has added on all the requisite cosmetic changes to the Freestyle to distinguish it from a regular hatchback. So it features plastic cladding along the wheel arches and there are also faux matte silver bash plates on both bumpers as well. It gets a new hexagonal grill, similar to the one on the Figo S, while the bumper features a redesigned cutout for the fog lamps. It also receives roof rails that Ford says are functional as well and can take a 50kg load when paired with a luggage rack. It also features eight-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels with 185/65 R15-sized tyres.


On the inside


The design of the dashboard of the Freestyle has to be the most improved section over the Figo hatchback. The new 6.5-inch touchscreen and the climate control knobs below it are a big improvement on the dated design that plagued the Figo. Another detail that's easy to miss are the heavy duty ‘3D’ rubber mats that will help keep mud and dirt off your carpeted flooring. The rest of the interior is spacious as well but there still are some niggles. The front seats for example don’t offer as much lateral support as we would’ve liked and the rear bench’s integrated headrests are not comfortable for taller occupants. There are also no storage spaces in the rear doors and this is one area that Ford should consider addressing in the new Figo. The hard plastics and the fit of some of the panels feel a little cheap and the dark colours of the brown/black interiors don't emphasis the feeling of space as a lighter headliner would have done.


Feature-rich?


The new 6.5-inch touchscreen champions the tech package in the new Freestyle. The SYNC3 interface is simple to understand and easy to use and the touch response is quite snappy as well. It also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Ford has even added an additional USB socket that allows you to charge another device while one device is connected to the infotainment system.

Other features include an updated driver’s information display, auto dimming rear view mirror, automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. On the safety front the Freestyle features dual airbags and ABS across the range while the Titanium 1+ variant receives side and curtain airbags as well. There’s also traction control, electronic stability control, hill launch assist and even an active roll over prevention system.


How does it perform?


One of the biggest updates to Ford’s new lineup is the new Dragon series of engines, the first iteration of which we have already experienced in the new EcoSport. The new Freestyle sports a slightly scaled down version of the same engine and even shares an engine block with its larger sibling. It displaces 1194cc and makes 94PS at 6500rpm with 120Nm of torque at 4250rpm. In the city you need to stick to lower gears and rev the engine up to pass other cars or close gaps in traffic.


That said it’s still a very refined and flexible engine and will pull cleanly albeit slowly at city speeds in third or even fourth gear. What also helps is the new slick-shifting 5-speed gearbox that enables light and sure-slotting shifts that further makes the driving experience effortless. The ratios are fairly tall, though, to aid efficiency and this is another reason the Freestyle is a little slow to pick up speed in town.


In our performance test the Freestyle managed the 0-100kmph sprint in 13.07 seconds while the quarter mile was covered in 18.76s at a speed of 121.36kmph. In our fuel efficiency tests it returned a very impressive 19.19kmpl on the highway thanks to the tall gearing but in the city, where you need to make more gear changes to keep the engine in the sweet spot, that figure drops down to 13.5kmpl, which is still a reasonable figure for a petrol engine.


Handling and ride quality


The great ground clearance of the Freestyle keeps it safe over bad roads and even the most stupidly shaped speed bumps, ensuring that you should never scrape its underside, even fully loaded. Any increase in ride height increases body roll through corners. But even through fast corners the Freestyle remains controlled and stable. Ford has achieved this by increasing the track, stiffening the suspension and the anti roll bars.


However, the Ford Freestyle can take quite a beating without too much being transferred to the occupants of the car. It easily absorbs the smaller bumps you would encounter over uneven roads but some of the sharper bumps from level changes and potholes will filter through. One complaint is that the sound deadening of the suspension could be a little better, with the bumps being heard more than felt over a rough broken road on our test drive. The top two variants, the Titanium and Titanium +, feature neat 8-spoke gunmetal alloy wheels shod with 185/60 R15 tyres while the Ambiente and Trend will be sold with steel rims with tyres of the same size.


Verdict


It’s a great little car for a weekend getaway with friends and will be happy driving you to work every day as well. We wish the rear was more inviting though, with more storage options and a set of air con vents for those hot summer days.


All things considered, the Ford Freestyle is a great little crossover that looks the part and carries the necessary functional and mechanical updates that add to the capabilities of the car. The Dragon engine is sporty when you want it to be and is still refined and flexible enough to be a capable commuter as well. We only wish that with this update Ford would have taken the opportunity to add a set of rear air con vents and improved the quality of the plastics and their fit and finish a little.


But for the asking price of Rs 6.94 lakh for the Titanium + variant, this is by far the cheapest functional crossover available. In fact, for the technology and safety features the car gets, it’s not just the car you should chose over the Figo; it’s more appealing than the competition as well.

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