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Ford Freestyle- Should you buy?

Motor Trend India logo Motor Trend India 07-04-2018 Somnath Chatterjee
a car parked in front of a building: IMG 9153 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 9153

Do crossovers make sense? Look around. Lack of space, parking is an issue, roads good enough to be used as a test bed for a Mars mission, high fuel costs and what not. Thus the crossover, which is essentially something which has all the utilities of an SUV without the baggage is something that as a concept is appealing. No wonder then that from Compact SUVs to crossovers- this is something everyone wants. Ford already has the EcoSport which we have previously declared to be the best compact SUV around but there is clearly room below which is where the Freestyle comes in. Dubbed as a CUV aka a compact utility vehicle, it is based on the Figo but has been overhauled from top to bottom so much so you can nearly call it a new car.

For starters it looks purposeful with the right amount of aggression which is nice. You do notice the new front and rear bumper plus all the rugged styling details like the roof-rails (which are functional, carrying upto 50kg load), cladding, skid plate, grey 15 inch alloys with meatier rubber, smoked headlamps et al. Also it has increased ground clearance of 190mm which is class best. There is no fluff and there is an honesty plus simplicity which appeals so according to us, it conveys its rugged intentions the best in its class.

a close up of a car: IMG 8994 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 8994

Inside, unlike the Figo, things have moved to the present age with all the required gadgetry. Pride of the place in the cabin goes to the new 6.5 inch touchscreen. It is neatly integrated and just like the EcoSport, looks and feels fantastic to use with a high quality display. Scrolling through menus, the touch and the screen display is all top-notch. Along with the touchscreen, the superb SYNC 3 system makes its presence here too which is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto compatible plus of course you have reverse parking camera, push button start, climate control, 2 USB ports, 6 airbags etc. Special mention must go to the ac which cooled the cabin well in the Jaipur heat.

Elsewhere the design has been tweaked so slightly of the cabin. I am not a fan of the chocolate/black combo preferring all black but I do admit that it lends the cabin an airy feel. The quality is decent overall. Space is good and just like the Figo, it is a bit narrow for three at the back but there is good comfort with decent legroom.

IMG 9062 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 9062

Time to drive. Here the Freestyle comes with a brand new 1.2l three cylinder petrol motor from the new engine family which powers the EcoSport also (in 1.5l guise). It develops an impressive 96 bhp and 120Nm- for an NA 1.2l petrol that is a new benchmark. That is not all as there is a new 5-speed manual too. As I exited the hotel premises, I did not downshift and engine took it in its stride plus after driving it in city, I began to appreciate the tractability of the motor and its useful performance.

You see this is not a 1.2l motor which has its performance tucked away at some high revs which is not accessible most of the time. Power delivery is not erratic or lethargic. There is plenty of punch down revs which means pottering around in city is no issue at all. It is a sea-change from the lethargic and fuel sapping old 1.2l in the Figo. It is refined at start and does not suffer from huge clatter- often an issue with 3cyl cars. Only when you rev it does some of the noise come in but it is not an unpleasant one rather surprisingly.

a car parked on the side of a road: IMG 9218 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 9218

This is not a motor to scream at the top of its revs but instead Ford has concentrated for its useability at low revs and good pulling power. In terms of efficiency it is a lot more than the earlier 1.2l- we got 13-14 kpl for some really hard test runs. If you want more do not worry as Ford also has its excellent 1.5l diesel too. The new 5-speed manual is weighty but precise and with a nice shift quality. What is also impressive is the steering, ride and handling.

Yes at low speeds over sharp potholes, it is a bit on the firm side but the upside is the terrific stability and corning ability. In terms of dynamic finesse, it is on an another league over its rivals. I liked the steering too which is not loose and has the right amount of feedback but is also light for city use. Oh even the brakes are super and overall it just feels eager and like a proper Ford.

Ford has put in a lot of tech here also with TCS, Hill-launch assist, ESC and Active Rollover Protection which actually applies brakes on relevant wheels to decrease torque and prevent rollover.

IMG 9260 © Motor Trend Staff IMG 9260

Bookings will start on the 7th of April with a launch this month also. We hope Ford prices it aggressively but that aside I will say I have liked this car very much. Dynamically it is the new benchmark with its trademark Ford fun to drive DNA shining through but also in terms of features, ergonomics, styling it also is at the top of its class. I like the rugged vibe that this car has and unlike some other 'pretenders' the Freestyle is actually a desirable crossover which does justice to that tag. Wait for this one.

Photography- Rajeev Bhendwal

IMG-9129.JPG © Motor Trend Staff IMG-9129.JPG

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