New Figo freestyles brilliantly on road and dirt
It’s a funky little hatch with city and gravel road grit, says Phuti Mpyane
There’s no doubt there’s a business case for the Figo Freestyle, Ford’s newest crossover which is cheaper than the more popular Ford Fiesta hatchback.
Using dimensions as a yardstick, it competes with Renault’s Sandero Stepway among others but Ford has once more used its muscle to offer a competitively priced package.
Despite sharing a foundation with the entry-level Figo range, it measures 3,960mm in length and 1,540mm high. This makes Ford’s new soft roader 80mm shorter than its Fiesta cousin but its height of 1,540mm effectively towers over the regular hatch by 187mm. It’s outgunned for road presence by the larger Ford EcoSport though.
But it has a 256l boot which can be extended by folding the rear seats and it carries four passengers in relative comfort. The sumptuous interior — at least for its segment — mirrors that of other current Fords with light blue instrumentation. There’s none of the tacky, hard plastic cabins which can be found in the class.
On the equipment front there are two trims to choose from — Trend, and my test unit’s Titanium, which had plenty of goodies including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility through a 16.5cm colour screen, a reverse camera, Bluetooth and voice activation plus more. If there’s a downside, it’s that you can open the rear boot hatch only from the key fob.
Both Figo Freestyles on sale are paired with a charismatic 1.5l petrol engine that delivers 91kW and 150Nm. It’s connected to a five-speed manual transmission that doesn’t need to be worked aggressively to keep it in its torque band.
It’s pleasingly tractable in city conditions where its compact size and light controls make it cinch at manoeuvring about as it is snapping at the heels of more powerful cars on the freeways.
It’s exclusively and front-wheel drive and isn’t fazed by distance, corners or steep inclines. Fuel used during the test period was 7.0l/100km, which is a higher figure than quoted by its maker for reasons that will be explained below.
But where it truly freestyles is on gravel roads thanks to 190mm of ground clearance — which is 16mm higher than the standard Figo — and thick rubber that gives more confidence to go hiking than some 4x4s treading on pebbles with their 21-inch wheels. It’s lofty enough to scale but it’s quite usable on rougher terrain, especially on gravel roads where its dampers retain the comfort while you can dart about with a modicum of abandon.
It was a real surprise and a delightful drive that encouraged more spirited driving than usual through the corners, and everywhere else really, and which explains the higher fuel bill. It’s a sensation that’s underscored by noticeable but manageable body roll.
The need to buy the Figo Freestyle is debatable if you live in the city. It will suffice for the pavement-riddled life of urban areas but as far as I’m concerned, it’ll strike a better chord with anyone who juggles city and country life.
Type: Three-cylinder petrol
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front wheel drive
Top speed: 175km/h
0-100km/h: 11.8 sec
Fuel Consumption: 5.5l/100km (claimed) 7.0l/100km (as tested)
Rear park distance control with camera, climate control, rain sensor wipers, auto on/off headlights, keyless start, remote unlock, electric windows, cloth upholstery, six airbags, ABS brakes, alloy wheels, Sync3 infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice activation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, two USB ports
Cost of Ownership
Warranty: Four years/120,000km
Service plan: Four years/60,000km
Lease*: R5,514 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Ford Figo Freestyle 1.5 Titanium
WE LIKE: Practicality, performance, comfort, features
WE DISLIKE: Lack of remote boot latch from the cabin
VERDICT: A practical and fun little crossover
Motor News star rating
Design * * * * *
Performance * * * *
Economy * * * *
Safety * * * *
Value For Money * * * * *
Overall * * * *
Renault Sandero Tech Road, 66kW/135Nm — R243,900
Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GL, 61kW/113Nm — R216,900
Mahindra XUV300 1.2T W6, 81kW/200Nm — R256,999
Hyundai Venue 1.0T Motion, 88kW/172Nm — R285,500
Citroen C3 1.2 Feel, 60kW/118Nm — R259,900
Haval H1 1.5, 69kW/130Nm — R202,900
VW Polo Vivo Maxx 1.6, 77kW/153Nm — R257,000
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