|Performance||5.0 of 5.0|
|Comfort||4.0 of 5.0|
|Interior||3.0 of 5.0|
|Exterior||3.0 of 5.0|
Ford is a manufacturer who knows how to make TOUGH and fun to drive cars. Every car they made has always impressed enthusiasts with the ride and handling including the Ikon, Fiesta, Figo, and Ecosport. Even the XXL sized Endeavour is great to drive while being tough as a nut.
In 2015, the new second-gen Figo was launched, claiming segment besting performance, safety and features, and an Aston Martin like fascia. With the increasing competition from the Maruti Swift and Hyundai's Grand i10, Ford was determined in grabbing a big share of sales in the mid-size B segment. However, the new-gen Figo never was as successful as the original Figo; the reason being the rather ordinary design and unimpressive petrol engine. So in 2018, before the Figo facelift was launched, Ford introduced the new Freestyle, which is essentially a jacked-up version of the Figo hatchback. It claimed to offer more features and a better 1.2l 3 cyl Dragon series petrol engine, while also having the powerful 1.5L diesel option.
In 2020, with the kick-in of the BS6 regulations, apart from the updated engines the Freestyle also received a few feature cuts. Despite the additional ground clearance and spruced up looks, the Freestyle too has been just an average seller. The main reason for this is the public misconceptions about Ford’s service and maintenance.
The Freestyle is an impressive family car with unique appeal providing the following features on the top-spec Titanium plus variant:
Front and rear fog lamps
Rear wiper, washer, and defogger
15” Alloy wheels (titanium onwards)
Automatic climate control (titanium onwards)
Auto folding electric ORVMs
7” Touchscreen system with navigation (titanium onwards)
Reverse camera (titanium onwards)
Smart key with push-button start (titanium onwards)
Leather wrap steering wheel
ESC with traction control (titanium onwards)
Hill launch assist (titanium onwards)
All these features and characteristics make up the strengths of the Freestyle which are as follows:
The Looks: The Ford Figo may look ordinary with the typical simplistic design elements, however, the spruced up Freestyle is a good looking hatchback with better rough road ability. All variants come as standard with aluminum roof rails and body cladding to make it more SUV like. If you are a fan of clean, no-nonsense, and functional design, then you'll love the Freestyle. The 15” alloys on the Titanium and the Titanium plus look good too.
Interior quality & ergonomics: The cabin of the Freestyle provides a simplistic but generic dashboard layout and hardy materials. All variants come with a black theme interior with only the Flair special edition receiving some Red and grey detailing. Almost all the Buttons and switchgear are located where you would expect them to be.
Space & Comfort: The Freestyle, being based on the Figo is not a large car but it's decently spacious on the inside. The front seats are accommodating while the rear seats provide adequate knee and headroom. The height-adjustable driver seat is available as standard from the Trend variant itself.
Safety & build quality: The Freestyle is the only hatchback that provides unique safety features in its category. Following are the standard safety features across all variants:
Pretensioner seatbelts for front passengers
ABS with EBD
Collapsible steering column
Ford pass connectivity
Rear parking sensors
The Titanium Plus variant offers the following additional features over the standard features, which makes it the only hatchback with the most safety features in its category:
Side and curtain airbags
Front fog lamps
Smart key access ( Titanium onwards)
Reverse camera ( Titanium onwards)
Rear wiper, washer, and defogger
Adjustable rear headrests (Trend onwards)
ESC with traction control ( Titanium onwards)
Hill launch assist ( Titanium onwards)
Ride & Handling: The Freestyle, is based on the Figo is impressive in the Ride & handling department. The Suspension is very pliant and absorbent at low speeds and keeps the car planted with good stability at higher speeds. The Power steering even though being an electronic unit is incredibly easy at city speeds while being greatly confidence-inspiring at higher speeds. The speed is so well masked that you have to keep an eye on the Speedometer regularly. It is a perfect Enthusiast car.
Powertrain: The BS6 Freestyle, Figo, and Aspire come with a 1.2L Dragon series 3 cyl petrol engine and the famous 1.5L TDCi 4 cyl turbo diesel engine. The petrol engine produces 97PS Power and 119NM of torque. It is strong in the midrange and doesn't feel like a 3 cyl unit. The 1.5L diesel produces a strong 100PS Power & punchy 215NM torque. It is a STRONG engine with a solid mid-range and can easily blow away the current crop of warm hatchbacks despite being a diesel. While the is a significant bit of engine noise, the driving experience of the diesel completely overshadows everything. The gearboxes are slick too, complementing the chassis and the engines.
Off-road capability: The Freestyle offers SUV rivaling 190mm ground clearance and additional safety features such as ARP, TCS ESC, Hill hold control providing great confidence and control even when taken off-road.
Maintenance: The new generation Ford cars have proven to be quite very affordable to service and maintain. The spares are cheaper than most Maruti Suzuki cars and new customer service programs to have been opened. We can clearly see Ford tightening up their sleeves when it comes to service by introducing Service Price Promise & Dial-A-Ford doorstep service.
While the Freestyle has its strong list of positives, it also has a few obvious weaknesses.
Simple looks: While the Freestyle looks good overall, the rear is a bit too simple and ordinary compared to their interesting looking rivals. Ford definitely needs to up its game for the next generation Figo, Freestyle, and Aspire. The interior too is quite dated now and is loaded with hard plastics. Rivals are focusing more towards sharper looks and quality interior materials.
Rear seat comfort: Though the rear seat has enough legroom, the hard lower edge on the backside of the front seats can be quite uncomfortable and a pain in the shin. Rear AC vents and armrests are also missing.
Deleted features: Though the Freestyle offers almost all the features required by a mid-size hatchback buyer, few features have been deleted from the top-spec variants for optimizing costs.
The missing features on the Ford Freestyle Titanium Plus variant include:
SYNC 3 connectivity
Android Auto & Apple car play
The deleted features on the Freestyle Titanium variant include:
Front fog lamps
Rear wiper, washer
Auto folding ORVMs
Practicality: The Freestyle doesn’t offer as many storage spaces as you would expect. While the front passengers are offered with 2 bottle holders on each door, the rear passenger has to adjust with the single bottle holder at the end of the center console. While the boot space is decent at 257L, the rear seats don't split and fold.
Conclusion: The Freestyle currently is the only jacked up hatchback in India and is quite popular only among driving enthusiasts. Despite its decent list of features and solid engines, the Freestyle still is some way off the sales figures and popularity of its premium hatchback rivals. The main reason for this is the shoddy marketing and misconceptions on service costs. Prices for the Petrol range start from Rs.5.9L for the Ambient and goes up to Rs.7.3L for the Titanium plus whereas the diesel range starts from Rs.7.3L for the Trend Variant and goes up to Rs.8.2L for the Titanium plus. (All prices ex-showroom)
At this price, the Freestyle seems like the best value for money options among all premium hatchbacks with its great ride and handling balance, strong engines, and a good list of features.
When it comes to service, you can see more than a few dealerships improving drastically with stricter norms. Find a good dealer with good customer reviews and experienced personnel and you will be happy for years. As for the Freestyle, it is really the best all-rounder in its category.