The Freestyle is Ford’s latest global product offering. In fact India will be amongst the first countries across the globe where the car will go on sale in the next few days. With the Freestyle Ford says it is trying to address the growing consumers demand for SUV-like vehicles. Such vehicles are being preferred owing to their commanding seating position and better ground clearance to tackle congested urban environment. In fact the company has given the Freestyle a new category called the Compact utility vehicle. And there wasn’t a more ideal getaway than the splendid Sambhar Salt flats in Rajasthan to understand what Ford has tried to do with the Freestyle.
The Freestyle surely features a striking-look, and a commanding stance. Many design elements common to more expensive mini SUVs are seen here. The car gets blacked-out high contrast headlamps which once again point to a sport feel. But there are no daytime running LEDs here, even in the top variant, a feature that is seen is most cars now, irrespective of the segment. There are many crossover traits on the profile including cladding on the wheel arches & doors, and roof rails which Ford says can carry a load of up to 50 kgs. New 15 inch alloy wheels and decals on the profile are some likeable attributes on the profile. When compared to the Figo there are changes on the rear too like a redesigned bumper and a revised tail lamp design. The faux vents are there well in case that appeals to you.
The 6.5-inch touch screen (Ford’s popular Sync 3.0) allows drivers to control their entertainment and connected smart phone with conversational voice commands. It’s compatible with both Apple car play & Android Auto. And it also gets rear parking camera and a compass. Ford’s MyKey function which allows owners to volume levels and speed limits is there too. Then there are 2 USB vents on the front row and the car gets a whole lot of small and big storage spaces all over the front row. My favourite is the soft touch shelf just below the AC controls, ideal for keeping cell phones. However the second row doesn’t get any storage space even in the doors nor does it get AC vents or adjustable headrests. But space is good on both the rows and 3 passengers can sit comfortably on the second row. Boot space stays identical to the Figo at 257 liters.
The Freestyle gets a new 1.2 liter 3 cylinder petrol engine that churns out a maximum power of 97 PS. This newest member of the Dragon engine family from Ford is small, light, and strong at the same time and may we add pretty refined as well. And the most surprising part is this one is a naturally aspirated engine and is able to keep up with the demands thrown at it. There’s a new lighter 5-speed manual transmission and 120 Nm of peak torque suffices well. And the mileage figure of 19 kmpl is also impressive. Of course the very popular 1.5 liter diesel engine is there as well. It again gives an impressive 100 PS of peak power and is great mix of a motor that performs while being fuel efficient at the same time, almost 25 kmpl that is.
Ride & Handling
The ruggedness goes well beyond looks and is there to feel when the car is moving as well. The steering gives great feedback and makes the drive experience even better. The tuning on the electric power steering just feels right. By ensuring a wider track, Ford has managed to retain the impressive handling bits despite a raised ground clearance of 190 mm. And changes in the suspension setup have certainly worked wonders when it comes to ride quality. And then is safety for which Ford cars have always been very popular. The top variants of the Freestyle will get as many as 6 airbags and ABS will be standard across all variants. Active Rollover prevention is a great tool in negating body roll emerging out of difficult driving situations.
Many automakers have attempted cross variants of their popular hatches before and most have them have failed. The Freestyle could be different because the changes go just beyond cosmetic. With this car Ford has successfully tried to give you the better traits of both the Figo and the Ecosport. The bookings are already open and we’ll get to know the prices very soon but expect them to be in the range of Rs. 6-8 lakh. And Ford is promising an easy ownership experience as well by giving a best in class service interval of 10,000 kms. This along with per km running cost of 41 paisa for Petrol & 51 paisa for Diesel variants over 1 lakh kms, a claim many will shy away from.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars