Ford's outlook towards the Indian market changed with the launch of the Aspire in 2015. You can compare it to the Batman series by Christopher Nolan- a new beginning to a formula that was tried and somewhere overdone by many. It was the same logic, but only Nolan knew how to make it click with the viewers and Ford did exactly that. The Aspire, was, in fact the more proportionate looking subcompact sedan then. It was a good city car and we hope with it remains the same with the facelift. But things have changed and so have perspectives especially in the subcompact segment.
For the past couple of years, there's been an onslaught in the subcompact sedan segment, with Maruti Suzuki bringing in the new generation of the Dzire and Honda too launching the next-gen Amaze. Even VW didn't shy away from bringing in a new engine on the Ameo. Clearly there was something cooking behind closed doors at Ford.
For close to two years, Ford worked at understanding its customer's needs and try to emulate it in its cars and the result is this, the Aspire facelift. Now straight up there are a few changes that are the most apparent ones.
The front grille is now all new, the chrome slats have been replaced by what Ford calls the cellular grille. I liked the slats but the cellular bit did put me off, but again beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
The fog lamps get a chrome surround which adds to the appeal. In fact, the fog lamp cluster is new too. The headlamps too have been restyled to go with the overall changes. However, there are certain things that have become a trend in this segment - namely LED DRLs and even projector lamps, both of which go missing in the new Aspire.
Also Read: Ford Aspire Facelift; Old VS New
The rear is similar to the outgoing model and the overall silhouette remains the same with the big chrome strip on the boot continuing to adorn the rear. Not a lot has changed on the inside either.
The cabin of the Aspire facelift is pretty much the same. You still get the dual tone beige and black interiors, the steering too has been carried forward and everything from the cup holders to cubby holes remains the same. The big change, however is a dash top 6.5 inch infotainment system which we've already seen on the Ecosport and even the Freestyle and that makes a big difference. It now comes with Apple Carplay and Android Auto which is available only on the top end variant. There are features like a start stop button and even rain sensing wipers on offer and the quality of plastic used is top notch.
The space on the rear seat is the same as before. With the front seat adjusted to my driving position, my knees were pushed into the seat. Of course, the sculpted seats help but not much. So, yes, there's less leg room at the back. There's good head room though. There's no rear AC vent in this one, there never was, but there's a centre armset, however, no cup holders.
Now this is the Titanium plus variant that we drove and you might be wondering why there aren't any grab handles on it, well, that's because the top end variant gets 6 airbags which includes side and curtain airbags and I am quite certain you can do without the grab handles for your safety.
On the safety front dual airbags and ABS are standard while the top-of-the-line model comes with Electronic stability program which is very impressive and kudos to Ford India for making that possible.
However, the Aspire facelift is all about the new engine, so I got into the driver's seat to take it out for a spin. It's the three cylinder engine that now makes its way into the Aspire and it had already impressed us when we drove both the EcoSport and even the Freestyle, so naturally you suppose that it's going to be great on this one.
In an age of turbocharged engines, Ford still believes in naturally aspirated motors and the 1.2-litre engine is a clear example. It churns out 95 bhp and there's 120 Nm of torque on offer. It's great to drive because it's got a strong mid- range so there's good enough power at your disposal. In fact you don't have to shift down all the time in order to overtake a slow moving vehicle. The petrol is mated to a new 5-speed manual unit that fits the bill. Gear shift action is well weighed and the gear lever slots into its place. The clutch is lighter than before, making it easier to drive even in stop/start traffic conditions. Even if you want to stretch the legs of this one and keep climbing on the speedometer, it's very happy to do that. High speed stability is commendable and there was no vibration on the steering wheel. There's a bit of tyre noise and engine noise as the revs build but not too harsh to disturb the peace of the cabin.
The petrol motor returns a fuel economy of 20.4 kmpl and that's pretty impressive too. There's also an automatic on offer but that's with the more powerful 1.5 litre petrol motor. But sadly, we didn't get to drive this one. The engine churns out 121 bhp and we really wish Ford brings this engine with a manual gear box. So an 'Aspire S', maybe?
There's a diesel motor as well the tried and tested 1.5 litre. And I say tried and tested, because this motor does duty on the Figo, Ecosport, Freestyle and even the previous Aspire. It still makes 99 bhp and there's 215 newton metres of torque. That torque kicks in pretty early too somewhere around 1800 rpm and so once you get past the initial lag it's all smooth sailing. The response to the throttle input is fairly good and mid-range is extremely strong. The 5-speed gearbox slots in well and the clutch has always been light on this one. Sadly there is no automatic on offer on the diesel. Now the petrol might be great as a city car, the diesel will do well both on the highway and in the urban conditions and fuel economy is impressive too; 26 kilometres to the litre!
If that figure impressed you, the ride quality will too. The suspension on the Aspire facelift is very city biased and does well to handle the potholes and the speed bumps that you'd encounter. It's only when you turn into a corner that you realise that this is very unlike a Ford because the suspension compresses to the limit and starts getting rigid; something rarely encountered on a Ford car. So, it's not an enthusiast's car because the steering feel lacks any emotion and you don't feel involved as a driver. It does what it's meant to do. It's direct, precise, light and a treat to manoeuvre in and around the city and Ford has stuck to the brief of making a car that provides good space, has a long feature list and of course is low on cost when it comes to maintenance.
The folks at Ford India say that it will continue to offer lowest scheduled service and maintenance costs on the Aspire at 38 paise per kilometre for the petrol and 46 paise per kilometre for diesel over 1lakh kilometres.
In fact it is the only subcompact sedan in India to come with a five-year or 1 lakh kilometre warranty, which includes 2-year factory warranty and 3-year extended warranty.
So let's get down to the price. The Aspire facelift petrol with the manual transmission starts at ₹ 5.55 lakh and goes all the way up to ₹ 7.24 lakh. While the diesel costs ₹ 6.45 lakh and tops out at ₹ 8.14 lakh. The petrol automatic with all the bells and whistles is priced at ₹ 8.49 lakh (all prices ex-showroom India).
Ford has managed to undercut all its rivals in terms of price which includes segment leader Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Honda Amaze, Volkswagen Ameo and even the Hyundai Xcent; so that's one war won. The Aspire facelift is a smarter, well-engineered, feature rich car and it passes the biggest test of them all - of being a great city car!