Figo is avaialble in either hatch or sedan format. Pictures: Rob Till

Pretoria - It's been a busy time so far for Ford this year with the South African launch of the new Fiesta in May and this week its updated and improved Figo.

It’s a significant improvement to a model which Ford describes as the car that introduces the brand to buyers. Interestingly, the potential customer base for the Figo is people who have never known life without a smart phone. Ford has rationalised the make up so you get either a hatch or sedan with the entry level Ambiente and a higher-specced Trend derivative.

All models are powered by a new 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine that pushes out 88kW and 150Nm, mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or six speed automatic with a conventional torque converter. The auto ‘box is only available in the hatch version and the range-topping Trend is only available with the auto option. The manual derivatives have an EcoMode with a shift indicator that shows you the ideal time to shift up or down for premium fuel consumption.

Externally Ford has reworked the front end with a new bumper design, honeycomb grille and fog lamp surrounds. Chrome inserts in the headlamps also make it stand out more. At the rear the changes are less notable with the tail light cluster tweaked and a new bumper design. Trend models get multi-spoke 14” alloy wheels while updated wheel caps cover the 14” steel wheels of the Ambiente versions. A new ‘White Gold’ colour option is available exclusively on Trend derivatives to complement the carry-over options that can be specified across the range - white, black, smoke, blue, red and silver.

Inside, the dash has been reworked with far fewer buttons and switches. A built in Ford audio unit is standard with an integrated display with bluetooth a USB port as well as a nifty device dock at the top of the dash for connecting and powering smartphones. The door panels get fabric inserts and the seats are covered with a more modern fabric.

The entry-level Ambiente has electric front windows with one-touch operation on the driver’s side, a factory-fitted immobiliser, electric power-assisted steering, tilt adjustment for the steering column and headlight level adjustment.

The fancier Trend models in addition get remote central locking, a belt minder for driver and front passenger, power rear windows with child lock, rear window defroster and a perimeter anti-theft alarm. The Trend automatic also has hill launch assist.

At the media launch this week we got to drive both versions and the impression was that the overall look and feel as well as the quality of this facelifted Figo was a big improvement. The drive took us from Pretoria via the Ford production plant to Cullinan which gave us an opportunity to experience both urban as well some rural roads.

First up was the manual version which had an easy clutch with slick gear changes and a nice turn of speed even up at altitude. Once you get used to three-cylinder engines they make a pleasant purr and it moves through the rev range without too much fuss or restraint. It’s handy when you have to pass slower traffic although we did find that it ran out of steam on a long uphill when passing two or three heavy duty trucks.

Even though it’s a much smaller percentage of sales, after having driven the automatic it would be my choice. The torque converter is incredibly smooth and in sport mode it’s quite spirited but mostly because a lot of its time is likely to be spent in an urban environment with the accompanying traffic snarl ups.

PRICING

1.5 TiVCT Ambiente HatchR181 300
1.5 TIVCT Trend HatchR190 600
1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch ATR205 700
1.5 TiVCT Ambiente SedanR187 200
1.5 TiVCT Trend SedanR196 000

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year or 120 000km comprehensive warranty, three years' distance roadside assistance and a four-year or 60 000km service plan, with 15 000km service intervals.

Drive360