JOHANNESBURG - I’ve driven quite a few budget hatchbacks in the last year, most of them powered by normally-aspirated 1-litre engines that struggle at Gauteng altitudes, but driving them has highlighted a certain trump card that Ford is playing with its Figo.
OK, a little disclaimer is needed here. The Figo is not exactly an entry-level hatchback, with prices stretching from R191 300 for the base Ambiente derivative to R224 200 for the Titanium model that joined our long-term test fleet back in September. But in base form it’s also not too much of a stretch from many of the smaller entry-level hatchbacks on the market.
In fact, most sub-R200 000 cars struggle on the open road, particularly when trying to overtake trucks on two-lane roads, which means that most of these cars are not ideal for those with careers that require a lot of travel between towns. It’s here that the Ford Figo starts to make some sense as a bang-for-buck offering that also won’t break the bank.
All models in the range are fitted with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that pushes 88kW and 150Nm, and although it is normally aspirated, it’s still got enough urge to deliver comfortable performance at altitude. In my experience, the only other sub-200-grand car that offers respectable oomph is the turbocharged Renault Sandero, but the French offering can be a bit cumbersome to drive in heavy traffic as it’s laggy and the footwell is cramped.
Here’s where the Figo really shines in my view - it’s really easy and painless to drive, thanks to a smooth-revving engine, while all the driving controls are well positioned and operate smoothly.