Six months with the Ford Figo 1.5 Titanium
Johannesburg - As car reviewers we are exposed to a wide array of vehicles, often swopped out on a weekly basis. If we have to make a general observation it’s safe to say that cars are becoming more and more comfortable to operate, requiring less effort and thought on the part of drivers. But how often do we actually enjoy the simple act of driving one of these shiny new vehicles that are slowly but surely turning into big cocoons?
I’m afraid to say that it’s not too often these days.
Of course, there are many grin-inducing exceptions and yes, it’s sports cars that pop into mind first here, but sometimes a small and simple hatchback can also deliver a surprisingly entertaining experience.
The car that comes to mind here is the Ford Figo, which we recently said goodbye to, quite reluctantly, after a six-month long-term test.
It’s not a performance car by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a head-turner, although in our book it certainly is quite easy on the eye, particularly in the Deep Impact Blue hue that our car came in.
The Figo is the kind of car that you don’t really have to go fast in to enjoy, although it is somewhat quicker than most compact hatchbacks in the lower 200 000s price range. It’s powered by a 1.5-litre normally aspirated, three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 88kW at 6300rpm and 150Nm at 4250 revs, and there isn’t a lot of weight to shift either. Sure, at 1047kg it’s not the lightest compact car by any means, but the Figo somehow finds the right balance by imparting a solid and substantial feeling on the road, but without burdening the engine.
As mentioned, the Figo’s performance is better than you’d expect, even at Gauteng altitudes, and flattening the pedal is an enjoyable experience as the three-cylinder engine screams its offbeat lyrics. What’s more, the steering feels beefy and communicative by modern standards, and there’s a solid sensation when you change gear. These factors all work together to ensure a driving experience that’s really enjoyable by budget hatch standards.
While all Figo models ship with the aforementioned 1.5-litre engine and most, including our range-topping Titanium model, come with a five-speed manual gearbox, Ford does offer a six-speed automatic transmission as an option in the mid-range Trend.
But is the Figo practical, sensible etc?
It’s one thing to rave about the driving experience, when that’s usually not at the top of the shopping list for most car buyers, so in order to appeal to the masses a car must also be practical and offer a sense of on-road refinement.
The Figo doesn’t disappoint in these areas, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out either. The rear legroom is quite generous, with enough leg-stretching space for the kids, but a bit more boot space would have been nice. Look, it’s not a small boot, with its 256 litre capacity being sufficient for a large shopping spree or a weekend away if you don’t go overboard with the packing, but there is room for improvement here.
Out on the open road, the Figo feels as refined as you could expect from this class of car and the ride is comfortable too.
It’s also well-specced, albeit depending on which model you choose.
If you go for the cheapest Figo, the 1.5 Ambiente at R202 100, you’re only getting the basic comfort and safety features, but if you’re willing to stretch to the Titanium flagship’s R235 700 asking price, you do get an impressive amount of spec.
Along with side and curtain level airbags, automatic climate control, auto headlights and wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, the Titanium is also fitted with Ford’s Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system, which offers smart voice control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity and the convenience of a reverse camera. The infotainment system is easy enough to use and has modern looking graphics - it’s basically the same system that you get in all the bigger Ford products nowadays, just with a smaller 16.5cm screen. Ford’s MyKey, which has a range of ‘kid glove’ features for drivers you might not trust, is also part of the deal here.
While the infotainment system looks modern, the rest of the interior design is a bit of a let down in our book. There’s too much dark and hard plastic and there’s nothing particularly appealing about the dashboard design.
But is it a quality product?
Thankfully the overall build quality is not bad and our car held together well over the six months it lived with us, with nothing falling off of breaking, and no trim quality issues becoming apparent.
Six months is not exactly sufficient for a long-term reliability assessment, but the car certainly didn’t miss a beat during its time with us.
For most people, a car is simply a way of getting from A to B, so it’s the rational attributes that count the most. While the Figo fares decently in those areas, so do many other cars in its price range. Where the Figo stands apart is in the driving experience. Not a big deal to everybody, but to those that do enjoy the simple act of driving, the Figo is a breath of fresh air in its segment.