American carmaker Ford has introduced the all-new Freestyle in India, priced at Rs 509,000 (ex-showroom, all-India) for the base petrol and going upwards to Rs 789,000 for the top-end diesel variant.
The crossover, which is essentially the Figo underneath its skin, has been spruced up with a slew of cosmetic, feature and mechanical upgrades to make it fit to be positioned alongside other hatchback-based crossover offerings in the market, including the Honda WR-V and the Toyota Etios Cross.
Ford has been proactive in introducing the new facial design on the Freestyle, which is also expected to make its way into the Figo facelift due this year. The new front styling dons a matte-black finished grille and smoked headlamps. What is going to remain specific to the Freestyle, however, is a beefier front bumper, fog lamps enclosed in large C-shaped housings and a faux skid plate, all lending it a muscular look.
The crossover also sees body cladding running all across, and the presence of functional roof rails which can take up to 50kg of load. While the side profile gets a new set of bigger 15-inch alloy wheels, which are a size up from the Figo’s 14-inch rims, the rear end culminates in a jutted out bumper and a pair of smoked tail lamps. The Freestyle rides 16mm higher than the Figo and gets a raised stance with 190mm of ground clearance.
On the inside, the Freestyle sports an updated cabin with a new 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Ford's Sync 3.0 voice command system, alongside offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionalities.
The Ford Freestyle comes with two engine options, the company’s popular 1.5-litre 100bhp diesel mill, and a brand new 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor from Ford's Dragon series, which replaces the erstwhile 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine.
The new naturally aspirated petrol engine churns out 95bhp of power at 6500rpm and 120Nm of peak torque at 4250rpm. While the petrol motor is rated to deliver 19kpl of fuel economy, the diesel comes out as being more frugal with its ARAI certified fuel efficiency figure of 24.4kpl.
Both the engines come mated to a completely new Getrag-sourced 5-speed manual transmission and there are no plans to bring in an automatic option anytime in the near future.
The Ford Freestyle also ranks high on safety, with the crossover offering six airbags in its top-end Titanium+ trim, and dual airbags along with ABS and EBD being standard across variants. The higher variants also get Hill Start Assist, ESP, traction control, and Active Rollover Protection (ARP), all being introduced in the segment for the very first time.
High level of localisation
The Freestyle has been developed especially for emerging markets to tap into the growing sub-compact crossover segment and Ford India has taken a lead into the project with its engineers carrying out over 50 percent of the design engineering on the car including changes to the suspension, wheel track and the brakes. Brazil is the second country which will see the crossover being locally produced and sold in the market. In India, the crossover will be highly localised with an 85 percent localisation structure and will be built at the company's plant in Sanand, in Gujarat.
According to Anurag Mehrotra, managing director, Ford India, “The UV segment is growing strongly with volumes expected to grow to a million units by 2022, growing at a substantial 24 percent. Ford’s lineup in India is going to be in line with our promise of bringing value to Indian customers. People are looking for compact SUVs or hatchbacks that masquerade crossovers with some aesthetic tweaks. The Freestyle is beyond that. The Freestyle brings SUV attributes to a compact hatchback with its design traits, as well as gets a host of changes to its suspension setup.”
Ford India closed FY2018 with cumulative sales of 90,061 units, albeit registering de-growth of 1.47 percent, with sales a year ago standing at 91,405 units. While its Figo hatchback and compact sedan siblings slumped a notable 8 percent to 33,293 units, it was the EcoSport crossover which saved the grace and brought in majority of the numbers, clocking 49,777 units (FY2017: 48,547 / +2.5%) in the fiscal.
The UV market in India is on the boom with the category accelerating hard at a considerable 20.97 percent and registering sales of 921,780 units in FY2018. Clearly, with the Freestyle, Ford India is gunning for more cream of the pudding in the UV space and targets to further enhance its UV share, which is currently placed at 6.15 percent, giving Ford ample room to go further.