Ford is all set to unveil the Freestyle CUV (as it calls it) in April 2018. The company has said that the reservations of the car will start from April 7 and the inauguration of the car will trail soon. It was in February that Ford showcased the Freestyle for the first time in India and we carried you all the news from there. Ford plans to place the Freestyle between the Figo hatchback and the EcoSport Compact SUV.
Visually, the Ford Freestyle comes with a rugged styling with a host of black design elements for the grid, bumper inserts, underbody layer and ORVMs amongst others. The Freestyle also gets larger sweptback headlamps, silver skid plate, subtle character shapes on the bonnet and profile, side-body cladding and roof bars all of this to give it that much-needed cusp look.
The big USP is the crushed clearance, and no it does not look alike the Figo is put on stilts. The business has worked hard to make sure that the Freestyle is accomplished on the road an off it too. You cannot take it off-roading though. However, we think it will do well off the beaten path. The folks at Ford India say that the Freestyle comes with Active Rollover Prevention (ARP). The system recognises an impending rollover and selectively smears brakes to counterattack. ARP builds on Electronic stability control and its three chassis control systems previously on the vehicle - Anti-lock braking system, traction control besides yaw control. However, this is only accessible on the Titanium and Titanium+ variants.
As is permanently the case with Ford cars, the Freestyle will be offered in 4 variants - Ambiente, Trend, Titanium also Titanium+ and will derive with both the petrol and diesel powertrains. The petrol is a 1.2-litre motor, which mixes out 95 bhp and there's a peak torque of 120 Nm on offer. What is significant to note here is that the petrol motor yields fuel efficiency figures of 19 km. The diesel is a tried and verified 1.5-litre mill which grows 99 bhp and 215 Nm of peak torque. It is fuel economy figures stand at 24.4 km which are quite good for the segment.
Besides this, the Freestyle arises through safety features like dual airbags and ABS as standard while the side and curtain airbags are accessible on the Titanium+ optional only. You also get reverse parking sensors and seat belt reminder as standard (The Aspire and Figo have it only from the Titanium optional).
Structures like automatic Climate control also push button start/stop are offered from the Titanium variant though SYNC 3, rain sensing wipers as also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be provided only on the Titanium+ option.
Bluetooth, USB, entrenched navigation, the touchscreen infotainment structure as also steering mounted controls are presented on the Freestyle from the Trend optional onwards. The corporation plans to launch the Freestyle this month itself, and we drive to have the review for you in the progression of today!
The dual tone, the black-brown dashboard looks nice while plastics are pleasant to the touch. The Freestyle also feels spacious I had no trouble making myself comfortable at the back even with two six-footers in the front, despite being nearly six feet tall myself. Astonishingly the Freestyle's rear doors do not have pockets at all which way there's no space to store water bottles or knick-knacks.
There are subtle differences at the rear too, like the revised tail lamp design and a restyled bumper. The Freestyle also gets new, 15-inch alloys shod with 185/60 section tyres. Ford tells us 16-inch wheels were considered, but those would have compromised ride quality. There are more pressing changes under the skin as the chassis has been adapted to widen the track, though the wheelbase is identical. Ride height is apparently higher, and unladen ground clearance stands at 190mm, which is 16mm more elevated than the Figo.
How is it exclusive?
The Freestyle's cores look identical to the rationalised EcoSport's. Effectively the Titanium variant gets the same 6.5-inch touchscreen, fortified with Ford's SYNC 3.0, which bids Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The interface is slick, also touch sensitivity is excellent though menu options can be slightly confusing. A slight displeasure was the design of the gadget cluster and air-conditioning controls. The model has not changed much since the Fiesta's days and looks dated. A white background and different font for the numbers on the meters would have surely brought some novelty.
On the safety front, the Freestyle gets dual front airbags as standard while higher variants like the Titanium get six airbags. Traction control, ABS and EBD are on offer as well, while a unique addition on the safety front is ARP or Active Rollover Prevention. The ARP detects an impending roll using sensors if the car starts skidding in one direction, and applies the brakes along with engine braking to slow the car down.
What about the engine and transmission?
The Freestyle gets Ford's new 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that is part of its Dragon series of engines. The engine offers 96PS and 120Nm, and Ford claims the power output is the highest for a 1.2-litre petrol engine in India. The motor is slightly laid back when it comes to building revs but rev it hard and it delivers a good punch. The Freestyle also debuts Ford's new 5-speed manual transmission. Its ratios help in enhancing bottom end grunt, and the engine and gearbox are tuned more for city driving. This was apparent even more on Rajasthan's open highways it was easy to note that the midrange was punchier than the top end grunt.
The engine feels smooth throughout, and I was glad to note Ford has nearly eliminated the typical vibration three-cylinder engines are known for. I found gear shifts were slightly notchy, but Ford was speedy to inform the gearbox on the test cars were make new and that they should feel restored once run in. Interestingly, the new gearbox uses up to 40 percent lesser oil than the older one claims Ford, which should result in sophisticated savings in the long run.