The first-ever compact sedan from Ford India – the Ford Aspire – was launched in India in August 2015. In line with its international brethren, the Ford Ka range, the sub-4-metre three-box has finally received a mid-cycle action in the Indian market. The latest set of updates for the only sedan in the company’s stable is far from a minor nip-and-tuck treatment. Instead, the Aspire is now available with a set of new petrol engines, additional features, and a gamut of cosmetic changes. Our 2018 Ford Aspire (facelift) review sums up all there’s to know about the reinvigorated Maruti Dzire- and Honda Amaze-adversary.
Stylish and Well-equipped
The Ford Aspire has been re-modelled on the lines of the 2018 Ford Ka+. A significant characteristic of the façade is a sportier mesh grille that carries a chrome finish. The bumper is new, too, and looks bolder owing to the C-shaped chrome appliques around the foglamp housings. The headlamps receive black inserts for a sportier look. Rounding off the changes at the front-end is a revised wind deflector, which is said to have been better secured through additional bolts.
The side has remained mostly untouched, except for a set of multi-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels that replace the 14-inch units of the pre-facelift model. The tail-end receives a sportier bumper with faux air vents. Yet another highlight is the introduction of the White Gold paint scheme.
The main attraction of the interior is an updated dashboard that comes from the Freestyle. Taking centre stage on the revised panel is a 6.5-inch touchscreen display for the SYNC3 system. The latest version of Ford's infotainment unit replaces the primitive SYNC unit of the pre-facelift. The advent of the touch unit leads to a cleaner, clutter-free look of the centre console.
The touchscreen unit is ultra-responsive and offers a vivid display. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While the SYNC3 system is available only on the top-spec, the mid-range trims feature a 7.0-inch FLY unit that offers Bluetooth connectivity. The Titanium and Titanium+ trim levels have gained an engine start/stop button.
Stronger Performance with Higher Fuel Efficiency
The 2018 Ford Aspire (facelift) features a new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine from the company's Dragon series of motors. It produces a maximum power of 96 PS and a peak torque of 120 Nm. The three-pot mill has an ARAI-certified fuel economy of 20.4 km/l, which is a 6.19% increment in comparison with the earlier model's four-cylinder engine. The IB5 five-speed manual transmission of the outgoing model has made way for a Getrag-sourced unit that is lighter and has a more positive shift action.
One of the first things you notice about the new engine is its smoothness. In spite of being a three-cylinder unit, it's easily as smooth as the four-cylinder 'Sigma' motor it replaces. The low-end performance is a significant improvement over the pre-facelift model. Yet, things can get a bit sluggish, especially below 2,000 rpm. The performance improves substantially at mid-range engine speeds as there's a notable surge in power past 2,500 rpm. The refreshed car pulls cleanly till roughly 5,700 rpm, after which the surge in power tapers off.
The diesel variant draws power from the same 1.5-litre turbocharged unit that powered the earlier version. It continues to output 100 PS and 215, with the only difference being a marginal increment in the frugality. The tried-and-tested oil-burner continues to deliver strong performance from 2,000 rpm. There's a noticeable turbo lag at the very bottom of the rev range but keep the engine speed above 1,500 rpm, and you'll be delighted with the way the motor pulls cleanly all the way to the redline. Moreover, the clutch action seems to have got a tad lighter than before, which makes driving on the congested streets slightly less stress-inducing.
The petrol automatic variant is powered by a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder 'Dragon' petrol engine from the EcoSport. It outputs 123 PS and 150 Nm, which is a notable improvement over the 110 PS/140 Nm output of the outgoing model's four-cylinder 'Sigma' engine. The new motor delivers an ARAI-rated fuel economy of 16.3 km/l, which is 4.1% lower than the equivalent configuration of the pre-facelift model. We are yet to drive this variant and will be coming up with a detailed test drive review in the coming days.
Comfortable and Fun
One aspect in which the 2018 Ford Aspire (facelift) excels is the ride and handling department. Ford India has revised the spring rates and has added a bigger anti-roll bar, which leads to a slight improvement over the previous model. The well-tuned suspension absorbs most of the undulations without breaking a sweat. We drove the car quite hard over some broken tarmac and only the really deep craters could unsettle its composure.
The company has revised the spring rate and used a bigger anti-roll bar to fine-tune the suspension in accordance with the bigger 15-inch wheels. The Aspire facelift feels stable at triple-digit speeds. While there’s a hint of body roll, things never get unnerving. The steering, which is an Electric Power Steering (EPS) unit, is sufficiently light to let you effortlessly make your way on a traffic-infested street but feels well weighted and connected to the wheels at the high speeds. Grip level from the 155/55 R15-spec Apollo Alnac 4G rubber is decent, and it is particularly easy to push this car hard into a corner.
With revised styling, additional equipment, new petrol engines, and more competitive pricing, the 2018 Ford Aspire (facelift) comes across as a significant improvement. The styling changes inject a dose of freshness into the fast-ageing design, while the new 1.2-litre petrol engine offers substantial gains in areas of power and fuel economy.
With prices starting from INR 5.55 lakh (ex-showroom, New Delhi), the recently introduced model is more affordable than most of its rivals. Other than a slightly sluggish low-end performance from the 1.2-litre petrol engine and mediocre fuel efficiency of the 1.5-litre petrol motor, there's little that should keep you from putting your money on this refreshed compact sedan.