Force One EX, the latest to join the SUV bandwagon, gears up to face big competition
The immense popularity of SUVs in our market has seen nearly all carmakers trying to capitalise on this opportunity. The latest to join the bandwagon is Force Motors, which recently launched a base version of the Force One that comes for Rs. 8.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). This is quite an aggressive price point for a full size SUV. What Force is aiming to do here is expand the Force One range. When it was launched back in August 2011, there was just one variant on offer — a fully loaded One that cost Rs. 11.71 lakh. Now, there’s this EX (that has less power and less equipment) and a variant called the SX (which offers ABS and is BSIV compliant) in addition to the soon to be launched four-wheel drive LX. We got behind the wheel of the EX to see how good it is.
The big difference with the EX is that it is powered by the 2.6-litre common rail diesel from the Gurkha off-roader. So, that’s 81bhp and 23.45kgm of torque as against the 139bhp and 32.9kgm of torque that the 2.2-litre common-rail diesel makes in the SX.
Importantly, the EX is currently BSIII complaint and Force Motors is aiming it at rural markets where it could, thanks to the voluminous interiors, act as a more upmarket taxi or maybe even a personal car.
Now, taxis usually run at full capacity and that means the engine has to be strong enough to lug all that weight around, and that’s where the EX falls short. It’s an engine that is pretty drivable if you are simply ambling along, but doesn’t offer much else by way of offering extra overtaking power. The engine doesn’t rev much (the redline is set at 3500rpm) and despite the noticeably short gearing, there isn’t much go when you put your foot down. Compounding this problem is the gearbox that takes a lot of effort to use (and use it you will) and the unusual dog-leg first gear pattern that takes some getting used to. Owners who drive themselves will surely find reason to complain, but taxi drivers, used to low powered MUV's might probably find it acceptable.
The other big change is to the equipment levels and the interiors — Force Motors has removed a lot of the frills on the EX but have crucially left the essentials in place. There’s power windows, power steering, air-conditioning, central locking and powered mirrors, but other features like the reverse parking sensor, rear wiper, an audio system and daytime running lamps have been taken off the equipment list.
As for the interiors, they have a hard-wearing feel to them that goes well with the kind of use that, we assume, it will typically go through. We liked the smart dials though and the beige and black interiors that our test car had. Other strengths remain the Force One’s long wheelbase makes for excellent legroom in all three rows and the car does have a certain ruggedness to it that will stand it in good stead. On the outside, the Force One EX does look a bit inimpressive thanks to the steel wheels that this version comes with, but otherwise it does have some of that desired presence of an SUV.
The Force One EX’s biggest challenge is its competitors. Although it does offer a lot of space for the price, the competition also has a lot to offer at this range. Like the Mahindra Xylo with ABS and a lot more power for Rs. 40,000 less. Then there are the well established rivals like the Chevrolet Tavera, the Safari DiCOR (Rs. 8.6 lakh) and the Sumo Grande (Rs. 8.35 lakh).