Motoring

How does it feel to drive a Ford Compact Utility Vehicle? We give you the lowdown...

Ford is deadly serious about making its new ‘Compact Utility Vehicle’ fun to drive, and we’ve got the test results, even before the vehicle’s been signed off

 

Having a car we’re about to drive pick us up at the airport is something that we experience often. Walking up to a test car, in snow leopard camo no less, hidden in a remote corner of the airport, however, isn’t something we’ve done before.

I settle in and get comfy behind the wheel. Seat way down and forward enough to allow me to be on ‘top’ of the wheel, mirrors set to see the ‘hips’ of the car. This is an all-new 1.2-litre Dragon petrol! And like its larger 1,500cc sister, it’s a three-cylinder. Unlike that engine, however, this one has no balancer shaft to quell the first-order vibrations. I can detect a hint of lumpiness when I set the fan speed to low, and there’s some flutter when I take off , but apart from this, it seems like Ford has nailed low-speed refinement on its third three-cylinder engine for India.

Along for the ride is Ford’s vehicle engineering guru Sarosh Soman. He has worked on cars like the legendary 2008 Fiesta S — probably the best handling (and driving) front-wheel-drive car launched in India.

Light and easy

As we make our way out of the airport into early-morning Ahmedabad traffic, I notice how light and effortless the steering is to handle. This is great, but will it weigh up when you need more power? Soman reads my mind. “We’ve had to make our steerings much lighter at low speed; it’s what customers are asking for. But you’ll like how connected it feels as you load it up and go faster.”

How does it feel to drive a Ford Compact Utility Vehicle? We give you the lowdown...
 

We head out to the quiet outer ring road that circles the city. And immediately, as I cycle through the gears, I pick up just how much lighter the gearbox feels. This all-new Getrag gearbox (known as MX65) replaces the IB5 and is nicely spring-loaded and super accurate. The more I drive this car through traffic, the more I realise how easy and light it is to drive. The clutch and brake pedals are nicely weighted too.

What also seems to be working well is the motor. Sure, up against competition from masters like Honda and Suzuki, it has its work cut out. But the lusty tug it seems to generate every time I flatten the throttle after 4,000rpm is impressive. And with the slightly shorter gearing on the car, we fly past slower traffic. It’s quite a ride, as the engine pulls harder and harder all the way to the redline at 6,800rpm. It does get a tad more audible at higher revs, and the engine note does get slightly discordant, but the sporty snarl it emits more than makes up for it. “This strong top end, will it be detuned on the final car?” I ask Sarosh. “No,” comes the prompt reply.

How does it feel to drive a Ford Compact Utility Vehicle? We give you the lowdown...
 

This engine displaces just 1.2 litres, but it puts out 95hp, making it easily the most powerful engine in its class. The suspension has been raised by 15mm, the track is wider, and this car rides on much wider and taller 185/60 R15 Goodyears. What’s great is that there’s almost no impression of driving a car with a raised suspension, just as on its sister car, the EcoSport. And that connected feel you get from an EcoSport in long corners, is here: that Ford driving DNA is intact.

Solid not square

We slow down and get stuck in some tightly packed traffic. Here too, the engine impresses with its reluctance to stall at low engine speeds. There’s no lurch-lurch-lurch or camel-like gait. When I put my foot on the throttle, it pulls forward in one smooth motion. Wish performance was a bit stronger though. Yes, initial responses are good, but then there’s a bit of a flat spot until 3,000rpm, and that calls for some patience. A more aggressive setting on the digital throttle is what is needed here, and that’s exactly what Sarosh says Ford is working on.

How does it feel to drive a Ford Compact Utility Vehicle? We give you the lowdown...
 

We pull off onto the slip roads, full of badly-repaired sections and dips and crests. Ford’s new baby, however, is totally unfazed. It doesn’t steamroll everything in total silence, like a well-set-up Merc would, but bump absorption is so good, and the suspension works so silently, I barely slow down for anything. There is a bit of firmness at slow speeds, and some small up-and-down movement too, but once you’re past 40kph, this car can flatten pretty much anything.

With its wider stance, larger wheels, additional body cladding, and new bonnet, grille and lights, Ford’s new baby is likely to cut a fine figure. Even the base versions will get a touchscreen and levels of safety kit will be high,. Bad roads, poorly finished highways, back country roads — bring ’em on.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 3:35:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/in-black-and-white/article22403611.ece

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