Car manufacturers are extremely keen to fill up any niche segment they can find a gap in. Ford engineers are a smart lot. They know the buyer preference towards compact urban SUVs is growing and in a bid to generate more footfalls have intelligently lunched the Freestyle. Essentially, it’s a Figo hatchback with loads of attitude and lot of body kit and raised ground clearance. Ford is hoping that buyers who don’t want to follow the trend and stand out from a sea of compact hatchbacks will come thronging to Ford dealerships. That’s the plan. But how good is the Freestyle? We took along the current king of the hatchback space, the Swift to find out.
The Swift is a looker from every angle. The big scowling grille up ahead and stretched back lamps make it looks like a stunner. The side profile with its sloping roof at the back gives it a proper sportscar like stance. The position of the rear door handle though can split opinion, but it also ensures that the car looks like a two-door hot hatch from a distance rather than a proper five door family car that it is.
Ford has heavily modified the looks of the Freestyle from the regular Figo. The car gets a new nose section with a wider griller, a sculpted bumper and even newer housing for the fog lamps. However, what really makes the car stand out is the beefed up suspension and taller ground clearance. The Freestyle plays the crossover game without trying too hard. It looks purposeful and muscular and stands out from a sea of small cars flooding the market right now.
You will truly enjoy shutting the doors on the Freestyle, which shut with a very reassuring ‘thud’ sound. The cars build quality is solid and it isn’t prone to rattle. There’s more room in the back seat of the Freestyle too, while the infotainment system which now uses Ford Sync 3 technology is much better than the Maruti Suzuki touchscreen. The rest of the centre console though isn’t as sporty as the one on the Swift and doesn’t have the same youthful appeal either. Overall, quality is good and a touch ahead the Swift too.
The Swift redeems itself with brilliant front seat comfort. The seats offer very good cushioning and are neither too soft nor firm. The side bolsters on them get them extra points. Back seat comfort is good too, and the Swift has ample room inside the cabin as well.
In terms of overall boot space, it’s really neck and neck between the two.
Engine, performance and gearbox
Both cars come with diesel and petrol options. We will focus on the petrols here. Both get a 1.2-litre petrol engine but the Ford uses a turbo and only has three cylinders compared to four on the Swift. In terms of performance, its hard to pick a winner. Both cars love to rev and both are very responsive as well. The Ford understandably suffers from some turbo lag but once the turbo spools in the engine can rev happily to 6,500rpm, which is its redline.
The Swift has a nice and linear power curve but it’s the top end where all the fun is at. Hit the limiter and you will enjoy the thrills. Power delivery on both cars is adequate and you will rarely feel the need for more power, especially on the highway.
Both cars also possess sporty gearboxes and light clutches too. The throws are accurate for the most part and crisp too.
Ride and handling
The steering on both cars are overtly light. Though accurate they don’t have that direct feel that some rivals have. The Ford though offers a bit more feel than the Swift, more so through bends and sharp turns. The Swift seems to be ideal for town travel with its super light and feel less steering.
In terms of suspension set up both cars will allow some bumps at slow speeds to enter the cabin thanks to their stiff setups but both will feel well planted as speeds increase.
The Swift is a proven product and has very strong fan following for a reason. The Freestyle on the other end is a unique take on what a hatchback can offer. Its small car practicality and running costs along with its SUV-like presence and sedan like space means that it’s definitely worth a second look at a Ford dealer near you.