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2018 Ford Aspire: First Drive Review


Ford's small sedan gets a small shot in the arm. Enough to entice you this festive season and beyond?

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2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Everyone's making a small sedan. But very few out there are making a small sedan with a difference. Ford's Aspire was always that. A small sedan that offered features, cars from a couple of segments above didn't, with performance and tech to match too. But, let's face it, it simply didn't have the wow factor many of us want from a sedan. The design felt too simple, and interior quality was iffy in a few places. It did feel like Ford made it amply evident that you were buying a sedan on a budget.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Now though, the recipe is slightly different. It drops some tech, some features and price too. It also gains not one, but two new petrol engines. So, there's a lot to be excited about. Join us as we take a spin in the updated Aspire in tiringly hot Jodhpur, to get you the answer to one simple question - is it worth putting your money on?

Version 2.0

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

It will take time for you to digest the fact that the Aspire you see on the screen is the new one. Yes, it's not a generation change, but even as a facelift, the changes are quite minimalistic.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Not that we mind it, because now the Aspire has morphed into a seemingly upmarket small sedan. It all starts with the colours they're offering. The paint shades are what most would call 'mature', including the 'White Gold' you see in pictures, and the 'Smoke Grey' and 'Moondust Silver' apart from the usual black and white. If you like your cars with a bit of spunk there's a bright red and blue too.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Updates, although subtle, are tastefully done. That grille, in particular, with that 3D honeycomb-like effect makes sure that the Aspire makes a more solid first impression. Look closely and you'd find a new bumper too, and headlamps that now sport a smoked finish. It also gets some thoughtful touches of chrome around the grille, the fog lamps and inside the headlamp cluster. It's noticeable, and yet not over the top. Just the way we like it.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

While the front will make it clear to the neighbours you've bought the updated model, parking it face in won't. Spotting changes at the rear takes some closer inspection, and only then you'd find taillamps with revised detailing and a new rear bumper with a faux air vent-like scoop.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Then there's our favourite update of the lot - the new wheels. Tyre size has gone up from 14 to 15 inches, and it now runs 195/55R15 Apollo Alnac 4G rubber. But, bear in mind this is limited only to the Titanium and the Titanium+ variants. If you pick anything else, you'll get the older (read: weedy) 175/65R14 tyres. The design of the alloys itself is a whole lot better than the drab looking wheels of the outgoing Aspire, that’s a given.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Sure, there aren't any wow elements here. The competition offers some serious bling in the form of projector headlamps, daytime running lamps and even machined-finish wheels. Finer details like a dollop of chrome on the door handle, a neater integration of the antenna and LEDs in the taillamps are missing.

There's no denying that the updated Aspire does look noticeably better compared to the one it replaces. That said, we do wish Ford had gone the whole hog here and redone the design a bit more thoroughly.

Back To The 21st Century

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

That's what it feels like when you're greeted by the new 6.5-inch touchscreen, that replaces the old 2-DIN music system that had an actual number pad on the dash. We've said it before, we'll say it again - it's by far the best OEM touchscreen we've used, in terms of response times, clarity and ease of use. It does feature the much required Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Ford's SYNC3 tech. Obviously, it doubles up as the screen for the parking camera.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Which reminds us, there's a parking camera (Trend+ variant onwards) and reverse sensors (as standard) now. Welcome to the 21st century, Ford. And, thank you.

Remember though that this particular touchscreen is available only on the top-spec Titanium+ variant. Buy the Trend+ or the Titanium and you get a bigger (yes, bigger) 7.0-inch touchscreen, but without Apple or Android connectivity. It does get inbuilt navigation, though.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

The rest of the cabin, oddly enough, remains pretty much the same as before. The big change you'd pick on is that the Aspire does not get leatherette upholstery anymore. We'd say this is good, for two reasons. One, fabric upholstery is better suited to our weather conditions (and sweaty backs). Two, leatherette upholstery doesn't age particularly well. So, it is a blessing in disguise.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

If you're buying the top-spec Titanium+ model, you're treated to some feel-good features including rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Other goodies including automatic climate control, power adjust and fold for the mirrors as well as steering-mounted audio controls have been carried over from the previous version.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

What's also been carried forward, sadly, are the bugbears. There are still no cubby holes in the rear doors, the rear armrest still doesn't have cup holders, the front passenger seat continues to brush against the centre console when you push it all the way to the front and you still get that basic looking instrument cluster (albeit with a bigger and better MID).

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

The upside to this relatively unchanged cabin is that space continues to be a highlight. It's not in the league of the new Amaze or Dzire, but it's still plenty enough to ensure the family doesn't crib. A wide cabin means that the Aspire is among the few compact sedans that can actually seat five occupants.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

We'd have liked a better-contoured bench at the rear (it felt a bit flat), but that aside, we've got no complaints. Most would crib about the lack of rear aircon vents, but we have to stick our necks out and say the Aspire doesn't really need it. The cabin gets cooled down pretty quickly with the front vents alone.

It's Go Time!

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

If you asked us to pick between the diesel and the petrol versions of the outgoing Aspire, we'd make a run for the keys of the diesel. Because, with 100PS of power and 215Nm of torque on tap, the 1.5 TDCi transformed this little sedan into a freight train. It had no business pulling the way it did. That remains the same this time around too. It’s easily amongst the most fun diesel compact sedans in the market, with the torque coming in quickly and staying around for quite some time should you want to flex your right foot a bit more.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

What’s new in case of the diesel, is the gearbox. Ford first used the Getrag-sourced 5-speed manual in the Freestyle petrol. Now, they have paired it with their diesel engine for the first time in the Aspire facelift. It’s an absolute joy to use when you’ve got all that torque waiting for orders. It shifts with a reassuring click and feels light and easy to use. That’s a job well done.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Here’s where the dilemma lies, though. With the update, if you ask us to choose between the two fuel options, we’d think for a bit. That's because the old 1.2-litre petrol engine has been given the boot, in favour of a new 1.2-litre engine from Ford's Dragon range. Power, at 96PS, is up by 8PS (which makes it the most powerful petrol-manual compact sedan in the market), and torque is up by 8Nm, rated at a healthy 120Nm. Yes, this is the same setup that we've seen on the Ford Freestyle.

And, much like the Freestyle, the motor adds a dash of fun to the Aspire's persona. Where the old petrol engine was wheezy and took its own sweet time to get going, this one feels a whole lot more eager to rev. The engine is in its element, whether you're pottering around town at 20kmph in third, or redlining every gear out on the highway.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

It's this split personality that hits home. It's calm and angry when you are. When you're belting it, you'd be amused by that thrummy, almost raspy note that the engine makes. It can get quite addictive, this. Go easy, though. You'll get the claimed 20.4kmpl only if you baby it. Driving it enthusiastically will see those numbers tumbling down pretty darn quick. Also, a quick reminder - the claimed efficiency is only for the Ambiente and the Trend variants, all other variants have an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 19.4kmpl.

Driving the new Aspire petrol is easy. Even if you're new to driving, you'd find yourself getting comfortable with the dimensions and the view from the driver's seat very quickly. The steering and the clutch too seem tuned to favour city-slickers. Both are light, and predictable in the way they operate. There's no learning curve here, at all.

Ride Easy?

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Oh, yes. It’s a setup that’s going to please most and offend none. The suspension hasn’t seen any major tweaks, save for the ones done to accommodate the bigger wheels and tyres. But, the ride quality does seem to be noticeably better.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

You’d feel this particularly when you’re ambling about town, tackling speed breakers and potholes at low speeds. There's not much that upsets the cabin while going over undulations and broken patches. Hit the sharp bumps at high speed, and the suspension shrugs it off appreciably too. Sure, much like the old Aspire, there's a bit of vertical bobbing after you hit a bump before the springs eventually settle.

This translates into a slightly floaty feeling at highway speeds. It's a bit more prominent if you're seated at the rear. Again, this is something we saw with the Freestyle as well. So, no real surprises there.

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If you're looking at the Aspire as a fun to drive commuter, you wouldn't be disappointed. Sure, it's no Figo S that darts into corners with agility, but it's quite quick to turn in. As long as you aren't overzealous with the throttle, it'll hold its line through the corners too. The steering setup was never a bother with the Aspire, and you can expect more of the same with the update.

You forgot about the automatic!

^Photo of the EcoSport AT used for reference

No, we didn't. The Aspire ditches the old 1.5-litre paired with the dual-clutch transmission, in favour of the setup from the EcoSport automatic. This means there's a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine under the bonnet, with a 6-speed torque converter. In this guise, the Aspire makes 123PS of power and 150Nm of torque. But, we didn’t get to sample it this time around. So, hang around for a detailed road test whenever we get the car to ourselves for a bit.

On a related note, Ford, we know you're reading this. Give us the 1.5 with a manual transmission, at least when you're dishing out the 'S' version of the updated Aspire. Pretty please?

Better?

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Undoubtedly. With the changes, the Aspire is definitely a much better package. The key takeaway for us is that the Aspire petrol no longer has a chip on its shoulder. It isn’t going to be the unloved child in the engine lineup, anymore. It’s easy to drive and has enough pep when you’re in the mood for some fun. It’s just as desirable as the diesel in our books.

The cherry on the cake is the fact that it's actually lighter on the pocket than before. Petrol variants are at least Rs 16,000 cheaper, and if you're eyeing the mid-spec Trend, that's a full Rs 34,000 less. What's also appreciable is the introduction of the new Trend+ variant that sits at roughly the same price as the old Trend, and offers a bucketful of added features. It's a similar story with the diesel variants too, that are anywhere between Rs 6000 to Rs 55,000 cheaper.

2018 Ford Aspire First Drive Review

Yes, the glam bits are still missing. You don't get projector headlamps, daytime running lamps, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering, or even cruise control. But, there’s some real substance in the form of side and curtain airbags that we’d rather have over these frills. The challenge for Ford was to deliver all of the flashy bits while maintaining the level of safety. That sadly hasn't happened this time around.

That said, let’s revisit the original question. Should you be putting your money on one? If you're okay compromising on a few flashy features for a sedan that gets the essentials of a nice engine, comfortable ride and ample space right, then yes. The update ensures that the Aspire is better than ever.

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Add Your Comments

I have done the test drive on AT. Fun to drive. This is ABCD. Anybody can drive. No appreciable headnodding. Tried uptown 120 km. Smooth. Cornerings are easy. Unlike other automatic car , there is no manual set up for changing gears. I got only 11 km/ l . The 7 inch screen is nice. Except for the fu ...Read More

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Car looks very good. Sleek and Compact!

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Ford Aspire

Ford Aspire

Rs. 5.55 - 8.49 lakh
Ex-showroom, Delhi
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