Photographs by Vishnu G. Haarinath
The Ford Aspire has always had a case to make. It’s a thoroughly likeable compact sedan that will do the job for most on most counts. The fact that the numbers haven’t quite justified the machine is a bit of a sad tale, but with the onset of a refresh, that could just tilt things in its favour.
So without wasting much more time, what you see here is the freshened up Aspire for 2018. Notice that grille and those nice chrome inserts around the chin? That’s new. The 15-inchers all around are new as well. The Aspire now runs 195/55 R15s that helps fill out those arches a lot more and, as a result, it sits a lot better and is visually much more distinct.
What’s bound to catch your attention is the new 6.5-inch touchscreen on the inside that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (bloody useful on the move, I might add), and Ford’s Sync 3 system to help navigate. The rest of it remains mostly the same, although there are slight changes to the instrument cluster that bring it in line with the more modern ones from the segment. What’s good to know is that the seats are comfortable and hold you decently well when you’re in the mood for a touch of spirited driving and there’s more than enough space at the back, even when I had the seats set to my position up front (I’m nearly six- feet tall).
The biggest change, however, is the introduction of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder ‘Dragon’ petrol engine. You might remember that it made its debut in the Freestyle and was very well accepted by our lot. What’s gone is the old 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol, and it’s replaced by the 121 bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol. We’re always open to more power in these engines, Ford, so thanks for that. As for the diesel option, that stays the same. Zero complaints with the near-100-bhp 1.5-litre diesel, though, so that’s a good thing.
What’s interesting to note is that the petrol now comes with a six-speed torque converter as an option, which is a welcome addition, honestly. Sadly, I didn’t quite get the time to have a go in one, which is something I hope to rectify soon. What I did get a go in, though, was the 1.2-litre petrol with a five-speed manual transmission. Predictably, there’s not much to write home about earlier on in the rev range, but cross the 2000 rpm mark and the Aspire really gets its act together. It’s the sort of engine that loves being pushed, and only when you do do you really start enjoying things.
The chassis is nice and nimble, the steering is fantastic and the gearshifts are smooth enough to facilitate any manner of shifting you put forth. The ride has always been outstanding in the Aspire, and thankfully nothing’s changed for this one, despite going up an inch in wheel size. We had a chance to flick the car around some pretty tight sections in Jodhpur, and the way the Aspire reacted to hard driving quite surprised me. I can only imagine how much fun the Aspire would be with another 50-odd bhp. I hope Ford’s reading this.
In all seriousness, though, there’s a lot to like about the new Aspire. The diesel is, as ever, sprightly and a tough performer. It’s frugal, efficient, quick, and a very good all-rounder, if you ask me. But with the addition of the 1.2 petrol, it’s no longer the default option according to me. Ford’s done a decent step with this one; it’s quite plain to see. Here’s hoping for that trumped up engine, eh?
Displacement: 1193cc, i-3, NA (P), 1498cc, i-4, turbodiesel
Max power: 95 bhp@6500 rpm (P), 98 bhp@3750 rpm (D)
Max torque: 12.2 kgm@4250 rpm (P), 21.9 kgm@1750-3000 rpm (D)
Transmission: 5-speed, manual
F/R: 195/55 R15
L/W/H (mm): 3995/1704/1525
Wheelbase: 2490 mm
Ground clearance: 165 mm
Kerb weight: 1016-1080 kg
Fuel capacity: 42 litres (P), 40 litres (D)
PRICE: Rs 5.5 lakh to Rs 8.14 lakh (ex-showroom, India)