PRETORIA – The refreshed Ford Figo range has been cut down from nine derivatives to five (three hatchbacks and two sedans; check out pricing here), each powered by a new free-breathing three-cylinder engine. The updated models boast a new grille and lower-section front styling, plus a few nips and tucks here and there.

As before, Ford sticks to 14-inch wheels that look a little lost inside the wheelarches, but at least replacement tyres will be very affordable. Entry-level Ambiente variants run on steel wheels while Trend models receive the alloy treatment.

Interior space is as before, and the luggage capacity of the hatch is not great (though the sedan’s looks capacious). Rear-end styling hasn't changed much and the sedan is not as neatly styled as the hatch, looking somewhat generic for a four-door.

While the Trend specification brings a chrome-effect grille, I actually prefer the more affordable Ambiente spec, which features a black grille. Trend models furthermore gain front foglamps, electrically adjustable mirrors, colour-coded door handles and mirrors, and a perimeter alarm.

The interior design is a vast improvement over the previous generation. Gone are all the fussy buttons with odd shapes, replaced by sensible, straightforward and easy-to-figure-out switchgear. No large touchscreens here, though.

The new TiVCT engine is, without doubt, the most outstanding feature of the entire package. When you start up the naturally aspirated 1,5-litre three-cylinder, it feels like a four-cylinder ... or, in other words, it runs smoothly. But when you accelerate, you get a three-pot thrum that sounds rather appealing.

It’s an all-aluminium design with independent variable valve timing on both camshafts. A balancer shaft helps retain NVH refinement. Other features include a cambelt that runs in oil and a two-stage oil pump. The claimed fuel consumption with a five-speed manual gearbox is 5,7 litres per 100 km with 132 g/km CO2 emissions. If you choose the automatic version, you get a six-speed conventional torque converter gearbox and consumption increases somewhat to 6,5 L/100 km and 150 g/km of CO2.

The other notable feature is that a four-year/60 000 km service plan is part of the package (the pre-facelift model came with a two-year/40 000 km plan), with 15 000 km service intervals. No diesel engines are available, unfortunately (the pre-facelift hatchback could be had with a 74 kW/215 N.m oil-burner).

Safety-wise, the extra airbags of some previous (and expensive) models have been dropped in favour of the front two (so as to contain the price levels), plus ABS with EBD. Ford has catered for the increasing trend towards using your own cellphone for music and navigation by including a docking station in the flip-up dash-top storage compartment. Plug your phone into the USB port and close the lid onto it. A word of warning: if your phone is over 5 inches in screen size, it might be too large to fit properly under the lid.

Fords usually excel in their driveability and even on the budget Figo, this is still the case. The steering, although electrically powered, has good feel without a lack of directional stability. The suspension absorbs poor-quality road surfaces well and sound levels are fine apart from some predictable road noise.

Remembering that we were driving at Gauteng altitude, the 88 kW engine (up from the previous 1,5-litre four-pot's 82 kW) and 150 N.m of torque (up from 136 N.m) proved more than adequate. Overtaking slower cars and trucks could be completed without having to wait for large traffic gaps, which in itself could be thought of as a safety feature. This engine will be even more lively at sea level.

The new powerplant is what places the updated Figo above some of its rivals and I believe this will especially endear it to owners living away from the salty sides of the country. No performance figures have yet been provided, but we will be conducting a full road test here at CAR magazine in the near future, so stay tuned...
Ford Figo