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Ford's Figo sedan shifts perceptions


Ford's new Ford Figo sedan is one of those rare cars you come across every now and again. It's nothing special to look at - I thought the front end looked good, but the tail end less so, and the interior plastics both look and feel cheap and brittle.

The interior is attractively laid out and the switchgear is good, but the abundance of shiny black plastic spoils it somewhat. Once I got going, though, my ears pricked up because the car feels so much better than the visuals would imply.

The test car was the R203 900 1.5-litre Titanium PowerShift model, and I usually detest lowly-powered cars with automatic gearboxes but this combination was one of the best of its type around.

The naturally-aspirated Sigma engine puts out a respectable 82 kW of power and 136Nm of torque, and the PowerShift gearbox is a six-speed dual-clutch self-shifter.

There are no steering wheel paddles to shift gears manually, but there is a small switch on the gearshift that can be used to change up or down on demand. It works remarkably well in either mode, although the auto mode does override the manual function if the car's computer disagrees with the way you're using it.  I enjoyed experimenting with it, and the Figo is one of the few small auto cars that I could live with.

The Figo doesn't pretend to be a sports car, but it's not a slug. The factory claims a 0-100km/h time of 12 seconds, but various road testers have found it to be up to half a second quicker, and top speed is claimed to be 175km/h, which ain't too shabby. The engine revs happily and smoothly, and mid-range is good for a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre pulling a fairly large body around while giving better than 7.0 litres/100km fuel consumption.

What I did appreciate was that you don't have to sit around waiting while the engine hunts endlessly for the right gear ratio, which is often the case with small autos.  Handling and ride quality are good and noise levels acceptably low, without any squeaks and rattles from the interior panels.

The Figo sedan comes in three spec levels, Ambient, Trend and Titanium, all using the same petrol engine and ranging in price from R172 900 to R209 900.

 The DCT version comes only in Titanium guise, which means you get pretty well everything you could wish for, including traction control, hill-start assist, climate control, six airbags and Ford MyKey which allows the owner to program maximum permissible speeds and audio system sound levels into the spare key if they should wish, but the cheaper manual versions are also pretty well specced.    

All models come with a four-year/ 120 000km warranty and a two-year/ 40 000km service plan.

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