Based on the previous model Fiesta, only facelifted slightly and fitted with a simplified engine range, the first-generation Figo carved a pretty solid reputation for itself as a robust entry-level car. But while its virtues were many and its quirks were few, nobody could deny that the basic design was getting on in years – and just as importantly, it didn’t really fit into the rejuvenated Ford range anymore, clearly dating from an earlier era and looking nothing like the stylish crop of current Ford passenger cars.

This has now changed with the release of the latest model to bear the name – more features and power, an expanded model range and increased size sees the Figo move upmarket in image as well as price. It also slots neatly into Ford’s current model range, and signifies a significant upmarket push from the least expensive Ford on our market.

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Adopting Ford‘s current “Kinetic 2.0” design language, the new Figo banishes its predecessor’s upright, angular styling and gains sleeker lines and smoother curves. It’s quite a bit bigger than before, freeing up extra cabin space and giving the Figo a more grown-up feel behind the wheel. But while the old Figo was only available with a five-door hatchback bodyshell, the new range gains a sedan as well. Hatchback derivatives are available with a choice of two engines (both 1.5-litre four cylinders, one petrol and one diesel) but the sedan can only be had with the petrol power plant, with a selection of trim levels and gearboxes to suit every pocket.

The petrol engine is a normally-aspirated multivalve unit with variable valve timing, and delivers 82 kW and 136 Nm, and is mated with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic. The turbocharged diesel, available as a manual only, isn’t far behind on power (and trounces the petrol in the torque stakes) with outputs of 74 kW and 215 Nm, and will be the economy leader with an official average consumption figure of only 4.9 ℓ/100 km (compared to 5.6 ℓ/100 km for the petrol).

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The model range start off with the entry-level Figo Ambiente in both body styles and with both engines, and includes two airbags, power steering and air conditioning on the standard equipment list. It also features a 4-speaker sound system with Bluetooth-, USB- and Aux inputs, along with the MyFord Dock mobile device mounting system. This clever innovation allows the driver to connect a smartphone to one of the input ports, turn it sideways and clip it into a retracting holder on top of the dashboard.

Used in this way, the phone’s display can be used to identify media tracks (and provide in-car navigation) without falling about in the cabin or needing any extra apps to co-ordinate with the car. When you park the car, simply remove your phone and fold away the docking station. It’s simple and effective, and almost renders the SYNC system in Titanium models superfluous.

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Mid-level duties are handled by the Figo Trend, which adds colour-coded door handles, alloy wheels, powered windows and side mirrors, fog lamps and more comprehensive instrumentation. The top-level Titanium adds extra airbags (for a total of 6), electronic climate control, Ford SYNC multimedia and stability control, along with extra cosmetic enhancements.

With all these technology upgrades, more power and better equipment levels, it’s logical that the Figo moves slightly upmarket from the bargain basement so proudly occupied by its predecessor. It’s also more refined, much more stylish and offers a wider model range than before, which goes some way to justifying its higher prices. The new Figo comfortably fits into the gap between older/less powerful/smaller competitors (VW Vivo, Toyota Etios, Renault Sandero, Kia Picanto) and larger/more luxurious alternatives (VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa), and seems to offer the best of both worlds.

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The sweet spot in the range (1.5 TDCi Trend) is a lively, economical, well-equipped diesel hatchback for a smidge under R200 000, and even the most expensive Figo (1.5 Titanium Sedan PowerShift Auto) barely crests that psychological barrier. Good looks, good spec, good value: the new Figo should find plenty of love in the budget end of the marketplace.

Martin Pretorius

Ford Figo Prices
1.5 Ambiente hatch R 158 900
1.5 Trend hatch R 167 900
1.5 Titanium hatch R 181 900
1.5 Titanium hatch PowerShift Auto R 203 900
1.5 TDCi Ambiente hatch R 189 900
1.5 TDCi Trend hatch R 199 900
1.5 Ambiente Sedan R 160 900
1.5 Trend Sedan R 169 900
1.5 Titanium Sedan PowerShift Auto R 205 900