Driving it post remap, this car feels like a giant that has woken up from its slumber, strapped on a pair of afterburners and lit it to make up lost time.
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This ownership thread for our late 2016 Figo has been long overdue. I had been planning to pen this down but something or the other kept happening. A very long-term ownership of our family’s late model 2009 City is also due- I’ll pen it down post this one. So, this is going to be a long post since I’ve a lot of ground to cover. Hope you guys enjoy this and find this useful. I apologize for the lack of pics in general- I’m not much of a photographer and have been too engrossed in the driving part to stop and click pics in general.
At the time we had considered purchasing the Figo, we had two cars in the family- the aforementioned 2009 City and a 2006 (I think) Santro. My father was using both vehicles most of the time with the Santro seeing occasional usage from my brother and I for short and long trips. The top-of-the-line Santro we had owned was actually a peach for what it was meant for- commuting in the city. It was easy to drive, torquey and quite reliable.
The only mods we did for this car was switching to an aftermarket set of alloys (Plati, I think) and a very underwhelming ICE installation. The head unit was a Pioneer CD player and the speakers were (4 inchers, I think) JBLs that were so bad, thin and lousy that they alienated me from the brand to this day.
The only grouses it had was that it was getting on in age a little bit and some niggles were creeping in. Towards 2015-16, its AC wasn’t cooling properly, the steering rack needed to be repaired and the suspension was quite bumpy. Except for the steering rack issue, the other niggles persisted even after repairs from a workshop my father used to go to. In hindsight, all those could have been rectified if I had taken a little bit more initiative. This car had run only around 45K and it would have been seriously useful for us as a beater in the present-day Bangalore traffic. I don’t usually do regrets, but I can chalk this up as kind of a goof up in letting this car go. The guy who bought this from us was literally crying with joy in having got something that was almost mint and perfect for the city.
One of the few pics I have of this little beige gem:
My father had changed jobs back then and the commute was quite long. He was shopping around for a more fuel-efficient car and a diesel made sense. We didn’t consider any Marutis or Hyundais (not even the i20 since both of us felt that it was too soft). We didn’t shortlist the Etios Liva (my father found it boring to sit in and drive) and the Polo (thanks to VW’s long running horror series regarding its servicing quality and spare part prices, its comparatively cramped interior and the highest prices of the lot) as well. We test drove a lot of cars and towards the end, we shortlisted the Figo and the Punto Evo.
Why we didn’t buy the Fiat Punto Evo 90HP:
- That often talked about brilliant steering feel and communicative chassis.
- Awesome ride quality and handling. Very planted at speed.
- Nice build quality. Loved the sheet metal thickness and door heft.
- Adequately sized tires from the factory.
- Tried, trusted and well proven 1.3 Multijet- the national engine of India.
- Though I loved the first-generation Punto’s mini-Maserati looks better, I could live with the face-lifted Evo as well.
- Spacious, comfortable interiors (At least for me. I will take a mechanically sound car any day than be stuck with something that has a 50-inch touch screen, all the bells and whistles and soft touch plastics but drives like a water ferry in Kochi in the monsoon).
- That often talked about terrible Fiat after sales service.
- Cost of some spare parts.
- Turbo lag at lower rpm (Didn’t bother me that much, but something that was present).
- Huge turning radius (I found it easier to take a V-Cross out of parking from our basement).
- Vague feeling long throw shifter. I was okay with the rubbery feel, but I felt that the throw was unnecessarily long. My father found the clutch to be hard and heavy.
- The 1.3 Multijet felt outdated compared to the 1.5 oil burner the Figo had.
- More expensive than the Figo.
On another note, we had driven an Abarth as well. I had loved the Punto and if it was me buying a car at that time, this review would have been for an Abarth for sure. However, since it was my father who wanted a car and since he thought with his brain more than I did, he found the Punto’s comparatively heavier steering, the largish turning radius and the horror stories of Fiat’s A.S.S. to be deal breakers. He also dismissed the Abarth due to the higher price at that time and since it was a turbo petrol. On a hindsight, I actually respect his foresight and maturity in this. The Figo is a more practical and well-rounded car than the Punto with a few acceptable compromises.
Why we chose the Figo 1.5 TDCi Titanium:
- The engine was the star of the show, hands down. It was linear, pulled like a tug and was very driveable. This did not have the turbo lag the Fiat had.
- Very fuel efficient. This translates into good range as well.
- Notchy shifter, but it’s got character. I like the mechanical feel it has while slotting into gears.
- Very balanced ride quality. Felt better than our City.
- Acceptable handling under the car’s limits.
- Excellent seats.
- Light steering.
- Reasonably spacious.
- A meat locker masquerading as an AC.
- Cheaper than the Punto.
- Ford’s after sales had taken a u-turn and they were very transparent and upfront about the costs. The cost of most spares and consumables were very reasonable (in fact, cheaper than Marutis).
- Steering feel wasn’t as good as old Fords or the Punto.
- I really feel that the best ride and handling balance is struck by the Punto (and for compact SUVs, the Duster and the Terrano). The Figo’s ride and handling is competent in isolation, but alas, I had already driven the Punto before it.
- Sheet metal thickness felt lesser than that of the Punto. It’s better than what is used in a Maruti, but alas again, I happened to check out the Punto before I had a go at the Figo.
- Not many bells and whistles, but whatever was provided worked well and thought has gone into it.
- This car is under tired at 175/65/R14 from the factory considering the serious firepower under the hood. Stock MRFs were like an April Fool’s prank. The person at Ford responsible for this debacle should feel bad about this. It is unnecessary cost cutting like this that diluted Ford’s DNA in India and alienated the brand from loyalists.
The steering feel and the ride and handling part weren’t a deal beaker for my father, and he opined that when driving under the limit in a city or cruising the highways, it was more than adequate. He also felt that the Figo’s engine was more relaxed on open roads. I was handily out voted by all the other members of the family as well. I took it in stride knowing even then that this decision made most sense. That didn’t stop me from drooling over the Abarth ownership reviews on t-bhp and the classifieds though.
Good times in Kochi:
We went for the Titanium variant as we felt that was the most balanced one of the line-up. We were lucky to buy this before the GST rates shot up- I think we paid around 7.3 lakhs on road with some discounts. This still boggles my mind in this day where the new Alto AMTs are around 6 lakhs ex-show room. I guess everything happens for a reason. Though letting go of the Santro was kind of a mistake, we got a very fuel-efficient car that is quite at home on the highways as well as the city and was more comfortable as well at a very reasonable price.
This car was used mainly by my father for his commutes (the fuel bills came down from 11K per month when he used the City to 3K when he switched to the Figo). My brother and I used to drive this too on occasions. It has been very reliable; cost of ownership was minimal (lesser than even the Santro and most Marutis) and it was a hoot to drive. We didn’t get an efficiency figure below 20 kmpl in Kochi (it was mostly 22-23 kmpl). I had used this car for multiple day travels with a family as well and all of us were comfortable. Post one year of ownership, my father got the stock MRF tires changed to Michelin XM2s under a recall program (which was a step in the right direction- these are the tires this car should have come shod with from the factory).
Another rare pic of our Figo during that multiple day trip with a family:
Bangalore days for the Figo:
Like a lot of Keralite professionals, I ended up with a cliched job change to Bangalore in 2019. On seeing the traffic in Whitefield Main Road, I sold my beloved motorcycle and my bicycle. I was pretty comfortable with walking, cabs and occasional lifts from my colleagues. I had actually made up my mind not to drive in Bangalore at all if I could help it.
COVID-19 made me eat my words. After getting hitched, I quickly realized that not having a car during this time was a major problem. I had initially thought that I would use the City since it was older. However, it was a nice torque converter AT and it scraped its belly everywhere in Kochi. [On a side note, this issue was recently diagnosed by me owing to the local tire guy putting in a lower profile tire than necessary in the City in my absence. Switching to upsized Yokohama Earth1s with a taller side profile completely remedied this issue.] Everybody agreed that the Figo would be more useful since it was more economical to run, the interstate trips would be comfortable, and it would be good in the city as well owing to the smaller size. My father had more or less cut down on his workload and the vehicle usage at Kochi was less. A single car would suffice for everybody’s purposes. So, the Figo came with me to Bangalore during mid-2020 when its odo read 38K. My usage was less-this was mainly used for highway trips and some occasional jaunts into the city.
Second wind – The Figo gets mid-life upgrades:
I was actually comfortable with this car. However, a small scrape in the city last week and an upcoming general service got me thinking. I found the newer cars to be boring and not to my taste at all. If I would be changing cars and wanted something practical, it would most likely be an electric vehicle. We had ridden in a Verito EV cab a couple of days back and it was a revelation. We arrived at the destination feeling refreshed than tired.
As much as I like older German vehicles like the E46/90 BMWs and Jettas, I wouldn’t be able to afford (rather afford maintaining) a used BMW or a VW anytime soon. Also, although I think I know the basics, I am not hands on with cars like some of the members here. I feel being well versed with cars and being able to do some work on cars ourselves is a necessary skill to have for someone like me to own a German vehicle. So, EVs are far away, the new cars are severely overpriced and underwhelming to me and nice used Germans are out of my league. That left me with my little Figo. I was reminiscing about how this car was like a little friend who was always there at our beck and call transporting us wherever we asked it to without any tantrums or drama at all but was always fun to drive. As Jason Camissa had said, every car was like the owner’s avatar. I was planning on keeping this car running for at least another 5 years and decided to might as well as make it my avatar with some mods.
Then I happened to read Rajeevraj’s thread on how he spruced up his Vento. Rajeevraj, I want to thank you for giving me the kick in the rear to get me acting on my upgrades as well. My upgrade route was similar to his:
- Minor body repairs.
- Servicing, switching to fully synthetic oil and replacing consumables.
- Checking mechanical soundness and identifying problem areas.
- Stage1+ Remap with EGR soft close.
- Speaker upgrade and damping.
- Headlight upgrade.
As Rajeevraj did, I planned to give the car to Engineering Exponent at Whitefield. I had already talked to Jayant back in April 2022 when I called him for advice regarding my friend purchasing a used Punto from a dealership in Bangalore. I found him to be very knowledgeable, practical and sensible. I had decided back then itself that I would be servicing and remapping the car through him if I was in Bangalore. But what I did not know was that EE was now a one stop shop where other things are covered as well. Upon reading Rajeevraj’s thread, I decided to go for the audio and light upgrades as well.
Apart from the bodywork repair, the car’s service was due. We were using semi-synthetic oil so far as prescribed by Ford:
- Decided to switch to fully synthetic oil. Had always used those in my bike and had loved it. Switching to this makes more sense since I was planning to keep this car for long and wanted to ensure that the internals were well lubricated and clean in the long haul.
- Changed all the filters.
- I had noticed a 0.5 degree pull to the left and I think it was because of incorrect alignment and balancing at the last service that had been done in Kochi. Requested EE to rectify this.
- Requested for cleaning the intake manifold, EGR, MAP and MAF sensors.
- Jayant identified that the brake pads were worn out. He suggested to go with the OEM pads which were Ferodo Type S and costed half of EBC & Brembo pads. Since I wanted a long life and I don’t drive very aggressively and fast, we stuck with the Ferodo pads.
Result: The regular service and maintenance along with checking all the mechanical parts for any problematic areas was done. Very satisfied. The car immediately felt smoother, and the steering was tracking straight. The best part was the Ferodo pads. Vignesh was super nice to bed these in for me and I must say that this is an area of improvement that I immediately noticed. Excellent bite, feel and stopping power. In fact, I will go on record to say that these are one of the best brake pads I have felt in a car till date.
Wolf Stage 1+ Remap with EGR Soft Close:
To be honest, I found the Figo in its stock form to be plenty powerful. I do not drive at very high speeds even on the highway. My main objective was a long-term reliability mod- I wanted to close the EGR so that the soot build-up would be eliminated or reduced while I was running about in the city with low throttle loads. Since this could be soft closed and the cost for a power remap wasn’t too far off, it made sense to do both. So, the added power is more or less a by-product of a reliability mod. I had been eyeing Tharian’s account of his Wolf remap on his Aspire S and I specifically asked EE to flash his exact map. As far as I can understand, his is a Stage 1+ remap and would theoretically be producing around 130 HP/ 260 NM. Not very interested in the numbers so long as it’s fast, driveable and feels good to me. Tharian seems more demanding about power than I am, and he is satisfied with the added power. I think I’m set on the power front for now.
Result: The effects of this map has been detailed in multiple posts and I have to say all that’s said is true. The one on my car seems to be a new updated variant of Tharian’s map. As Vibhanshu0923 had said in his post, while releasing the clutch, the revs rise slightly and then drop when the clutch is fully released. This resulted in a slight jerk which had to be consciously modulated- especially in traffic. This behaviour is more or less gone after the remap.
Regarding driving it, this car feels like a giant that has woken up from its slumber, strapped on a pair of afterburners and lit it to make up lost time. More than outright aggressive acceleration, this car now feels like a jet taking off with a linear, tidal wave of thrust. I was actually pushed back to the seat when Jayant showed me what it could do. I was surprised when I felt torque steer under hard throttle. The overall driveability has gone up several notches. If I didn’t have to work the next day, I would have headed straight to some remote place after getting the car from the workshop. Best money spent on the car ever. I should have done this a long time ago.
The mileage reading Vignesh got after driving with a light foot post remap:
Will add more observations after driving more over longer distances.
Audio upgrade- Speaker upgrade and damping:
I am actually a bit of an audiophile and am very picky regarding headphones and speakers at home. However, I had given car audio upgrades a wide berth since I don’t spend that much time in cars and due to the higher costs associated with it. But I got thinking that since I was planning on damping the car and they were opening up the door panels anyways, why not go ahead and take the plunge this time. It would be a one-time cost anyways and this one would take the feel-good factor inside the cabin up a notch. So, I got in touch with Vignesh at EE and that turned out to be a good call. He suggested that since I listen to classic rock and heavy metal (that too on lossless media) I should go with Alpine RS65c.2 component speakers at the front and Kicker DSC650 coaxials at the back. He also suggested that driving these with an amplifier would be a good idea as well. That made sense since I’m sure those components would be benefitting a lot from that. I think I went full monty on this one. Sharing some pics here:
Stock speakers with whizzer cones:
Alpine RS65 Components for the front:
Hi Res Audi certified tweeter:
Kicker DSC650 Coaxials for the rear:
Damping & wiring done:
Result: The installation was very clean and professionally done. Everything looks and feels like OEM fit. The doors feel heavier and slam with a thud. Noise has come down in the cabin. All of the speakers are a definite upgrade from the stock ones. The components at the front are a definite step up in clarity, sound staging, instrument separation, mid-range, highs and bass response (in tightness, technicality and quality). The rear coaxials actually surprised me even more- they sounded very good as well- nice impactful bass (especially mid bass to fill in for the somewhat thinner and analytical bass response from the components at the front) and a reasonably good midrange as well. The only difference I felt with those were that they felt a little congested and the highs were a little harsh since they were coaxials. Obviously, I am nitpicking- I wouldn’t have minded them at all in isolation- it’s just that I happened to hear the components at front as well and couldn’t help but compare. At the end of the day, both the sets of speakers complement each other and are driven by an Infinity amp with a hi-lo converter. Anyone looking to do a basic upgrade on their stock speakers on the Figo would be well served by the Kicker coaxials- I feel that they are very good. Very happy with the audio upgrade overall. A well set up audio system is leagues ahead of what is offered standard even today.
While I had grown used to the candle-like stock headlights, Vignesh was truly amazed as to how I could live with this setup- especially the fog lights. He reiterated that since the car was faster now, it would make sense to upgrade the lighting to actually see what was on the road clearly. Hard to argue with that one and went ahead with that upgrade as well. The headlights were upgraded to LEDs and the fog lights were bi-xenon projectors. All parts were direct fits.
Result: The installation was faultless, and it was done quite professionally. There is a literal day and night difference as to how the stock headlamps and fog lamps felt compared to this one. On the way back, I was thinking that the streets were lit well that night, but it was due to the new lights. Money well spent here.
Most of the stuff that I wanted to be spruced up has already been done. There are only three things pending as of now:
- Tyre upgrade (plan to go for Continental UC6 185/65/R14- sticking to stock rims).
- Engine mount replacement.
- A full-blown detailing session.
I consider the tyre upgrade to be crucial since the Michelin XM2s I am on have cracks at places and the car is making around 30% more power than before. However, Jayant had suggested that I use this for another 5K kms or 3 months. I guess I would be doing this in the beginning of the next year.
I plan to go with Keystone for detailing next month. Will also be recording an account of the same here. If there is any other place recommended by BHPians here, I’ll be happy to consider that as well.
I’m planning on keeping the suspension stock as long as I am in Bangalore (or Kerala).
Wrapping it up:
So how does a midlife sprucing of a car feel like? Pretty awesome to be honest. The Figo literally feels like it got a second wind and feels like it’s ready to run for another 10 years. Though this car’s interior looks and feels spartan, it is utilitarian and feels like it would last the distance.
This community has given me and countless others like me a lot. I hope this account serves those who are thinking of upgrading their car simply because it is X years old or has run X kms. A midlife sprucing like this injects a new lease of life to the car and it is way more cost effective than paying through the nose for a new one. The total costs involved in my case is a bit high while seen in isolation (around 1.2 lakhs), but it is worth it since I am planning on retaining this car for the next 5-10 years. I hope this helps and inspires the enthusiasts here.
Engineering Exponent has been near universally recommended here on Team BHP and I’ve found that it is with good reason. They do good, solid work. Jayant and Vignesh are straight to the point and are very practical and sensible. They have explained clearly what has been done, how it has been done and why it was done. Jayant had identified weak engine mounts in my car the moment he took it out of parking. Haven’t seen that kind of heightened mechanical sensitivity in a person for a very long time. It was fun and informative to talk and get to know some true dyed in wool petrolheads here in Bangalore and it was also very comforting to feel that my car was in safe hands with them. I even felt that they were kind of looking after my car like their own. I wish them the best and hope that this level of commitment and quality is maintained even while expanding. I am thanking everyone at EE for a job well done. I would be visiting again for sure.
I found this status put up by Jayant to be touching. These guys actually love the cars they work on even if it’s a humble little hatch like mine. Really happy to have met the team:
I do not like stickers on my car (will be removing the Kairali Ford one), but I’m happy to wear the ones by EE & Wolf on mine though it makes the rear end a little busy:
Last, but not the least, I have to thank the following members from the bottom of my heart: Tharian for being patient and answering my countless queries for a very long time, Rajeevraj for his thread in giving me ideas and kicking me to action, Vibhanshu0923 and joelightspeed’s comprehensive ownership threads which also inspired me to make the upgrades.
Thanks for reading! Hope this helps anyone out there planning something like this on their cars!
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