Ford’s new EcoSport is small, but is it perfectly formed for the burgeoning urban-SUV market? Let's take a look...
Base price: $32,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.5-litre petrol four, 82kW/140Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 6.5 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4245mm long, 1708mm high, wheelbase 2521mm, luggage capacity 346-705 litres, fuel tank 52 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels on 205/60 tyres.
We like: Eager transmission, space, chassis, equipment in Titanium model.
We don’t like: Devoid of steering feel, cheap interior, ridiculous side-hinged tailgate.
How it rates: 6/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Ignore the rapidly expanding ‘urban SUV’ market at your peril. Mainstream carmakers are clamoring to launch city-size crossover vehicles, with the look and (hopefully) feel of off-road vehicles, but the ease-of-use of a small hatchback.
The new EcoSport is Ford’s effort: a tiny SUV intended for global consumption but evolved from a popular model in South America. For our market, it’s sourced from India.
Think of EcoSport as a Fiesta on stilts and you’re not far off. It’s certainly a road car first and foremost; despite the high ride height and Ford’s adventure-themed advertising, it’s front-drive only.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The EcoSport name is not to be confused with Ford’s award-winning EcoBoost engine family. While this vehicle is available with the outstanding EcoBoost 1.0-litre in other markets, it’s manual-only and that rules it out for us.
So our EcoSport comes with a 1.5-litre powerplant. It has less power than the high-tech EcoBoost alternative but it does come with a six-speed, dual-clutch, two-pedal Powershift transmission.
The engine is quite smooth and eager, but feels underpowered in city driving. Powershift is generally very smooth in urban driving, but in our particular EcoSport it was occasionally jerky when starting off and had a tendency to thunk quite heavily into gear if you modulated the throttle unexpectedly.
Powershift is very slick at higher speed, though. It’s also quite feasible to drive it in Sport mode all the time: it’s not too busy and it does nice double-declutch shifts under braking, where the engine speed is matched to road speed perfectly before the gear is engaged.
The steering is devoid of any feel whatsoever. In fact, it’s quite disconcerting. But the EcoSport chassis is accomplished, it rides on decent Goodyear tyres and there’s an interesting (if not muscular) exhaust note.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The EcoSport’s cabin styling is very similar to a Fiesta, although the quality of materials and build is not up to the standard of its small-car sibling. The steering column of our car felt quite wobbly when you adjusted it, there were several pieces if ill-fitting trim on the dashboard and there was a bad rattle in one of the stereo-system speakers.
It is practical though, with rubber trim in many places and plenty of storage, including cupholders in each door. The cabin is spacious and the rear cargo compartment usefully tall.
The side-hinged rear door, with the spare wheel mounted on the exterior, is both old-fashioned and daft. This is a hangover from the South American market and was apparently insisted upon for this new model – which will still be a big seller in that part of the world.
Not only is the fifth door impractical for the tight parking spaces where this car will spend most of its life, it’s also hinged for a left-hand drive car (South America again) – so if you’re against the kerb, you have to walk around the open door into the traffic to get into the boot. Fail, Ford.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? EcoSport is definitely in the cheap and cheerful category, even if our top-spec Titanium model is well over $30k (the entry car is $29,990). You do get equipment such as leather upholstery, keyless entry/start and automatic lights/wipers, so it’s not exactly sparse. All EcoSport models also have the first-generation version of Ford’s Sync voice control.
The idiosyncratic styling and tiny 16-inch wheels may polarise opinion, but EcoSport good to drive and practical. The downmarket cabin and ridiculous rear door are its biggest downsides.
- Air conditioning: Climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: No
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
Buy a Ford EcoSport HERE.