The Blue Oval is nudging into £30k+ executive territory with flood of new, pricier models
Ford EcoSport review (2014 onwards)
Ford EcoSport: summary
Ford is late to the supermini-sized SUV league, so it has brought in a Brazilian. The Fiesta-based EcoSport looks the part – but does it have the quality to make a game-changing impact?
What: Ford EcoSport
Where: Barcelona, Spain
Date: December 2014
Price: £14,995 - £17,495
Available: April-May 2014
Key rivals: Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500L, MINI Countryman, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Vauxhall Mokka
We like: dinky SUV looks, decent interior space, supple ride, refinement
We don’t like: excessive body roll, lacklustre performance, rivals offer much better interior quality
Ford EcoSport: first impressions
The Ford EcoSport is certainly striking. That’s not the same as saying it’s pretty, but this new compact SUV lifestyle accessory, the latest in an increasingly long line of challengers to the Nissan Juke, has got the swaggery little off-roader thing down to a fine art. Just look at that bluff front end.
The less generous might see it as the car the last Daihatsu Terios always wanted to be – right down to the narrow, upright stance and the spare wheel on the back. And when was the last time you saw one of those? A detail that buyers will surely love or hate; similarly the side-opening tailgate.
The small SUV sector is currently exploding
The EcoSport (note the italics, should you care about such niceties) originates from Brazil, where it is in fact the second Ford to carry this name tag. But thanks to the ‘One Ford’ programme and spare factory capacity in India, it’s now about to fill an otherwise glaring hole in the company's global product portfolio.
Glaring? Absolutely – the small SUV sector is currently exploding. And many rivals will surely be viewing this Fiesta-based newcomer with a good degree of trepidation. But can a Brazilian-market machine, even one substantially overhauled, really work in Europe? The Volkswagen Fox suggests not.
The supply of EcoSports in the UK is limited to just 4,000 examples in 2014 and so Ford is introducing it in a single Titanium trim variant initially, with the option of an X-Pack including leather seats and 17-inch alloys on top. With high-tech connectivity and some bright launch colours, it has plenty of potential. Does it deliver?
Ford EcoSport: performance
The EcoSport’s range structure has got to be the simplest we’ve seen from Ford since quite possibly the GT – one trim level and just three engine options: 1.5-litre petrol and turbodiesel (both derived from existing 1.6-litre units) plus the 125hp version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol.
The EcoBoost is the obvious leading choice. This is a very modern engine of the downsizing generation – just three cylinders but bursting with peppy turbo response. We like its thrummy, eager-to-please charm in other applications, and little changes here. EcoSport EcoBoost could well be a winner for you.
Refinement is very good
Ford expects slightly more buyers – around 35% – to opt for the 90hp diesel. Though it is not as outrightly keen to get on with things, its extra torque and more relaxed delivery suits the character of the car. Refinement is very good, in either case, with little engine disturbance and barely a whisper of wind noise in the cabin.
But you only get a five-speed gearbox – unless you opt for the six-speed Powershift automatic version of the 112hp 1.5-litre petrol, an engine that wasn’t available for us to try. And the EcoSport is no rocket ship: 0-62mph takes 12.7 seconds in the EcoBoost, a sloth-like 14.0 seconds in the diesel.
Ford EcoSport: ride and handling
Ford is noted for making everyday cars that are great fun to drive. These characteristics do not apply in this case. While there are tantalising hints of Fiesta lurking deep beneath the surface, the EcoSport’s tall body and narrow width means you’ll quickly learn not to carry too much speed into corners. It leans over so far you start to worry about taking the paint off the door handles.
This on its own wouldn’t necessarily be an issue – and the pronounced way the front end washes out wide into understeer is at least safer than the alternative, even if it isn’t satisfying. The problem is that these traits are combined with an electric power steering system uncharacteristically devoid of precision.
it’s not any kind of genuine off-roader
This is so vague – especially in the EcoBoost petrol – that you can move the steering wheel several degrees without apparently achieving anything. Not at all reassuring, given the body roll. Though you learn to drive round it, in greasy conditions we were thankful for the standard-fit stability control system.
On the plus side, the soft suspension makes for a supple ride. So it should prove comfortable around town and on the motorway. Just don’t expect to go nipping in and out of traffic with anything like the confidence of that distant Fiesta…
As you may have already gathered, it’s also not any kind of genuine off-roader, being presently restricted to front-wheel drive. It does, however, have 200mm of ground clearance, a 500mm wading depth and reasonable approach and departure angles. So it’ll tackle the local pavements outside without fear.
Ford EcoSport: interior
The EcoSport’s interior is another conundrum. It’s spacious – especially in terms of headroom – and the dashboard is clearly derived from the Fiesta. But all the launch cars had ‘pre-production’ plastics, and the showroom-grade static demo model still seemed disappointingly low-rent, and that’s before comparison with the opulence of some rivals.
Standard equipment includes keyless go and climate control, while the highlight option is the new Applink add-on to the Ford SYNC smartphone integration system. This allows you to control specially adapted apps such as Spotify via the EcoSport’s voice command capability. It's mpressive, but was not quite working yet for us to try. And if you want fitted sat-nav you’re out of luck.
It’s just the right side of cute and spacious for its size
The tailgate-mounted spare wheel means you get a full-sized item rather than a can of goop or a spacesaver. It’s low enough to avoid blocking your rear view, and the parking sensors (where fitted) do take it into account. Without the wheel, the EcoSport is just 4cm longer than a Fiesta, which explains the packaging.
Even with adjustable rear-seat backrests, there’s no room beneath the floor of the 333-litre boot for the spare to go anywhere else. What’s likely to be more of a pain for owners is the tailgate’s side-hinged opening, which requires plenty of space behind the car. It also opens the wrong way round for UK pavements…
Ford EcoSport: economy and safety
With a near horizontal trailing edge, we’re also a little concerned about how much that tailgate will hurt you should a breeze try to push it shut. Ford says the gas-strut at the bottom should prevent this kind of accident, however – and anyway, that’s perhaps the least of the EcoSport’s safety worries.
It has received only a four-star EuroNCAP rating, which is unusual for a mainstream modern car (though this hasn’t stopped the high-tech BMW i3 achieving the same). Apparently it’s an issue to do with electronic reminders for rear seatbelts – there are none – and the lack of any kind of speed limiter.
In terms of economy, with no stop-start or other fuel-saving technology, the diesel is the best the EcoSport can do, at 61.4mpg and 120g/km CO2. The EcoBoost achieves 53.3mpg and 125g/km, while the 1.5-litre petrol struggles to 44.8mpg and 149g/km, although it achieves this with both the manual and the automatic versions.
Ford EcoSport: the MSN Cars verdict
So what are we to make of Ford’s new compact SUV? The EcoSport is far from fast, has a rather compromised driving experience, the range of models is limited, it isn’t especially efficient and we remain to be convinced about the interior quality.
And yet, we expect Ford will easily sell its entire allocation for 2014 and be left with customers begging for more. It’s just the right side of cute, is spacious for its size, is comfortable and has the tech to satisfy the smartphone generation.
But its real strength is in the weakness of the opposition – no one has quite cracked this small crossover formula yet, and given the success Vauxhall is having with the similarly inadequate Mokka, the sheer weight of Ford’s brand presence should see the EcoSport right.
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