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Ford EcoSport compact SUV at $22,000

Based on the Fiesta, the high-rise wagon will go on sale with a price tag starting from as low as $22,000. The Ford EcoSport is aimed directly at urban, style-conscious motorists who place economy, practicality and agility above off-road ability.

In fact, the EcoSport - a name that will stick for Australia - will be made only with front-wheel drive. But it will have a fresh range of engines. Top of the list is Ford’s EcoBoost 1-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. Ford claims it has the same power and will return similar performance to its 1.6-litre normally-aspirated engine thanks to direct-fuel injection and turbocharging. 

Ford claims 4.5 litres/100km and 140 grams of CO2 per kilometre - but says however good this engine is, it can’t match an even more frugal 1.5-litre turbo-diesel. The SUV will also be available with a 1.5-litre normally-aspirated petrol engine. 

The diesel version - a smaller-capacity derivative of the Ford/Peugeot 1.6-litre turbo-diesel - can get fuel economy about 3.9 L/100km when matched to a five-speed automatic. 

Ford production director for the B-Car category, David Filipe, tells Carsguide that the EcoNetic diesel engine - available in Australia’s Fiesta - is unlikely to be available in the EcoSport because the drivetrains selected are already efficient. 

But he hasn’t ruled out the SUV being a potential recipient for alternative engines, though in the shorter term, sees fuel-saving add-on technologies being introduced. 

“We are looking at stop-start systems and other technology,’‘ he says. “We have also been very aggressive on weight reduction.’‘ But he didn’t have final weight figures for the car. 

He says transmissions will be a five-speed manual and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. There may be a six speed manual for the bigger diesel engine. He says the dual clutch box is shared with the Fiesta and will be available later in the launch timetable. 

“We have no plans for an all-wheel drive version.’’ Filipe says. “We know how to do it but it’s up to market demand. But I can’t see a lot of buyers of B-segment cars wanting AWD. In C-segment cars, yes, there is demand.

The Kuga is one example of demand in this segment.’’ Ford Australia spokesperson Sinead Phipps says it’s too early to give drivetrain, specification and pricing. But she has confirmed that the 1-litre turbo-petrol is one of the engines coming here. Filipe says the EcoSport has been specifically designed and engineered so it drives like a nimble small car. “It doesn’t drive like an SUV,’’ he says. 

“We had a German team - the one that built Fiesta - do the ride and handling of the platform. It is an SUV that can be interpreted for all global markets. “There’s no reason we can’t take the EcoSport into the US,’’ he says, even though that market is not on the agenda. 

Filipe also says the small SUV has been developed for all markets with a Euro-5 level of emissions and has “a strategy’’ to be a five-star NCAP crash-rated car. Of the launch of the EcoSport, Ms Phipps says: “It will create its own segment in the small-car class. 

“We see it being particularly attractive to urban buyers who want the same level of flexibility in bigger SUVs - including our Territory - but want it in a smaller size.’’ Ford’s Asia Pacific and Africa president, Joe Hinrichs, says the EcoSport - which uses the new Fiesta small car as its base - will spawn more models. One is believed to be a coupe. 

Australia currently sources two passenger cars from India - the Hyundai i20 and the Suzuki Alto - and some commercial vehicles. Ford is soon to complete a massive increase in its Indian factories, opening new car and engine plants in west and expanding its existing plants in the east. 

Mr Hinrichs says India will lay a bigger role in providing smaller vehicles for the global market. Ford Australia will also launch a mid-size SUV in March, the Kuga, which is built in Germany. In 2013, the EcoSport will be followed by a 4WD wagon based on the Ranger utility and built in Thailand.