Ford might be in a bit of a pickle with Falcon but other products are forging ahead and now, another tempting model is available - the EcoSport small SUV. It’s actually built in India on the same platform as Ford Fiesta which is in the light car class.
This segment is about to boom following the arrival of Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008 and soon the Renault Captur. Like Fiesta, EcoSport is at the top of the class in terms of style, features, dynamics and value. It’s a front wheel drive so called "urban" SUV with a truckload of practical features, infotainment connectivity and safety kit.
Explore the 2014 Ford Ecosport Range
And EcoSport is available with last year’s International Engine of the Year, the EcoBoost 1.0-litre, three cylinder, petrol turbo good for 92kW/170Nm output. It’s the way of the world -- smaller force-fed petrol engines -- and Ford has a cracking good one here, even though it’s motorbike size. The engine has direct fuel injection, internal friction reduction, a two phase oil pump, exhaust manifold cast into the cylinder head and variable cam timing to boost efficiency.
As a result it gets 5.7-litres/100km economy in the EcoSport five speed manual, the only transmission currently offered with this engine in Australia. A four cylinder 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine is also available in EcoSport that achieves some 82kW/140Nm output. Both engines require 95 octane fuel or better. If you want an auto it has to be the 1.5 until about this time next year when the three gets the excellent Powershift six-speed dual clutch 'auto.'
Price and range
Three models are available - Ambiente, Trend and Titanium with prices kicking off at $20,790 for the Ambiente 1.5 manual (auto optional). Trend is available with 1.0 and 1.5 litre engines in manual only for the three pot and five-speed manual or six-speed Powershift auto for the 1.5. The range topping Titanium is available with the 1.0-litre in five-speed manual or in 1.5 with six-speed auto only at $27,790.
Kit includes rear park assist, emergency assist, hill launch assist, aircon, Bluetooth audio and phone and Ford’s good Sync infotainment system. Satnav is not available. The interior is extremely practical with some 12 storage compartments, a six-can cooled glovebox, two position rear seat that also slides a number of power outlets and console bins for phones and other small items. Ford expects it to get a five star crash rating.
EcoSport follows current Ford styling cues with lines in common with a whole range of models like the Territory, US edge, Fiesta and others. The barn door tailgate carries a cool looking external mounted spare wheel just like a real fourbie
EcoSport looks compact and robust on the road with numerous dynamic lines along its flanks and the interior is along a similar, functional,funky theme reminiscent of the Fiesta car but with some new tricks and a geometric pattern to the hard plastics.
Having just stepped out of the Peugeot 2008 and the Holden Trax we can report the new Ford to be about on par with the Pug and better than Trax. Ford’s Powershift auto is years in front of the Pug four speeder. Performance from the 1.0-litre donk was of most interest and apart from a warble at low speeds in the lower gears you couldn’t tell it was a three banger. At cruise, the 1.0-litre easily surpasses the 1.5 unless you are caught in the wrong cog whereupon the 1260kg mini SUV falls into a hole.
It would be a better animal hooked up to the Powershift auto. The 1.5 has adequate power as long as you exercise the right foot -- which will dent fuel economy. It is acceptable but would be all the better with a low boost turbo too. Ride and handling are excellent covering most of the road conditions EcoSport is likely to encounter including gravel roads. It’s comfortable and controlled. The steering is quite responsive and has a smallish turning circle. We drove the vehicle over a couple of hundred km and it hummed along just fine.