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Ford EcoSport 2019 review: Ambiente

Ford's aggressively-priced base-model EcoSport is cheap, but what's the cost?
EXPERT RATING
7
The base-model EcoSport is one of the most affordable small SUVs, but cheapest doesn't always mean best...

We live in a strange time, where cars are going the way of the dinosaur and SUVs will take their place as the primary offerings of the worlds oldest and biggest car companies.

Look at Ford, the brand that literally wrote the book on automotive mass-production will soon no longer sell cars in its home market of America (apart from the Mustang, of course…) There’s a story your grandpa won’t believe.

It makes SUVs, especially small ones like the EcoSport all the more important. Customers who once would have considered the Fiesta small hatch (on which the EcoSport is based) would now rather hop into one of these. At least, that’s what the data says.

So, is the EcoSport a worthy successor to the hatchback mantle? Is it even economical or sporty? And what happened to the spare wheel on the rear door? Read on to find out.

Ford Ecosport 2019: AMBIENTE (5 YR)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$22,790

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

We’ll start with one of the most appealing points of the EcoSport, and that’s price. Our Ambiente is the base-model and comes in at a total of $22,790 before on-roads.

That’s cheap. Especially when lined up against competitors, like the base automatic Holden Trax LS ($26,490), the automatic Mitsubishi ASX ES ($25,490), and the Honda HR-V VTi ($24,990).

It might be cheap, but the base model EcoSport has plenty of dorky touches like these 16-inch steel wheels. It might be cheap, but the base model EcoSport has plenty of dorky touches like these 16-inch steel wheels.

It comes closest to the base-model Suzuki Vitara RT-S, which can be had in automatic form from $23,990.

Obviously cheapest doesn’t always mean best, and you’ll notice right off the bat items like the dorky 16-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, cheap black plastic finishes on the door handles and wing-mirrors and bargain halogen headlamp fittings.

As many manufacturers move on with LED lighting, it's not hard to spot the Ambiente's halogen globes. As many manufacturers move on with LED lighting, it's not hard to spot the Ambiente's halogen globes.

Better features for the price are the wing-mirror mounted indicators, new 6.5-inch multimedia touchscreen with DAB+, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a very welcome reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

Frustratingly, auto headlights are missing… a let down in any 2019 car.

The new touchscreen with Ford’s 'Sync 3' software is the most important value add for the base EcoSport, It’s way better than similar offerings in more expensive base-model competitors, although, unlike the Suzuki Vitara, does not offer sat-nav at this price.

Despite its relatively small size, the 6.5-inch multimedia system is a pleasure to use. Despite its relatively small size, the 6.5-inch multimedia system is a pleasure to use.

One thing I’m not entirely sure of is why you wouldn’t simply stretch the extra $1700 to upgrade the EcoSport to the mid-spec Trend grade, as it scores a better turbocharged engine, alloy wheels, bigger 8.0-inch multimedia screen with sat-nav, ditches the dorky black plastic finish and adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Worth the money for sure.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The EcoSport has had a second refresh this year, simply removing the spare wheel from the back. According to Ford, this was due to consumers not liking the extra 12kg it added to the rear hatch. Fair enough. 

Personally though, I think it detracts from the EcoSport’s look, the rear spare was a cheeky stab at small soft-roaders of the ‘90s. 

While it may have made sense for Ford to remove the spare from the rear of the EcoSport, I quite miss it. While it may have made sense for Ford to remove the spare from the rear of the EcoSport, I quite miss it.

The lack of a spare also makes the side-swinging door a bit pointless now (it also swings the wrong way, toward the kerb instead of away from it, due to its European design origins) and just gives the rear three-quarter another anonymous SUV look.

Aside from that the EcoSport has come a long way styling-wise. 

It has ditched the weird hatchback grille it used to have, instead employing a tough-looking single plastic grille insert, bringing it stylistically in line with larger Ford SUVs like the Everest and Escape. Plus, the plastic guards on the underside give it a fun off-roader look.

Importantly, it strays far enough from its Fiesta underpinnings to look like something new entirely, unlike the Holden Trax, which simply looks like a Holden Cruze on stilts…

The EcoSport's overall styling does a good job of channeling larger Ford SUVs. The EcoSport's overall styling does a good job of channeling larger Ford SUVs.

Inside, it maintains a little too much of that last-generation Fiesta look. The dash juts too far into the cabin, feeling as though it reduces space, and there is an abundance of terrible plastics and hardly aesthetic textures across the entire cockpit.

The seat trim is some el-cheapo nylon material, but at least it will be easy to clean.

A saving grace is the slick-looking multimedia interface, but it looks so much newer than its surroundings its obvious Ford has simply tacked this on as part of a facelift. Thankfully, unlike some other current Fords, the volume, fan-speed and temperature controls are all dials instead of buttons.

The touchscreen itself, as with most new Ford products, is a pleasure to use and not difficult to navigate. The Apple CarPlay connectivity didn’t throw me any lag or problems.

The interior plays host to some average materials, but a great multimedia interface. The interior plays host to some average materials, but a great multimedia interface.

In terms of interior trim, the Honda HR-V is still the target to beat in this segment, but the EcoSport shapes up pretty well compared to the Trax and ASX with their tiny media screens and equally average interior materials.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Despite being based on a car as compact as the Fiesta (complete with aforementioned dash design that feels like it detracts from space), the EcoSport has a good amount of head and legroom in both seating rows.

In terms of storage, there’s a little trench under the air conditioning controls, two decently-sized cupholders in the centre console and what has to be one of the smallest storage boxes I’ve ever used under the armrest.

Rear passengers don't get much in terms of storage or amenities. Rear passengers don't get much in terms of storage or amenities.

Rear passengers get… um… not much. There are no storage areas in the doors, no drop-down centre armrest and no air vents in the back of the centre console. They do get two ISOFIX points on the outer seats, though. At least in terms of dimensions, space is decent back there.

The EcoSport’s boot is large. As Ford provides measurements in SAE rather than VDA, it’s hard to compare number for number, but the boot is deep and tall with the seats up, and with them down there’s a nifty variable boot floor so you can level it out or take advantage of the extra depth.

The EcoSport has one of the larger boots in the small SUV segment. The EcoSport has one of the larger boots in the small SUV segment.

CarsGuide colleague Matt Campbell points out in his latest range review, that one of the EcoSport's main selling points in other markets is that it can fit a whole washing machine in the boot.

The HR-V still aces this segment in terms of flexibility, but the EcoSport possesses one of the most useful boots in its class.

The variable floor helps to create flexible storage options in the boot. The variable floor helps to create flexible storage options in the boot.

Oh, and the missing full-size spare wheel on the back? That's now gone entirely, replaced with an inflation kit under the boot floor. Don't blame Ford, blame the consumers.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The EcoSport Ambiente is the only EcoSport in the range powered by a 1.5-litre non-turbo three-cylinder engine.

The three-cylinder engine has some of the lowest outputs, even in this class, but in practice it's better than it appears on paper. The three-cylinder engine has some of the lowest outputs, even in this class, but in practice it's better than it appears on paper.

The Trend and Titanium levels get a more advanced 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine bearing Ford’s 'EcoBoost' branding.

On paper the 1.5-litre in our car is underpowered. It produces just 90kW/150Nm, comparing poorly to four-cylinder competitors like the Holden Trax with its 1.4-litre turbo (103kW/200Nm), the Mitsubishi ASX with its 2.0-litre non-turbo (110kW/197Nm) and Honda HR-V with its 1.8-litre non-turbo (105kW/172Nm).

In practice though, it’s not too bad. Quite a bit of the available torque arrives early, letting the EcoSport zip around city surroundings with ease. It’s only really out on open roads where you’ll feel the power fade away at higher revs.

All EcoSports have a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission and are front-wheel drive only in Australia.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

The bad news for the 1.5-litre three-cylinder is clearly in this department. 

Ford claims a not-great combined figure of 6.9L/100km, and after my mixed drive (freeways on the weekend, traffic during the week) I managed to add another 2.1 litres to that total, bringing my final number to 9.0L/100km.

An average score, considering you can extract better fuel figures from much bigger and more engaging engines. For comparison, I recently scored 8.0L/100km in the 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo Suzuki Vitara.

All EcoSports have a 52-litre fuel tank, and happily drink base-grade 91 RON petrol.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The EcoSport is a great city companion. With long suspension travel that’s comfortable and compliant, neglected infrastructure didn’t bother the ride much at all, and it was surprisingly quiet during our week.

Prodding the accelerator too far will only lead to disappointment, the engine starts to make a bit more noise, but doesn’t propel the car with an equal amount of gusto. It’s hardly the most entertaining car to drive, even in the small SUV segment.

The steering is great, if a little light and the transmission makes itself largely unknown. Ford’s choice to stick with a torque converter rather than a CVT has probably saved this little engine from being a major let down.

All those features combine with a high seating position and great visibility for a little SUV that’s simply easy to pilot in urban surroundings. 

The EcoSport has good visibility and a high seating position. The EcoSport has good visibility and a high seating position.

More can be had from competitors like the HR-V with its excellent ride, and the Suzuki Vitara with its fun-packed engine, but Ford has nailed the experience for daily commuters.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

The EcoSport carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of December 2017, although it has not been rated to the more stringent standards introduced in 2018 that place a higher importance on autonomous systems.

No EcoSport grade has auto emergency braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) or active cruise, but Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) does become available on the top Titanium grade.

It’s a letdown given most competitors are now at least offering low-speed AEB.

Our understanding is that Ford doesn’t even plan to add those more recent active safety features to the EcoSport for the foreseeable future, unlike the Suzuki Vitara which is set to get features like AEB soon.

The Ambiente still has seven airbags, the standard suite of stability systems and hill decent control, as well as the aforementioned reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Just like Mazda, Honda and Holden, Ford has updated its warranty recently to five-years/unlimited km coverage. Kia doesn’t operate in the small SUV segment (unless you count the quirky Soul) so five years is the bar to beat.

Ford has thankfully upgraded its warranty to five years, unlimited km. Ford has thankfully upgraded its warranty to five years, unlimited km.

The 1.5-litre non-turbo three-cylinder engine option was not available in Ford’s service calculator tool at the time of writing but expect it to cost between $230-270 per regular service, jumping to somewhere just under $500 every four years (assuming it keeps a similar pricing structure to the previous engine options).

Ford offers a free loan car while your car is down for servicing, which needs to happen once a year or every 15,000km.

Verdict

So, should you buy a base-model Ford EcoSport Ambiente? 

For the money it’s a great little daily commuter with an odd mix of dated trim and a great multimedia, but it’s definitely worth making room in your budget to investigate the Trend or Titanium grades.

Plus, it’s worth keeping in mind that many competitors now offer more comprehensive safety or more powerful drivetrains for not much more money.

What’s most important to you when considering a small SUV? Safety, multimedia, or boot space? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$25,890
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$22,790
Highest Price
$28,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ambiente 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,790 2019 Ford Ecosport 2019 Ambiente Pricing and Specs
AMBIENTE (5 YR) 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,790 2019 Ford Ecosport 2019 AMBIENTE (5 YR) Pricing and Specs
TITANIUM 1.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $28,990 2019 Ford Ecosport 2019 TITANIUM Pricing and Specs
TITANIUM (5 YR) 1.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $28,990 2019 Ford Ecosport 2019 TITANIUM (5 YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Driving7
Safety6
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$22,790

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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