Compact SUVs have all of a sudden come into focus. The Renault Duster has been doing very well sales-wise globally, which has prompted many automakers to bring their own versions about.
The Ford EcoSport is Ford’s contender for the segment, and it was first launched in Brazil in 2003. The second-gen model was unveiled at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo, and India will be one of the EcoSport’s global right-hand drive manufacturing bases. Thailand will be another, for the ASEAN region.
The EcoSport will feature 70% local (Indian) content (to be increased to 85% in the near future). Contrary to rumours, at this point of time there is no long wheelbase or seven-seater version of the EcoSport on the cards. A 4WD version will be launched in the future, but in this review we’re looking at the 2WD.
First glance at the Ford EcoSport and you immediately realise it is no longer than a hatchback – about a Hyundai i20′s length. It is under four metres long, without considering the length of the spare wheel, which makes the EcoSport really compact, and also conveniently puts it in a lower tax bracket in India.
Despite its small size, the SUV elements make the vehicle really stand out, like the body cladding which runs on the lower side of the car, tailgate-mounted spare wheel, smooth flowing lines on the hood which join the A-pillar and wrap around rear windscreen with an integrated spoiler above it. The biggest design highlight is the right rear tail light, which integrates the boot hatch opener.
The Ford EcoSport is based on the Fiesta platform, and thus the interiors are pretty similar. Thankfully, Ford has increased the wheelbase, which means the EcoSport is blessed with good amounts of interior room. The seats are very supportive, offering excellent back and thigh support.
The driver seat gets lumbar adjustment along with height adjustment, and the steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach – it also gets an integrated arm rest, which is not available for the front or rear seat passengers. The rear bench has two recline settings and the foot well is deep, which along with scooped front seatback yields better space at the rear. However, the rear seat is not wide enough, thus you should treat the EcoSport as strictly a four-seater.
Material and build quality of the EcoSport are average. Cost cutting is evident in quite a few places, like the use of single blade wiper instead of twin-blade ones, lack of an engine guard and engine cover, sub standard plastics at some places, etc.
However, the Indian-spec EcoSport as tested is feature loaded with the top-end Titanium option getting six airbags, ABS, EBD, Ford SYNC, steering-mounted audio controls, 16-inch wheels, leather seats, keyless entry, push-button start, climate control, etc. The automatic version gets ESP stability control and hill hold assist as well.
The boot of the EcoSport is small-ish at just 346 litres. The rear seats can be folded in 60:40 split to boost volume up to 705 litres (the company claims a washing machine can fit in there).
Three engines are offered on the Ford EcoSport in India. First is a 1.5 litre petrol Ti-VCT engine that produces 112 PS of power and 140 Nm of torque, paired to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed PowerShift automatic gearbox. For oil burner lovers, you have a 1.5 litre diesel engine producing 91 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
However, the third engine is really the most exciting, which is the 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine, producing 125 PS of power and 170 Nm of torque, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Performance numbers include a 0-100 km/h time of less than 11 seconds and a top speed of around 190 km/h.
The 2012 International Engine of The Year winner is a gem – the three-cylinder turbo mill is thoroughly refined throughout, and there are very little vibrations that only filter through the pedals post 4,500 rpm. There is some turbo lag below 1,600 rpm, but once past 2,000 rpm, the engine offers strong performance.
It doesn’t give a kick in the pants feel though, with power delivery being linear. The clutch is extremely light, and the gearshift is very positive. Overall, the EcoBoost engine offers thrilling performance, even with such a small displacement.
Ford engineers have given the EcoSport a 200 mm ground clearance along with a water wading capability of 550 mm. Handling of the car is crisp – despite the steering feeling a little too light at low speeds, it is decently weighed at higher speeds. Brakes are sharp, but there is a slight bit of nose dive under heavy braking.
Ride quality is good even at the rear and it’s only on very bad roads that the EcoSport feels harsh. Specially-developed tyres (MRF ZV2K and Goodyear Assurance) for the car reduce road noise and boost economy. Sadly, these tyres are very poor in terms of grip and tend to screech on hard braking and cornering.
The Ford EcoSport is a very good product, but could have been better. Cost cutting is evident in some places but hopefully the asking price will mask the negatives of this compact SUV. While the Renault Duster is bigger, the EcoSport is better equipped and funkier in terms of appearance. A change of tyres should result in drastically improved dynamics, as the chassis is simply brilliant.
As a vehicle, the EcoSport is a good proposition for the urban driver who is looking for a vehicle that’s easy to drive and manoeuvre, while at the same time offers a commanding driving position and good driving dynamics.