It all began when Renault launched the Duster in India. A completely new segment was created and it took the market by storm. The Duster, a nice and practical compact SUV turned out to be a runaway success and why not, it offered a lot for the price, right? Well, the answer to that question was delivered by Ford who launched the EcoSport which offered a bit more than the Duster and at a price which was a bit lesser. The EcoSport also became quite a success story until other compact SUVs started to flood the market. In a bid to generate more sales and of course to freshen up the product range, the American automaker has given a mid-life update to the baby SUV and here’s how it fares.
DESIGN AND STYLING ;
High-strength boron steel has been used in the EcoSport’s body-in-white to add torsional rigidity and improve the car’s occupant protection in the event of a crash or rollover — specifically in the door frames. A similar application of the material was applied to the related B-Max MPV to compensate for the absence of fixed B-pillars.
The car is also Ford’s first ever to be developed entirely in South America. Its front strut, rear twist beam suspension configuration has been retuned for European tastes, as has its electro-mechanical power steering.
Much of it, though, is already familiar. Like the Fiesta and the B-Max (and virtually every other small car), the EcoSport wears its dinky engines in the nose, where they exclusively drive the front wheels. Those wheels meet the ground courtesy of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam to the rear, and they are stopped by front discs and rear drums.
Trim levels comprise Titanium and Titanium X. You get a decent amount of kit in Titanium models, including climate control, a CD player with aux-in and USB connections, keyless entry and start, a cooled glove box, electric windows and front fog lights. Upgrading to Titanium X adds leather trim, 17-inch alloys, an auto-dimming rear view mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic lights and cruise control.
Arguably less likely to provoke ardour is the look of the thing. There’s nowhere to go with a baby crossover other than up, so it was inevitable that the EcoSport would be short and tall, but the bluff front end – splattered in lip gloss and shaped like a dust mask – is a feature that might take a lifetime to grow on you. Likewise, the side-opening rear door and the covered spare wheel attached to it
The interior of the EcoSport has Ford’s signature details in many places. The centre stack is particularly familiar. The chunky steering wheel and the centre stack have largely been borrowed from the new Fiesta. The seats are comfy and sport contrast stitched faux leather, with horizontal support squabs. The bug-eyed dials are another novel touch. The trim level that I was driving was the Titanium with the optional additions and the engine was the 1.0-litre EcoBoost with a manual gearbox.
The interior has a certain feel of premiumness in terms of fit and finish quality, but the material quality is only about the same as that of the other vehicles in the sub-Rs.10 lakhs segment. The variant I was driving had six airbags, but I’m guessing that there will be lower trim variants without as many. But the side curtain airbags in the car apparently are the reason why there are no grab handles on the roof for the passengers.
The seat position is nicely raised and you do get a commanding view of the road, but the thick base of the A-pillar does increase the blind spot on either side. The small quarter glass doesn’t manage to offer much in terms of improved visibility. Storage options abound and the rear 60:40 split bench seat can also be folded and flipped forward for increasing the boot space. And because the spare wheel is mounted on the hatch door, the loading height is lower in the boot.
There is enough legroom at the rear. But even though the EcoSport’s overall width is more than the new Fiesta’s, the chunky door design tends to take up some of the lateral space. So, the rear bench will be a squeeze for three adults. The hatch door handle has been neatly integrated into the tail-lamp at the left, with the handle itself looking like a part of the lamp’s combination. The hatch door is hinged on its side to the left. It is said to have been strengthened and tested extensively. But my test vehicle did come up with a few rattles and squeaks towards the end of the test drive.
The rear glass is quite narrow thanks to the design and the need for retaining space for the spare wheel on the hatch. So visibility is a bit restricted. But you do get parking assistance. The EcoSport is also said to be capable of wading through 550mm of water, just right for the flooded streets in our cities during monsoon.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
Now known to all, the EcoSport would be available in three engine trims which include 1.5L petrol and diesel engines along with the 1L EcoBoost engine. Since 1.5L is the clear winner in popularity as the Duster and Quanto too have it, we expected our test car to have the same. All hopes went flying by the window as we realized it’s plonked with the 1L EcoBoost engine.
A night earlier to the drive, we were given a comprehensive and detailed explanation about the 1.0L EcoBoost engine and its perks. The company claims that this small engine which can fit on an A4 size paper and can be carried in a small suitcase equals 1.6 L petrol engines in performance. Call me orthodox but then this was difficult for me to believe it as I belong to the old school thought where strength of a vehicle is designated by the “CCs” it displace
The EcoBoost engine breaks all such myths and brings a lot on the table. This one is the smallest engine in its class and Ford’s first three cylinder engine in the country. It produces a power output of 125PS and a peak torque of 170Nm. The company claims that the EcoBoost offers 8% more power than a 1.6L diesel engine and 7% more torque than a 1.6L petrol engine.
To negate the demerits of a conventional 3 cylinder engine, Ford has intentionally unbalanced the pulley and flywheel with counteracting weights to act against the shaking forces of the engine and drive the energy in a less sensitive direction. The engine mounts uses also use the same theme.
All about the EcoBoost engine seems fantastic on paper but then how does it react in real time conditions? This engine is not a fun engine to begin with. The drag in its performance is evident. In the initial rpms, the car just refuses to pull. The pull felt on the engine however decreases as it climbs higher rpms. Till 2500 rpm, it acts a commuter but post that it begins to get more active and responsive. Unlike in the Duster where you get a sweet noise of the turbocharger spooling, in the EcoSport it is more of the three cylinders scream which is not disappointing.
The torque curve becomes a plateau post 1500rpm and it goes all the way till 4500 rpm. These figures are helpful while climbing terrains as well as in traffic conditions as it completely shun the use of gear shifts. The 5 speed manual transmission is very smooth and works seamlessly.
Other than the EcoBoost, there is the 1.5-litre TiVCT 4 cylinder petrol engine which churns out 112 PS power at 6300 rpm and a peak torque of 140Nm at 4400 rpm. Diesel seekers get an option of 1.5-litre TDCi intercooled turbocharged diesel engine. This engine produces a peak power of 91PS at 3750 rpm and a torque of 204Nm between 2000 to 2750 rpm. The TiVCT engine has an optional 6 speed automatic transmission option.
The EcoSport is an Urban offering in the SUV market. It is what a Honda CRV or a Mutsubishi Outlander is in the premium segment. It is not for the hard core off roaders but more for the occasional soft roaders. The tall ground clearance of 200mm is fantastic for Indian road conditions so the moon craters won’t be felt much. It has an approach angle of 25 degrees and a departure angle of 35 degrees. The EcoSport also claims to have an ability to wade through 550mms of water
To sum up the good, bad and ugly of EcoSport, the EcoBoost 1-litre engine is not a fun to drive motor. It gets exhausted on long stretches of roads. The transmission is smooth and the engine scores more on torque than power. It is an ideal configuration for city driving where performance is minimal.
The good rather fantasic bits about EcoSport are its handling and suspension. Ford cars are known for this and the EcoSport does a fab job too. It has no body roll. The reason of this is its aerodynamic design approach.
Suspension setup is capable of taking vigorous bruises on the street. It is inclined on the softer side with sufficient dampening. The only issue faced was during high speed braking where the bite was not sufficient.We did a small off-road stint with it and were mighty impressed with its ground clearance and suspension. We got a real time mileage of 11Kmpl during our test run.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
Ride and handling is an area where the EcoSport has got a good balance going. Many a time I have heard many so-called proponents suggesting Ford makes the best driver-oriented cars only for them to come croppers when it comes to all-round family usage. The EcoSport is one car where the car delights with good manners in the handing department yet tops it without compromising on the ride element. For all round family usage this is critical and maybe Ford has heard this for long and acted on it to a degree. I made it a point to be driven while seated at the rear on the rutted Goa roads and I was impressed enough with the way the EcoSport rode the bumps and the craters yet remained composed without unsettling me in the back. Made me aware of the lack of grab rails though!
SAFETY AND FEATURES ;
To begin with, our press demonstrator was the Brown. The Mars Red colour might appeal to several, but I prefer the Kinetic Blue on the Ecosport. This in my opinion looks more upmarket and carries a hint of sophistication. The variant we drove was the Titanium Option. It comes with keyless entry, push start and stop, artificial leather, in-dash music system with Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB connection, reclining rear seats, 60:40 split, six airbags and ABS. In our long-term report, we share the fuel efficiency, performance and the pros and the niggles that we faced with the Ford Ecosport in our daily running.
Right from the day it was launched, the Ford EcoSport has always fared as a very good product offered at a good price point. It has its positives like the engine, dynamics and features along with some negatives like the limited space on offer, but it continues to remain a very attractive package on the whole. Ford hasn’t increased the prices of the updated model by a big margin and while extra power is always good to have, the additional useful features are like an icing on the cake and hence the EcoSport continues to remain a very good choice in the compact SUV segment.