If you’re thinking “WTF is the Ford EcoSport?” it’s because Ford doesn’t offer it in the US. The following is a guest post from our friends at MotorBeam.com who went to a media event in Goa, India to test drive it and see whether we think Ford should offer the EcoSport in the States.
The 2013 Ford EcoSport is a compact SUV that was unveiled last year at the Delhi Auto Expo and is meant for emerging markets like India, Brazil and China. The EcoSport has been on sale in Brazil since 2003 and the second generation model will be sold globally under the One Ford plan. Ford has plans to sell the EcoSport in more than 100 markets, thereby offering the vehicle to developed countries as well. Ford has already showcased the EcoSport for the European markets (it’ll sit below the Kuga there), which has minor changes compared to the one on sale in Brazil and China. The EcoSport is based on the Fiesta’s B-car platform and it is safe to say the vehicle is the jacked up version of the Fiesta.
The compact SUV segment is a new and emerging segment and has vehicles like the Buick Encore, Chevy Trax, Nissan Juke and Renault Duster in it. Ford doesn’t have any immediate plans to launch the EcoSport in the US yet, but it could serve as an excellent alternative to the Fiesta. Ford held an international media drive event in Goa, India, where over 200 journalists sampled the EcoSport. I was part of the initial batch and got to sample the EcoBoost equipped model.
The EcoSport measures under 4-metres in length (without the spare wheel) and is quite tiny on the outside. Ford has designed the vehicle quite aggressively but the dimensions are only as big as a hatchback. However the EcoSport is taller and gets 200 mm of ground clearance and 550 mm of water wading ability. It looks stylish with the large hexagonal front grille, silver roof rails, tail gate mounted spare wheel and black cladding giving it presence. The EcoSport also gets a neat touch with the tail gate opener placed inside the right rear tail lamp assembly.
The interiors of the Ford EcoSport are identical to the Fiesta’s. The dashboard is quite big and features dual tone black and grey treatment, with silver inserts at certain places. The seats are comfortable with good all round support. There is ample space at both the front and rear, with enough legroom and headroom on offer. The rear seat does not get an arm rest but the scooped front seat back and deep foot well gives 6-footers enough space. The width of the rear seat prevents a fifth passenger from entering and thus the EcoSport is strictly a 4-seater.
The EcoSport’s boot is quite small at 346-litres but the rear seats can be flipped in 60:40 format to increase luggage space to 705-litres. Quality is not that great, average at best, with some parts not solidly put together. There is quite a bit of cost cutting with the absence of an engine cover, engine guard and twin-blade wipers on the vehicle. Ford has certainly made the EcoSport to a price.
The EcoSport might not have the best quality but it is loaded with features, including 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP, Hill Hold Assist, SYNC system, leather seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, steering mounted audio controls, etc. Some of these features are only standard on top end trims.
Engine & Performance
The Ford EcoSport is offered with three engines; a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 112 PS and 140 Nm (110 hp & 103 lb-ft) paired to a 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic gearbox, a 1.5-litre diesel engine producing 91 PS and 200 Nm (89 hp & 147 lb-ft) mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, and a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol with 125 PS and 170 Nm (123 hp & 125 lb-ft) coupled to a 5-speed manual gearbox. This 1.0-litre unit has received the 2012 International Engine of the Year award and even though it’s a 3-cylinder unit, it offers excellent performance and refinement.
At high revs (past 4500 RPM), there’s a sporty exhaust note and the cabin is well-insulated from road and tyre noise. Power delivery is smooth and there is turbo lag below 1600 RPM, past which the motor pulls strongly. Step on the gas and response is immediate and linear. It doesn’t feel fast since there’s no kick in the pants feel of a turbocharger. This EcoBoost engine gives the same performance of a 1.6-litre mill, while consuming 20% less fuel. You barely realize you’re driving a 1.0-litre car which weighs more than 1250 kgs. According to Indian fuel rating agency (Automobile Research Association of India), the EcoSport will return a mileage of 18.9 km/l (44.5 mpg.)
The EcoSport handles very well and has a decent steering wheel too, which feels a tad light at high speeds. It does give good feedback and also has pull drift compensation, which prevents the vehicle from moving to either side if there are road undulations or crosswinds. Braking is strong although there is some nose dive under heavy braking. Ride quality is very good and the vehicle absorbs bumps in its stride with confidence. There is however a fair bit of harshness on really bad roads. The biggest spoilsport are the tyres, which offer poor grip and tend to screech in no time, as they have low rolling resistance in the interest of economy.
The Ford EcoSport is an excellent product for emerging markets as it offers a few SUV traits in a tiny footprint. While it’s not as well built, it does offer good driving dynamics and performance, along with stylish exteriors. This makes the EcoSport a popular choice among compact SUV buyers. For the developed world, the EcoSport might look small in size, but it is a vehicle which many would take to easily, as it’s easy to park and maneuver, while at the same time it will cost under $20,000 (if launched in the U.S.).
Do you think Ford should offer the EcoSport in the States?
Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the automobile industry of India.