The Ford EcoSport is a compact SUV which was first launched in Brazil way back in 2003. Now Ford has brought in the second generation model, which will go on sale in more than 100 markets across the globe. Based on the Fiesta’s B-car platform, the EcoSport is designed to attract buyers in emerging markets like China, Brazil and India. The vehicle measures around 4-meters in length (3,999 mm in India to duck it under the government’s 4-meter mark, without factoring in the spare wheel) and is no longer than a regular hatchback. The design is evokes mixed reaction and some might love it, while others might simply hate it. A large hexagonal chrome grille adorns the front while the spare wheel has been mounted on the tailgate at the rear. A black body cladding runs throughout the lower side of the car. The boot lid opener has been integrated inside the right rear tail light.
The dashboard comes form the Fiesta and is quite big. Comfort inside the cabin is top-notch with very supportive seats. Even leg room at the rear is good, with scooped front seat back and deep footwells giving good space to rear passengers. Quality inside leaves a lot to be desired. Many parts look cheap and are built to a price. Ford has skipped on some basic things like an engine cover, engine guard and twin-blade wipers. However, it has loaded the vehicle with features like SYNC, 6 airbags, parking sensors, push button start, keyless entry, hill hold assist, ESP, ABS, audio controls on steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, etc. Some of these features are available only on the top-end Titanium variants. The trunk is quite small with just a 346-liter capacity, at least the rear seats can be folded (60:40 ratio) to increase volume to 705-liters. The cabin is well insulated with little outside noise creeping in. The audio system sounds fantastic for a factory setup, the AC is simply amazing and chills in no time even in 32 degrees C temperatures of Goa.
The Ford EcoSport will be offered in India with three engines. A 1.5-litre gasoline Ti-VCT motor with a power of 112 hp and a torque of 140 Nm, mated to both a 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic. A 1.5-litre diesel TDCi with a power of 91 hp and a torque of 200 Nm, mated to a 5-speed manual. The third engine is the most talked about, it’s the 2012 International engine of the year, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost mill with 125 hp and 170 Nm of output. I had a chance to drive the EcoSport powered by the EcoBoost engine. This engine is claimed to give the power of a 1.6-litre engine while consuming 20% less fuel.
Performance from this 3-cylinder engine is fantastic, with extremely good refinement and good progress throughout the power band. There is turbo lag till 1600 RPM, after which the EcoBoost engine pulls cleanly in a linear fashion (no kick in the pants feel here). There are no issues with NVH till 4500 RPM, after which a slight amount of vibrations can be felt through the pedals. 0-100 km/hr should take less than 11 seconds and top speed is around 190 km/hr. This engine simply doesn’t feel like a 1.0-litre, 3-pot unit and also helps Ford to get excise duty benefits in India (sub 4-metre cars with less than 1.2-litre engine capacity in gasoline or less than 1.5-litre engine capacity in diesel are subjected to half the excise duty, 12% against 24%).
Ford cars are known to be very involving to drive, the EcoSport is no different. Handling is crisp and the steering is very light at low speeds and decently weighed at high speeds (could have felt heavier and offered more feedback like the Fiesta though). Ride quality is good both at the front and rear but the EcoSport feels a bit harsh on real bad roads, there are plenty of such roads in India. Braking is good too but there is a small dive under hard braking. The biggest spoil sports are indeed the tires, which have been specially developed for lower road noise and higher economy. They tend to lose grip early and start screeching.
The Ford EcoSport is clearly not a car for the developed world. It is too small with cost cutting at several areas. However for emerging markets, it’s an excellent bet. It has 200 mm of ground clearance and a water wading capability of 550 mm. With looks which will mostly please Indians and driving dynamics which are surefooted, the EcoSport is bound to be a success in India. It is already outselling the Renault Duster in Brazil, which although a bigger car, is not as feature loaded as the Ford. The EcoSport will be sold in Europe, positioned below the Kuga and there are plans to bring in a 4-wheel drive version as well.
Easy maneuverability in congested city conditions along with easy parking and low-cost of purchase are sure to win people’s hearts in Europe. Do you think the EcoSport makes much sense in the developed world?
Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the automobile industry of India.