By on April 4, 2018

2018 Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport, a new (to North America) subcompact crossover hastily inserted at the bottom of the Blue Oval’s lineup, went on sale in January of this year. No TTACer who sat in the vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit walked away impressed, and it was odd to see a new model introduction go without the obligatory first drive event.

Still, the vehicle, which starts at a hair under 20 grand and carries a 1.0-liter three-cylinder as a base powerplant, isn’t being ignored by the buying public. March EcoSport sales in the U.S. topped that of the well-regarded — but not especially capacious — Mazda CX-3. Still, as all things truck continue to garner ever greater market share in the U.S., the little Ford faces a difficult upward climb.

With dealer lots across the country now boasting EcoSports in healthier numbers, total sales of the model in the U.S. last month amounted to 3,296 vehicles. Compare that to the 1,728 CX-3s sold in the same month. The Mazda, despite being a lower-volume model, still shows growth potential, though: March’s figure represents a 38.1 percent year-over-year sales increase, with the model posting a 15.8 percent gain over the first three months of 2018.

For 2019, Mazda plans to give the CX-3 an upmarket makeover. Whether or not this endears it to a new class of buyers, well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Higher up the mainstream subcompact crossover volume ladder is the Toyota C-HR, a front-drive-only proposition that recorded 5,253 sales in the United States last month. Arriving in April 2017, the C-HR’s March tally is its best to date. It’s still below its Honda rival, however.

Last month, Honda moved 7,753 HR-Vs — an older model in this segment, but one that’s nonetheless growing. March’s U.S. sales figure is a 1.3 percent year-over-year increase for the smallest Honda utility vehicle, and growth over the first quarter of 2018 stands at 5.6 percent.

Where Japanese volume leaves off, domestic manufacturers pick up. Specifically, General Motors. The Chevrolet Trax’s U.S. sales of 8,207 vehicles in March represents a 26.3 percent year-over-year increase for the model, with year-to-date sales up 11.6 percent. Still, Buick’s upscale-leaning Encore blows these numbers out of the water, with 15,118 of the baby Buicks sold last month. That’s an 82.3 percent increase, year over year. Over the first quarter of 2018, the Encore found 26.8 percent more buyers than the same period last year.

2017 Buick Encore - Image: Buick

The Encore figures are a complete anomaly, though, and one that GM doesn’t explain. The March tally is nearly triple February’s sales, and is by far the greatest Encore sales month in the model’s history. Until now, no month ever broke the 9,000 mark. Hmmm…

One vehicle that did break that mark last month, and did so not as a statistical outlier, was the Jeep Renegade. The off-road brand sold 9,971 of its smallest utes in March — a year-over-year increase of 21 percent. Year to date, however, sales have fallen 3 percent.

As seen here, EcoSport buyers face plenty of choice in the segment, and it’s only going to become more crowded. March was the Hyundai Kona’s first full month on the market, and 2,360 buyers took the bait. Leaping into the fray later this year is the front-drive-only Nissan Kicks.

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

[Images: Ford Motor Company, Honda, General Motors, Hyundai]

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54 Comments on “March 2018 U.S. Auto Sales: Ford EcoSport Still Climbing, but so Are Other Mainstream Subcompact Crossovers...”


  • avatar
    seth1065

    After seeing the crash results of the ford escape and that size CUV I would cringe at the results from these tiny CUV’s but safety rally does not sell against the trip to the lake , down the trail, that 95% of these CUV’s will never see but is in 95% of their ads.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Of course the EcoSport is selling, the car actually hacks your life! Say you get thrown out of your apartment, no problem if you have an EcoSport…you can sleep in it! If you’re having a picnic on a windy day and you don’t want your blanket to blow away, just back the EcoSport onto one side of it, bon appetite!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Can EcoSport also do my homework, fill in for me at work, do the yardwork, oh and think for me too?

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      It all sounds good, until you get super jealous of the homeless guy parked next to you in his 20 year old CRV, with its magic seats that form a bed … and wait… what is that… a built in standard picnic table. Bro, you just got out hacked.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        My mother in law had one of those, LOVED that picnic table!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yeah, clever interior packaging and features are very much a Honda thing (and Chrysler for stow-and-go I guess), and cool and funky JDM cars where space is at a big premium. What exactly about this EcoSport is that great in terms of packaging (aside from the spare, which we don’t get anyways).

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I do love that exposed spare tire on the EcoSport, that’s an underrated way to carry a spare tire.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Agreed! Now if we could get this and pop-up lights on our brown wagon…

      One of the things I most liked about my 06 RAV-4 and 01 CR-V. I tried to replicate on my XJ Cherokee, but even with aftermarket racks never got it to work as well.

      Look how ugly the RAV got when it dropped that tire for the 2013 refresh. Candidate for worst rear view.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I have doubts about how great an option it is in urban environments, where I expect many sub-compact CUVs are sold.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I think it’s the most interesting/best looking mini-crossovers because of that. That and the fairly ample clearance. If only they offered a AWD+stick shift version!

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        It does look like a modern homage to the original tiny little RAV4.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Looked at local listings and some reviews, unsurprisingly we lose the cool spare on the hatch in the land of 5mph bumpers. I know historically that spare tire mounting position leads to more damage when it gets bumped.

          • 0 avatar
            whynot

            The spare on the hatch is an option on the base S trim only (as far as I can tell). So yea…prepare to never see it equipped.

      • 0 avatar
        Middcore

        I do think the EcoSport is a nifty looking little thing. It would have looked niftier if they had simply omitted the rear row of seats that are too small for anybody to use and the back doors that go with it… But only having 3 doors instead of 5 would have also made it -appear- less practical, and sadly the appearance rather than the reality of practicality is paramount in this segment.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Awww… come ON now! 3-door wagons were all the thing, once. Infinitely more practical than most of these beasties we have on the road today.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            How so? Assuming the 5door has fold-down seats. How does it give up any utility at all?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Look up the Chevy Nomad

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            That’s not an argument. How does just removing 2 rear doors improve interior room or utility? If we’re talking about engineering a removable second row like the gen 1 Rav4 or PT Cruiser then I’m 100% onboard. If it’s just removing doors without altering interior layout (ie not gaining any cu-ft of interior room) then you are quite literally LOSING utility.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Read the Wiki, gtem. The 2-door Nomad was based on the 2-door Bel-Air, on a shorter wheelbase than the four-door wagon. Later versions put the Nomad name onto a conventional station wagon except for a small revival with the 2-door Vega wagon and later with a trim package on a standard passenger van (with blocked-out rear glass to make it more ‘custom-friendly’ for those hippie wagon/love machines.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Personally, I’m tired of hearing about “utility” in everything. Firstly, the CUV can’t tow, doesn’t offer 4×4 and a transfer case with rare exception, and does not offer same same cargo ergonomics as a minivan or lwb SUV with removed seats. Secondly, America’s rapid obesity shows as a nation, no one is hiking, running, moving, or working much, or at least enough to maintain a healthy body weight. So all of this “utility” is akin to wanting a Kangaroo pouch and then keeping it empty. Can we please kill the stupid now? Please???

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            28 cars I’d define utility in a practical/usable sense as good interior packaging to fit more people (or fat people, or more fat people) and more of their things.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Utility means different things for different people.

            To me, stuffing in seats that aren’t going to be used is just a waste of volume and an addition of weight that would be better applied as cargo capacity. This also means the load floor could be lowered, especially if it’s a front-drive vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Interesting points. The proles I encounter don’t even properly think through the purchase, they’ve got some kind of short term synapse firing telling them “yes this is smart/good/acceptable”. Perhaps a result of subconscious mental conditioning and mild hypnosis from all the lies they are bombarded with on a daily basis?

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      It does wonders for the cargo area. Plus, you get the spare tire cover cottage industry, as seen in the Jeep Wrangler subculture.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      They need to do this with all the stow and go minivans out there with the ridiculous spare tire placement up underneath the van.

      I get most people will just call AAA or some such but I’d hate to be the person off on the side of the road fiddling with that.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I was briefly behind a RAV4 from the “spare on the rear” era and an FJ Cruiser with the same mounting yesterday. I should have snapped a picture, it made an interesting little paring while they were briefly side by side.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    I get these. I don’t want one, but I get it.

    I have an 01 CR-V which is this size if not a bit bigger. I haven’t driven it in traffic or on the highway in years as it’s just not safe amongst the hippos on my commute, but every woman I’ve known who owned or drove one (including current wife) loves them. I bought one because my parents did, and my own mother still says it was her favorite car. I had to figure out why? I mean I liked its cockroach reliability but favorite ever?

    The answers make sense and are kind of predictable – Easy to park, easy to see out of, easy to put stuff in. They felt down under a cavern of metal when in a regular car. It’s all about perceived safety (thanks Freakanomics!).

    I got a start recently when I took it to Walmart and parked next to a Kia Soul by chance. Same height, length, and even tail-light location. It’s a size of vehicle that works, as opposed to the new Explorer I followed this morning. All I could think of is the “Modern Safety Vehicles” from Red Barchetta fame. I think a lot of people want to go to smaller vehicles, but the sheer number of behemoths makes them feel blind on the road, so they drive on stilts.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I need something to hack my life.

    Buick Ensure to the rescue!

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Hopefully we see matched rims in the real world.

    Haven’t seen one of these yet.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Ford was smart enough to mount the spare tire on the rear hatch and then use a swing gate system rather than a hatch. Toyota was that smart once upon a time.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      The tailgates on these things are a pain in the tail in tight urban parking spaces. I had a Rav-4 for a week and it was very annoying opening and closing that huge hatch, and impossible most times when I parallel parked (or it required acrobatics). A trunk is so much easier to work with. I really don’t understand the appeal of these and never did.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I prefer the old clamshell-style tailgates that allowed you to have the glass hatch open if you needed extra cooling (without running the AC) or needed to carry a long load. Also gives you a nice, easy bench to sit on under that ‘roof’ that allows you to swing your legs when picnicking in the rain or you just don’t want to sit on the ground.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          I think hardtop Jeep is the last remaining survivor of the lift-glass and swing-gate variety.

          Trucks with camper shells are similar, but not quite the same because swinging your feet from the end of the tailgate usually leaves you out in the rain a bit.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Drop gate, not swing gate. And so what if your feet get wet if your head is covered? The old-style station wagon or pickup-truck-type tailgate (with cap) (think full sized Ford Bronco on pickup chassis.)

            I like to swing my legs when I’m sitting down and don’t like slamming my calves into a bumper that sticks out beyond my seat.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        @ superdessucke

        Fair point. I’m an exurbs kinda guy, and I’m tall so swing-gate style rear doors make me happy. I’ll even stand in the rain for an extra 30 seconds loading cargo, if it means I’ll never hit my head on a sagging hatch *shudder*

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Swing would probably be better but still, it would be a problem in urban areas. As to sagging hatches, I can’t imagine those struts lasting very long given all the weight they must hold up. That hatch must weigh in excess of 100 pounds given its size and all the glass. I’d have a repeat of my 1987 Firebird Formula on my hands in no time!

          And aside from the ginormous hatch that is impractical in my urban environment, I was also put off by the 4-5 fewer miles per gallon it went compared to my much faster and more responsive Accord Sport with the same size engine, as well as its utterly non-involving driving experience.

          Overall, a lame and disappointing vehicle. I just don’t see their appeal.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB

    Damn, this whole class of mini-CUV is ugly. The proportions are all wrong. many won’t agree, and people are free to buy what they want, but these seem to be appealing to people who want the ‘status’ of a CUV but can’t really afford one otherwise. Most people would be better off with a Focus.

    (This reminds me of a Jeep Patriot I had as a rental a few years ago. FWD I think. It struck me as the vehicle for the early-20s person who just had to have something with the name “Jeep” on it. Utterly terrible vehicle it was.)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Some are better than others. I’d rate the HR-V, CX-3 and Kona as best; prior to the Ecosport, I’d have said the Encore is the ugliest, but this new thing lives in a whole new world of ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The old Patriot (which is sort of in between subcompact and compact CUV in terms of interior room and price) and Outlander Sport are my favorites. Based purely on aesthetics the global EcoSport with the hatch-mounted spare was perhaps my new favorite. But now seeing that stand-out aesthetic feature nixed from our market, along with the very pedestrian drivetrain offerings, makes me not give a hoot about it any more.

      • 0 avatar
        vehic1

        FreedMike: +1. The C-HR is also ridiculously busy/overstyled, for such a squashed-down, useless size.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If you think the Ecosport is bad in pictures, check one out in real life.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      I agree. This was easily one of the more depressing new cars at the auto show a few weeks ago.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Ford went the cheap route and decided to bring the EcoSport here when it was developed for emerging markets.

      Other automakers waited until they developed a subcompact CUV for developed markets.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I’ve seen plenty of these up close over here in the ME. They are fairly horrid little beasts, but will sell in the US *because CUV.” Never mind that just about any vehicle classified as a wagon or hatchback would be as, if not more, practical. Simply calling a vehicle anything but a CUV is a death sentence to sales.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    If this market segment is really getting this packed, then it seems to me the market is wide open for a similarly-sized, open-bed option.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The Echosport is suitable accompaniment for a drab life.

    If there is a worse mini-ute, sub compact crossover, what have you, the world’s motoring rags and websites haven’t yet discovered it. Yet people who find it a complete drag to spend only ten minutes on the internet researching a possible vehicle for their family, apparently have forked over money to buy one of these underachievers. They deserve every plastic ungainly line and panting performance wheeze of it.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Someone in our subdivision bought one of these. Not sure what trim level it is, but I think it might be one of the upper ones. All black. They don’t seem to take great care of their vehicles (or their house), so it’ll probably look like garbage in no time.

    I have yet to check one out at the local Ford dealer which has their cars unlocked on Sunday, but maybe this weekend.

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    Must not be selling many Ecosports in the Cleveland area as I have yet to see one in the wild. Sat in one at the Cleveland auto show and I can’t say as it was a bad vehicle, or course that opinion could change if I drove one. My 6’3″ frame fit in it well so I guess it’s got that going for it.

  • avatar
    Ultraviolet Thunder

    I’m a Ford guy, but this company is driving me towards Kia and Hyundai – that Ecosport is a terrible product – poor quality – and mediocre performance. The Fiesta is a dead car driving and the Focus is being shipped to China – a fact that will make it a banned car in my household. The Fusion is on the way out which is a shame since it is a great product.

    I refuse to buy a CUV or SUV.

  • avatar
    OutBinkie883

    I drove one yesterday, and liked it. I was in a 1.0 i3 FWD Titanium. Maybe it’s gearing, but it had very firm acceleration. It didn’t seem bouncy or awkward. My only gripe was the A-pillar design. Thick, seemingly pinched inward, and paired with tiny fixed quarter windows, they lent the view ahead the effect of being seen from a distance through a tunnel.

    The retractable rear cargo cover is a laughable thing, since it covers half of the space just by being retracted. It only extends a few inches.

    I’m considering moving from one sporty car to a small AWD crossover and a hardcore and compromised sports car, so this was viewed with intent.

    The biggest fail for me on the EcoSport is the option bundles. I want dark colored fabric seats (SE only) a vegan steering wheel (S only) dark alloys (S and SES only) a spare tire (S only) and Android Auto (any trim but S). Now you can’t always get what you want, but my must haves for the EcoSport (rear mounted spare and Android Auto) are mutually exclusive. I’m guessing it’s something to do with rear camera modules, since the rear hatch appears to be different on the carrier models, and the camera lives in the bumper rather than below the rear window.


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