Finally Living Up To Its Potential? Ford EcoSport Review

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The Ford Fiesta has been the best-selling car in the UK for almost a decade, so you would have thought that a small SUV based on it would sell out like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Things didn’t turn out that way for the previous EcoSport, and it seemed to be a car that couldn’t live up to its potential. Is this new model able to change matters? I drove it recently to find out.

Design and Styling

The previous car wasn’t much of a looker; it was quite a gawky looking thing if you ask me, especially when it came to the front end. Thankfully there is no such problem here, and in the truth, it looks like a shrunken version of the Kuga ST-Line I tested around this time last year, which, coincidentally, was also black. The new design is leaner and meaner, particularly if you select the sportier ST-Line as tested here.

This offers a sportier body, big alloys, black front grille and roof rails, and a chunky rear spoiler. The black paint also helps to make the car meaner, but you will need to pay £495 for the privilege. Whilst I’m talking cosmetics of an optional variety, the 18″ alloys will set you back £600 and the privacy glass will set you back £250. It’s quite a good spec if you ask me though.

Step inside and you’ll find a pleasingly chunky steering wheel trimmed in leather, with a flat bottom, as well as seats trimmed in fabric and leather, sports pedals, model specific scuff plates, and a gearknob with black inserts. The cabin has got a nice look to it, although the touchscreen does look like it’s simply been dumped on with some superglue.

Yes, Ford isn’t the only brand to do this, and in fact the Fiesta and the new Focus have the same design, but it somehow looks more awkward in the EcoSport. Speaking of awkward, the boot opening is still annoyingly impractical too, but I’ll get on to that later.

Rating: (4 / 5)

Equipment

Selecting the correct EcoSport shouldn’t be too difficult as there are three trim levels to choose from; Zetec, Titanium and ST-Line. Zetec starts from £17,295, offering features such as 16″ alloy wheels, front fog lights, 6.5″ touchscreen, DAB radio, smartphone connectivity, air conditioning, and front and rear electric windows.

Pay £2,000 more and you’ll receive the Titanium model, which offers 17″ alloys, silver roof rails, 8″ touchscreen, DAB radio, navigation, smartphone connectivity, automatic headlights, partial leather seats, rear parking camera, climate control, keyless start, cruise control and automatic wipers.

For an additional £800 (£20,095 in case you’ve lost count) you’ll get the ST-Line, which is able to offer sporty styling, sports suspension, black contrasting roof, black roof rails, and a model specific steering wheel/gear knob. It’s quite a pricey trim for what it is, so it may be worth sticking with one of the other two.

The model tested here is priced at £22,240 though, as it has a more powerful engine, and it also has options including 18″ alloys, front parking sensors, the stealthy ‘Shadow Black’ paintwork and privacy glass. It’s worth mentioning that autonomous emergency braking is not standard on any models, which is disappointing. The new model is yet to have its crash tests revealed, but it should be safe, considering the previous model was awarded 4 stars.

Rating: (4 / 5)

Space and Comfort

The EcoSport is certainly not the biggest compact SUV on the market and that’s apparent once you’re inside. The front is able to offer enough space, but I would want more elbow room as I found myself knocking my passenger when changing gear. Other than that small complaint, the front offers a decent amount of space, as well as a decent amount of cubbyholes.

The back is where things start to go a bit downhill though, especially if like me, you’re tall. With the driver’s seat set for my 6’2″ height, I found myself with very little legroom behind it, and headroom is far from what you’d call ample, but I suppose that should come as little surprise as I had similar complaints in the car in which the EcoSport is based on, the Fiesta.

The boot offers a decent amount of space, although it’s quite some way from being best in class with a capacity of 356 litres. Gaining access to it could be better as well, because for whatever reason, Ford has decided to stick with a side opening tailgate, rather than a traditional vertical one.

This means that you’ll need to think carefully before you park the car, especially if you park it in the street, as you won’t be able to access the boot if another car is parked too close behind you. Going back to the topic of space though, if you need more room, you can fold down the 60/40 rear seats to increase luggage capacity to over 1200 litres.

Rating: (3 / 5)

What’s it like to drive?

The EcoSport is available with either a 1.0 litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, or a 1.5 litre four cylinder diesel engine. This choice may seem limited at first, but the 1.0 litre can be selected in either 99, 123 or 138bhp outputs, and the diesel can be had with either 99 or 123bhp outputs. You can either have a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed auto depending on the engine, but if you want all wheel drive you’ll need to go for the more powerful diesel.

The engine on test here is the award-winning 1.0 litre EcoBoost, producing 123bhp with 170Nm of torque, which is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. 62mph comes in 12.7 seconds, which sounds slow on paper, but it definitely feels more eager in real life. If this isn’t to your liking, you could go for the 6-speed auto to get the time cut to under 12 seconds, but I would encourage you to stick with the manual.

Ford EcoSport Review
It may not look like much, but this engine has more awards than I care to count.

The reason for this, is because all the Ford cars I’ve driven have offered a satisfying gearchange, and the EcoSport is no different. I would argue that the throws are a tad too long, but they feel slick and precise, so that’s enough to keep me happy. The engine is also able to keep me happy, as it’s zesty and fizzy.

Top speed is 111mph whether you go with the manual or the auto, so it’s not as if you get any extra speed by going for the auto. If you want more poke, then you can of course go for the 138bhp version of this engine, although there isn’t a massive step up in regards performance.

Although this engine isn’t the most powerful, it provides a decent amount of performance, with power kicking in just below 2,000 rpm, offering a smooth, linear delivery. In gear performance is also decent, so you shouldn’t find yourself constantly changing down to keep on top of the power.

The ride isn’t as pleasant though, as it’s unsettled and lumpy, which is not helped by the sports suspension. Because of this, the ride is firm, but not enough to ruin the driving experience. Speaking of which, as mentioned earlier, the EcoSport is based on the Fiesta, so it ought to drive just as well.

Ford EcoSport Review

Sadly, it doesn’t as it simply doesn’t feel as sorted as its supermini counterpart. The steering has a nice weight to it, and I like holding the ST-Line’s steering wheel in my hands, but it lacks the crispness and satisfaction of the Fiesta. With it being a taller, heavier car, it should come as no surprise that it’s not as accomplished.

The handling is still good, though, thanks to a good amount of grip and crisp brakes, but it simply doesn’t offer the same amount of feel good factor as the Fiesta. Mind you, it’s still able to offer a bit of fun when needed. Yes, there is a bit of body lean, but at no point do I think the car is going to topple over, and the whole it does offer a rewarding drive, just not as rewarding as you’d expect given its Fiesta underpinnings.

Rating: (3.5 / 5)

Fuel Economy

As this car is only running a 1.0 litre three cylinder engine, it should prove to be frugal, and on paper that looks to be the case. This particular engine should be able to offer 54.3mpg on a combined run, and in my experience, I was getting around low to mid 40s.  For those of you looking for more economy, check out the 99bhp 1.5 litre diesel, which is able to offer 68.8mpg on a combined run.

In regards to CO2, this engine emits 119g/km, meaning that for the first year of VED, you’ll pay £165, but if you go for the 1.5 litre diesel, you’ll also pay £165.

Rating: (3.5 / 5)

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Ford has been hard at work to improve the EcoSport, and in truth it’s not a bad effort. However, there’s still some way to go if Ford wants to really corner this part of the market. It could do with a bit more space, it needs to have a more practical boot opening, and it needs more driving inspiration. It may be better than the last model, but it’s still not enough to challenge the best in class.

Car Obsession Rating: (3.5 / 5)

Ford EcoSport Review

Pros:

  • Better looking than previous model
  • Decent performance
  • Nicely weighted steering
  • Decent equipment

Cons:

  • Lacks that Fiesta shine
  • Cramped rear space
  • Impractical boot opening
  • Not the biggest boot in class
  • ST-Line trim not the best value
  • Not the best riding SUV

Rivals

Arona CopperSEAT Arona

Although the new EcoSport is a better looking car, the Arona is better looking still, and it’s a more rewarding car to drive. It also offers more space and starts from a cheaper price, so it’s little wonder the Spanish brand has been able to find more success with this model than Ford has with its EcoSport.

MG ZS ReviewMG ZS

Not the first car you would consider as a rival for the EcoSport, but it’s a good choice if you’re looking for an SUV that is considerably cheaper than the Ford, along with offering more space and and a more practical boot opening. The ZS I tested earlier this month was almost £10,000 cheaper than the EcoSport tested here, and that’s not to be sniffed at.

Nissan JukeNissan Juke

The Nissan Juke is one of the cars to beat in this area of the market, but like the previous version of the EcoSport, the looks aren’t for everyone. It starts from a cheaper price as well, and even the base model is able to offer a decent amount of kit.

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