First Drive: Ford EcoSport
Sector: Crossover Price (January 2014): £14,995–£16,495 Fuel: 44.8–61.4mpg CO2: 120–149g/km
Nobody wants an ordinary vehicle anymore. The place of family hatchbacks has been filled by crossovers, SUVs have replaced MPVs and the supermini is next. Ford’s Fiesta may be one of the UK’s biggest selling cars, but Ford’s people talk of 150% growth in the B SUV segment, which to you and I means cars like the Nissan Juke.
So the EcoSport is Ford’s answer, one conceived in Brazil of all places, where this will be the second generation model, the first based on the pensionable Ford Fusion.
That, and the fact that UK EcoSports are built in India – one of three worldwide plants that will churn out Ford’s new B SUV – underlines its status as a so-called “world car”.
It’s a global approach Ford has turned back to, with the forthcoming Mondeo derived using the same philosophy. Thing is, the first generation Mondeo was too, and that didn’t really work in some markets where tastes differed. The issue then is whether the EcoSport will suffer from similar issues of not being specifically targeted enough.
Using Fiesta underpinnings and Ford’s familiar small petrol and diesel engine line-up, the EcoSport’s SUV stance is more necessity than fashion in many of its markets, although UK buyers will be denied the option of four-wheel drive other countries get.
Those familiar engines include the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and the 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCI unit. The EcoBoost lacks the urgency to allow the EcoSport to live up to the latter portion of its name, and the Eco part will suffer dramatically if you try to do so. That is what the 1.5-litre TDCI is for, which makes up for its smaller 90bhp output with a torque figure that’s far more suited to the task in hand. It’s not quick or particularly quiet if you push it – the 0-62mph time of 14 seconds and 99mph top speed underlines that – but wind back your expectations and it’s able enough and will do 61.4mpg on the combined cycle.
What it isn’t, is particularly remarkable to drive. Sure, it rides decently enough, suppressing the worst the largely ripple free Spanish tarmac dished out, with body roll remaining relatively well contained too given its height and comfort. The gearbox shifts cleanly enough, though if you want to take advantage of the highest of the driver’s seat settings then you might find it a stretch to reach it.
Unusual for a Ford is that it is not an instant contender for best in class to drive. Blame the steering perhaps, which while reasonably weighted does little to inform. That’s a shame, as it’s bettered stylistically by others too, the French duo of Renault’s Captur and Peugeot’s 2008 make a case for themselves purely on visual appeal. The EcoSport looks a bit like a greatest hits of Ford’s styling, mixing up Kuga, B-Max and Fiesta, but then adding a huge body coloured spare wheel cover to the boot – which itself is an odd side-opening affair.
Inside you get lots of kit, the first 4,000 in the UK coming in Titanium spec only, which means you ask for little. Add £1,000 to the invoice and it’ll come with leather, bigger wheels and some automatic lights and wipers, while a further £250 bringing Ford’s full-on Sync connectivity and entertainment system which piggybacks your smartphone for streaming internet audio and apps. All very clever, and very familiar. It’s spacious inside with the rear seats offering lots of head and legroom, if at some expense of the boot’s capacity. All fairly ordinary, and lacking Ford’s usual sparkle, which in this rapidly growing market might just leave it at a disadvantage.
Ford’s usual driving flair might be absent, and that bootlid-mounted spare wheel an eyesore, but the EcoSport has enough appeal to steal a few sales away from Nissan’s segment-defining Juke. That Ford’s offering is the sensible, practical one is something of a turn around, though.