In your interface
The cabin plastics don’t flatter but the hi-tech drivetrain and infotainment setup lift the Ecosport above the pack
IT was always going to be a good thing, a baby SUV based on a jacked-up Ford Fiesta. The EcoSport realises that potential but it is literally a case of a hitech drivetrain being matched to a ho-hum interior.
Made in India, the cabin sacrifices soft-touch plastics for hard but durable surfaces. That’d make it ideal for wiping down after off-road duties … but Australia is only taking the front-wheel drive version.
This is a city car with an elevated driving position, plenty of features and the right price. Along with the refined drive, these will help lure buyers away from its rivals — of which there are aplenty, from the Holden Trax and Nissan Juke to Peugeot’s 2008 and the soon-to-arrive Renault Captur.
In the EcoSport, the base Ambiente costs $xx, xxx. It is powered by a 1.5-litre fourcylinder engine (82kW/140Nm) mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and riding on 15-inch steel rims.
Move up to the $xx, xxx Trend and there’s a choice of the 1.5-litre mill with a six-speed automatic transmission or the more responsive 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder with a five-speed manual. It picks up bodycoloured side mirrors, 16-inch alloys, front fog lights, cruise control and a chilled glovebox.
The range-topping Titanium costs $xx, xxx and gains leatheraccented seats, auto headlamps and wipers, keyless start and reverse parking sensors.
The adage applies here: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Ford’s turbocharged directinjection 1.0-litre triple-cylinder (92kW/170Nm) embarrasses plenty of four-potters, including those in the Trax and 2008. It is rarely found wanting. Unfortunately, it is only being sold with a five-speed manual gearbox. Buyers who want a self-shifter will have to settle for the 1.5 with less power and torque.
Ford’s Sync infotainment system is now fitted with emergency assist, which works with a paired phone’s Bluetooth connection. It will connect to emergency services in the event of an accident — it is triggered by the airbags being deployed or the fuel-pump shut-off being activated.
The scaled-down Territory styling makes the EcoSport an instantly identifiable member of the Ford fleet. It looks tough and its 200mm ride height imbues it with the “command drive” seating position that enthrals many city-car buyers.
Front and rear occupants alike get more space thanks to the stretched Fiesta platform. The boot is also reasonable at 362L, bolstered by tumbledown rear seats.
The tailgate opens from the side but the EcoSport’s dimensions mean it can be partially opened without banging the car behind in shopping centre car parks.
Interior features are also lifted from the Fiesta and there are plenty of them, from Bluetooth to Sync, Ford’s voicecontrolled infotainment setup. Storage is a highlight, with 20 compartments including nine cup/bottle holders, albeit housed in or moulded from cheaper, harsher plastics.
Inconsistent panel fit is probably a bigger concern. It’s no worse than firstgeneration Thai-built vehicles but shows the assembly line on the subcontinent still has a little to learn.
Ford expects the EcoSport to earn its place in the five-star field when tested, a safe assumption given the Fiesta’s score and the fact that Australian vehicles get the full airbag treatment, including a driver’s kneebag.
In the cut and thrust of city traffic the EcoSport is a winner. The manual gearbox is a sweet
shifter and doesn’t require too many downshifts to keep the three-cylinder engine on the boil, even up steep hills.
Peak torque surges in from just 1500rpm, so that’s the magic minimum for the miniSUV. In practice, keep it above 2000rpm. It’s not as quick as a turbo Nissan Juke but is a match for the Holden Trax.
The Fiesta’s suspension has been stiffened to cope with the extra weight and height of the EcoSport.
Body roll is minimal and cornering speeds are as high as most drivers will dare.
There is a sensation of weight over the front wheels when tipping in downhill but the steering affords enough feedback to avoid scrubbing the tyres with desperate tightening manoeuvres.
Cargo space is adequate — there’s more height than width — but drop the rear seats and it will swallow most domestic appliances.
Drivers will have to try hard to match the claimed 5.7L/100km fuel use. Carsguide managed mid-eights, though we were admittedly driving harder than the average gen Y or empty-nester.
As a practical city runabout — and the interior plastics guarantee that — the EcoSport is hard to fault.
It goes well, turns tight and comes with all amenities our interface-obsessed society expects in a car.