A SUB­CON­TI­NEN­TAL SHIFT

Pinjarra Murray Times - - DRIVEWAY - Joshua Dowl­ing

MOST ve­hi­cles sold in Aus­tralia are built in Ja­pan, Thai­land, South Korea, Ger­many or the US.

The Ecosport is the first Ford sold here from In­dia, although not the first Indian-made car sold lo­cally: there were some Suzuki and Hyundai small cars in the past.

A main­stream model in In­dia but a niche ve­hi­cle in Aus­tralia, the Ecosport is de­signed to com­pete with our small­est city-size SUVs.

It shares much of its un­der­pin­nings with the Ford Fi­esta, is smaller than ri­vals such as the Honda HR-V but is sim­i­lar in size to the Mazda CX-3.

The tall and nar­row body gives it an SUV ap­pear­ance, even if it’s not 4WD.

It feels small in­side, the front seat oc­cu­pants al­most rub­bing shoul­ders.

The Ecosport missed the mark when it went on sale in Aus­tralia at the start of 2014.

The 1.0-litre three­cylin­der turbo was avail­able only with a five-speed man­ual, while the con­ven­tional 1.5-litre four was matched to Ford’s trou­bled twin-clutch au­to­matic, which is at the cen­tre of a class ac­tion af­ter com­plaints of shud­der­ing.

The new model is avail­able solely with a 1.0-litre turbo triple matched to a con­ven­tional six-speed auto.

The trans­mis­sion is a vast improvement, although the en­gine still has the trade­mark hum and vi­bra­tion.

In an oth­er­wise un­der­whelm­ing in­te­rior, the high­light is the large cen­tral touch­screen with SYNC3, which includes Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

The fonts are mod­ern, the tabs much more in­tu­itive to use.

The dig­i­tal speedo is also a wel­come ad­di­tion.

The tail­gate still opens like a door. If the car is parked on the side of the road, you need to stand near the traf­fic to open the door.

I don’t mind the full­size spare on the tail­gate; it will be re­placed by a space-saver un­der the boot floor later this year which will, iron­i­cally, eat into cargo space.

Ford has done an ex­cel­lent job of set­tling the Ecosport’s sus­pen­sion on bumpy roads and in tight turns.

It al­most feels fun to drive and the auto trans­mis­sion is now no longer a con­cern.

Mid­way through the test I even outed my­self as a fan and reck­oned it should get a sec­ond chance.

Then I saw the prices; even if drive-away, are they kid­ding?

The base Am­bi­ente is $26,400, the mid-grade Trend is $28,150 and the flag­ship Ti­ta­nium is an eye-wa­ter­ing $32,700.

You can get an SUV the next class size up for this dough.

And even the top-spec doesn’t get au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing.

Once Ford clears stock of the old model, it will get se­ri­ous on the price of this new one.

Out of In­dia... the Ford Ecosport.

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