Ford Ecosport 1,0 Eco­boost AT

Ford’s Ecosport gets even bet­ter, and should prove a feistier light-crossover com­peti­tor

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

AS a cor­ner­man, you’re not go­ing to mess too much with your fighter’s strat­egy if he’s win­ning the bout. In be­tween rounds, you’re go­ing to sit him down, tell him to keep do­ing what he’s do­ing, pat him on the shoul­der and send him back into the fray.

And that’s ba­si­cally what Ford has done with the new Ecosport. With 35 000 units sold since its launch here in 2013, the light crossover has cer­tainly been clean­ing up its weight divi­sion. The strat­egy of value, ver­sa­til­ity, com­pact­ness, crossover styling and drive­abil­ity has seen the Ecosport be­come a strong and con­sis­tent seller in the four and a half years since its launch.

Brought in for an in­vig­o­rat­ing splash of wa­ter over its head and ice pack on its neck, this re­freshed Ecosport goes bound­ing back to the cen­tre of the ring sport­ing an ex­ten­sive frontal facelift and an all-new in­te­rior. While there are new man­ual and auto trans­mis­sions, the en­gine line-up, how­ever, re­mains un­changed.

The images you see here are of the Euro­pean-spec ve­hi­cle we drove at the launch in Lis­bon. The main dif­fer­ence you’ll note is the ab­sence of a spare wheel on the side-hinged rear door. This won’t be the case for new Ecosports sold in South Africa, though. Whereas Euro­pean driv­ers gen­er­ally ben­e­fit from smooth tar de­void of haz­ards such as pot­holes and there­fore need lit­tle more than a space­saver spare, we’re pleased to re­port Ford will be more prag­matic and keep the rear-mounted full­size spare so nec­es­sary for our more chal­leng­ing as­phalt.

Other than the spare wheel, lit­tle of sig­nif­i­cance has changed at the back. Up front, it’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. In­stead of the pre­vi­ous Ecosport’s small sliver of a grille above the air in­take, there’s now a one-piece open­ing with a more ag­gres­sively shaped lower air dam and re­designed foglamps.

The com­pact over­all di­men­sions re­main and, once again, they mask just how clever Ford has been with the Ecosport’s in­te­rior pack­ag­ing. Head- and legroom both fore and aft are suf­fi­cient for a fam­ily of four, while the boot space re­mains the same at a sat­is­fac­tory 280 litres thanks largely to that ex­ter­nally mounted wheel.

I spent most of the time driv­ing the 1,0 Eco­boost en­gine de­riv­a­tive. It’s a fa­mil­iar pow­er­plant that con­tin­ues to im­press. Three­cylin­der en­gines in­vari­ably have some im­bal­ance vi­bra­tions that re­duce re­fine­ment, but this Ford unit is nearly as smooth as a four-cylin­der, with the only tell­tale sign be­ing the off­beat en­gine note. The de­sign uses d-o-h-c with four valves per cylin­der and a camshaft belt drive that runs in oil, and the en­gine is flex­i­ble enough to be built in dif­fer­ent states of tune. The SA mar­ket will con­tinue to get the 92 kw unit.

We will see a change in the trans­mis­sions, how­ever, and on both the man­ual and au­to­matic, an ex­tra cog has been added for a to­tal of six. Note that the auto is a con­ven­tional torque-con­verter, not Ford’s Ge­trag-sourced dual-clutch Pow­er­shift unit.

The Eco­boost needs some boot to stay on the boil, but has lit­tle turbo lag and good mid-range torque. The au­to­matic has some torque-con­verter slip; how­ever, you can opt for pad­dle shifters should you wish to an­tic­i­pate down shifts for over­tak­ing.

We noted that our fuel con­sump­tion read-out dif­fered quite sub­stan­tially be­tween the auto and man­ual. The auto read 9,9 L/100 km af­ter our trips, while the man­ual showed a more fru­gal 8,0 L. In­ter­est­ingly, Ford claims the auto is quicker to 100 km/h than the man­ual, but hav­ing driven both, I’d be will­ing to bet you would get bet­ter times with the lat­ter.

I also had a go in a model fit­ted with Ford’s lat­est Ecoblue 1,5-litre tur­bod­iesel. Built to Euro 6 emis­sion lev­els, it un­for­tu­nately won’t be avail­able to us, as our 50 ppm diesel fuel is deemed too low qual­ity, so we will re­tain the ex­ist­ing 1,5-litre. What we won’t get, ei­ther – at least not ini­tially – are the St-line de­riv­a­tives that will be avail­able only to Euro­pean mar­kets. This has a blacked-out grille, side mir­rors and roof rails, and in­cludes a com­bi­na­tion of eco­log­i­cally sound suede/leather up­hol­stery, plus red stitch­ing and a leather-cov­ered gear­knob and hand­brake lever.

Inside, Ford has ad­dressed the crit­i­cism lev­elled at the out­go­ing model of an overly fussy fa­cia with too many but­tons scat­tered over the place. The re­designed dash – which now mir­rors the de­sign of the new Fi­esta – feels more nat­u­rally er­gonomic, with large, easy-to-find knobs that cover important and of­ten-used func­tions such as vol­ume con­trol, tem­per­a­ture and fan-speed ad­just­ments, with smaller but­tons for less important con­trols. This is now also com­ple­mented by a touch­screen, with the largest ver­sion fit­ted to Ti­ta­nium mod­els, an eight-inch float­ing tablet within easy reach of the driver. Sat-nav is an op­tion, but stan­dard is Ford’s Sync3 sys­tem as well as two USB ports.

The in­stru­men­ta­tion is straight­for­ward, with two large di­als, two smaller ones and a use­ful trip and fuel con­sump­tion com­puter at cen­tre-top. This dou­bles as a sup­ple­men­tary sat­nav guid­ance dis­play. Another up­mar­ket fea­ture in Ti­ta­nium spec is an au­dio sys­tem with nine Bang & Olufsen speak­ers. On the whole, the in­te­rior qual­ity has been im­proved, with a slush-moulded fa­cia top to com­ple­ment the new de­sign.

On the safety front, this

Ti­ta­nium model comes specced with seven airbags, a rear-view cam­era and blind-spot in­di­ca­tors on the side mir­rors.

Ford says it has made some de­sign im­prove­ments to the steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tems and, while these aren’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, the Ecosport has al­ways ex­hib­ited an easy-to-drive na­ture.

From the com­fort­able seat­ing and steer­ing feel, to the easy-go­ing en­gine and gear­box op­er­a­tion, the Ecosport is gen­uine fuss-free mo­tor­ing. It has a sup­ple ride qual­ity that ab­sorbs bumps well with­out be­ing wal­lowy. In fact, cor­ner­ing is quite fun, al­though this does show up the lack of suf­fi­cient side bol­ster­ing on the seats.

The roads around Lis­bon and Es­to­ril are not all per­fect qual­ity and this showed that the sus­pen­sion copes well with road rip­ples and the odd pot­hole. Wheel sizes now go up to 18 inches: our press unit was fit­ted with sen­si­ble 17-inch al­loys (the slightly higher pro­files of the 16- and 17-inch­ers would best suit our con­di­tions). Also cru­cial for SA roads is ground clear­ance, and petrol-en­gined ve­hi­cles have 190 mm, whereas diesels have just 160 mm.

Be­yond know­ing we’re get­ting the same en­gines and that it will re­tain the spare-wheel-on-the­door con­fig­u­ra­tion, more de­tails of Sa-spe­cific pack­ages and specs will be made pub­lic only closer to the new Ecosport’s launch in our mar­ket dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of this year.

With pric­ing likely to be sim­i­lar to that of the out­go­ing mod­els, given the ex­te­rior re­fresh and the ex­ten­sive in­te­rior re­vamp, ex­pect the lit­tle EcoSport to once again be tear­ing into its op­po­si­tion and fly­ing off Ford show­room floors.

top Ecosport is com­pact on the out­side, but boasts a spa­cious, prac­ti­cal cabin. op­po­site Frontal treat­ment brings the Ecosport’s de­sign in line with that of the re­cently re­vised Kuga.

clock­wise from left Fa­cia looks far more mod­ern and ben­e­fits from Ford’s Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, on the Ti­ta­nium ac­cessed through an eight-inch touch­screen; Ap­ple Carplay part of the of­fer­ing; cli­mate con­trol fea­tures on top-spec mod­els; rear legroom is suf­fi­cient to house two adults.

Claimed fig­ures

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