Ford Ecosport 1,0 Ecoboost AT
Ford’s Ecosport gets even better, and should prove a feistier light-crossover competitor
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.