Ford Ecosport 1,0 Ecoboost Trend AT

Ford tar­gets all the right spots with this up­date of its pop­u­lar small cross­over

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

IN many re­spects, a car’s midlife over­haul can be likened to ren­o­vat­ing and re­dec­o­rat­ing a much-loved home where thought­fully tar­geted and pro­fes­sion­ally ex­e­cuted up­dates can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween a new lease of life ... or a disas­trous do-over. But it’s of­ten not that sim­ple, es­pe­cially if the orig­i­nal is a goody that needs only spruc­ing up. In these cases, even the sim­plest changes have to be art­fully ap­plied.

The Ecosport is a good ex­am­ple of such an en­deav­our. Ford’s small SUV has ce­mented its place as one of the com­pany’s pil­lar prod­ucts, rack­ing up 45 000 lo­cal sales since its ar­rival in 2013. The foun­da­tions were great – a spunky SUV frame perched on the chas­sis of the nim­ble Fi­esta – but, af­ter ve years, nig­gles such as a bud­get­feel­ing in­te­rior and com­pro­mised er­gonomics, not to men­tion some ac­com­plished com­pe­ti­tion join­ing the fold, had the po­ten­tial to be­come the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lents of smelly old car­pets and an

av­o­cado-coloured bath­room suite. Ford claims to have ad­dressed these short­com­ings in the re­cently up­dated Ecosport but does this raft of small but note­wor­thy up­dates con­sti­tute a taste­ful ren­o­va­tion, or is it merely plas­ter­ing over the cracks?

While com­par­ing the pre­vi­ous car’s cabin with hideous 1970s san­i­tary­ware might seem a touch harsh, its cock­pit ex­e­cu­tion was per­haps the most ob­vi­ous blot in the Ecosport’s largely clean ledger. It wasn’t ugly per se but the com­bi­na­tion of hard, scratchy plas­tics and a cen­tre con­sole with small, poorly sited con­trols did it few favours. So, with the pre­vi­ous Fi­esta’s scat­ter­gun fa­cia binned in favour of a cleaner, in­fo­tain­ment screen-cen­tred af­fair, it was only log­i­cal the me­chan­i­cally re­lated Ecosport should fol­low suit.

And what an im­prove­ment it is. Largely echo­ing the treat­ment doled out to its hatch­back cousin, the cabin off­sets the re­main­ing stiff plas­tic trim with slush­moulded el­e­ments on the up­per dash, while the third and lat­est it­er­a­tion of Ford’s pro­pri­etary Sync in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem soaks up much of the pre­vi­ous car’s fid­dly switchgear, hous­ing it in a float­ing’ panel above the re­main­ing ana­logue con­trols. In this mid-tier

Trend model, the Sync3 sys­tem in­cor­po­rates a 6,5-inch touch­screen in­ter­face, with ex­tended con­nec­tiv­ity for An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay smart­phone apps tak­ing care of the sat-nav that’s stan­dard fit­ment in the halo Ti­ta­nium model’s eight-inch unit. Opt for the base-level Am­bi­ente vari­ant and the less user-friendly first-gen­er­a­tion Sync sys­tem is what you’ll get.

The Ecosport’s in­te­rior re- mains a friend­lier place for the smaller-framed, with a de­cid­edly nar­row feel to both the cabin and the front seats. The boot is a sim­i­lar af­fair. While the on-pa­per mea­sure­ments look gen­er­ous, the tall load bay mir­rors the cabin’s plen­ti­ful head­room but also re­flects its nar­row width and depth. That’s some­thing prospec­tive young fam­i­lies with kids and their as­so­ci­ated gear need to in­ves­ti­gate be­fore con­sid­er­ing the Ecosport.

Ford has also per­se­vered with the side-hinged lug­gage door which, de­spite prov­ing use­ful when try­ing to thread taller ob­jects into the car, can make ac­cess to the rear tricky in tighter spa­ces and swings to­wards the kerb in right-hand-drive mar­kets, forc­ing its owner to walk round the door and closer to the road in or­der to ac­cess the bay.

Ex­ter­nally, the big­gest change is a front-end de­sign fol­low­ing the larger Kuga’s tem­plate, with sharper-look­ing, Led-trimmed head­lamps, a re-sculpted bon­net and the lat­est take on the sig­na­ture trape­zoidal grille ditch­ing the pre­vi­ous car’s some­what “chin-heavy” vis­age. Our Trend test unit rolls on a fetch­ing set of gun­metal grey 16-inch al­loys, with 17-inch items the pre­serve of the Ti­ta­nium.

Re­vi­sions to the rear are sub­tler, com­pris­ing tweaks to the bumper and tail­lamps (sport­ing one of the most dis­creetly ex­e­cuted boot re­leases out there). Oth­er­wise, the Ecosport’s chunky SUV shell, com­plete with rear hatch-mounted spare wheel, re­mains pleas­ingly in­tact.

Back when we first sam­pled the Ecosport, we were rightly en­am­oured with the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence af­forded by the Fi­esta-re­lated me­chan­i­cal foun­da­tions and, with mi­nor re­vi­sions to the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing, that stance largely re­mains. De­spite its tall cen­tre of grav­ity, the Ecosport’s sup­ple body con­trol means it still feels com­posed in cor­ners and is a rea­son­ably en­ter­tain­ing lit­tle thing to pi­lot. The steer­ing re­mains light yet re­spon­sive. Com­ple­mented by the car’s trim di­men­sions and now-stan­dard fit­ment of parkdis­tance sen­sors across the range, it makes round-town ma­noeu­vring a dod­dle.

Mo­tor­way driv­ing did, how­ever, un­earth some quirks, with the car tend­ing to sniff out ridges in the

road and tram­line slightly, re­quir­ing small but con­stant steer­ing ad­just­ments. Although the Macpher­son front/tor­sion-beam rear sus­pen­sion setup re­mains, Ford has opted to t the up­dated car with re­vised sus­pen­sion bushes, soft­en­ing the ride a touch. It does iron out some of the pre­vi­ous car’s dgeti­ness but it still never quite set­tles like a Fi­esta until the road sur­faces smooth out.

The up­dates have also ex­tended the suite of safety fea­tures tted to the Ecosport. An elec­tronic sta­bil­ity-con­trol sys­tem is now stan­dard across the en­tire range, along with hill-start as­sist and tyre-pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. Bar­ring the Am­bi­ente model, the Ecosport’s com­ple­ment of airbags stands at seven, in­clud­ing a driver’s knee bag and side airbags re­mod­elled to im­prove lat­eral crash pro­tec­tion.

Power is still pro­vided by the multi-award-win­ning 1,0-litre Ecoboost 92 kw tur­bopetrol en­gine, which con­tin­ues to please with punchy per­for­mance that’s aided by the ar­rival of its max­i­mum torque of 170 N.m in a pleas­ing swell be­tween 1 400 and 4 500 r/min.

The pre­vi­ous car’s dual-clutch trans­mis­sion has made way for the six-speed torque con­verter unit which de­buted in the lat­est Fi­esta and it’s some­thing of a mixed bag. While it’s smoother than the oc­ca­sion­ally shud­dery Pow­er­shift unit, the new ‘box is a bit lethar­gic when con­fronted with brisk throt­tle in­puts.

Fuel con­sump­tion has been a peren­nial is­sue with Ford’s lively lit­tle three-pot but the new car’s 6,8 L/100 km on our test route came close to match­ing its claimed 6,3 L/100 km con­sump­tion on a mixed-use cy­cle. More town-bound du­ties do, how­ever, see the trip com­puter fre­quently reg­is­ter­ing more than 8,0 L/km.

TEST SUM­MARY

Ford has done a good job of de­ter­min­ing the ar­eas on the Ecosport it needed to tar­get with this au­to­mo­tive ren­o­va­tion, adding some wel­come con­ve­nience and safety fea­tures and giv­ing the cabin a suc­cess­ful over­haul. Ow­ing to its com­pe­tence in most ar­eas, our crit­i­cisms are few in num­ber and lit­tle in mag­ni­tude, with the oc­ca­sion­ally lethar­gic new torque­con­verter trans­mis­sion (likely in re­sponse to the some­times prob­lem-prone dual-clutch unit) prov­ing the most ap­par­ent.

The com­pe­ti­tion in the lo­cal mar­ket has grown in the EcoSport’s time, with such ca­pa­ble – if more car-like – ri­vals as Re­nault’s well-resolved Cap­tur and Mazda’s CX-3 nib­bling away at the seg­ment, but the ren­o­va­tions to this al­ready pop­u­lar mem­ber of the Ford fam­ily de nitely do enough to keep the Ecosport from derelict sta­tus.

Up­grades in all the right places bring the EcoSport back into con­tention Ni­col Louw

Gareth Dean It’s amaz­ing what an over­hauled in­te­rior does for the Ecosport

Ian Mclaren Small yet notable up­dates to a char­ac­ter­ful pack­age

Clock­wise from top Ma­te­rial qual­ity and er­gonomics vastly im­proved; dual USB ports feed a smart­phone-en­abled Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem (here with the 6,5-inch touch­screen).

clock­wise from top Chunky SUV styling with rear-mounted spare wheel re­mains; Trend model gets LED day­time-run­ning lights; gun­metal 16-inch al­loy wheels also stan­dard on this vari­ant; brake­lamps have re­ceived a mild restyle; boot is tall but nar­row; seats a touch too small.

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