Re­worked Ecosport a fun ride

Smooth in heavy traf­fic, nippy on dirt and in ne­go­ti­at­ing the twisties

Saturday Star - - METRO - WILLEM VAN DE PUTTE

WHEN the re­worked Ecosport was launched last year in Por­tu­gal, Ford had a host of its ex­ec­u­tives on hand to an­swer any ques­tions un­der­pin­ning the im­por­tance of the SUV to the man­u­fac­turer in the world’s mar­ket.

Lo­cally it’s no less im­por­tant to the peo­ple in Walt­loo, Pre­to­ria, with more than 45 000 units hav­ing left the show­room floor since its launch in 2013. Look in and around the city as well as on the high­ways: some­how there’s al­ways an Ecosport in close prox­im­ity. It’s a bit like when you look for new wheels and de­cide on which ones, and they keep pop­ping into your line of sight.

Well, we’ve added to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of Ecosports on our roads with a long-term top-of-the-range 1.0 Eco­boost Ti­ta­nium six-speed au­to­matic.

I’ve spent some time with it and so has my col­league, Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala, who will give the views of a younger gen­er­a­tion.

First up, though, let’s get the stats and specs out of the way.

Ford has re­ceived a mul­ti­tude of awards for its 1-litre Eco­boost petrol en­gine over the past six years so it makes sense to slot it un­der the bon­net, and in the Ti­ta­nium model they have mated it with a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box with a torque con­verter.

I found it smooth around heavy traf­fic on the M1 as well as in town, and gear changes on the open road are al­most seam­less.

If you want, there are steer­ing col­umn-mounted pad­dle shifts osten­si­bly for bet­ter driv­ing en­gage­ment but, to be hon­est, I haven’t felt the urge to use them yet be­cause the Ecosport is easy and com­fort­able enough as is.

The lit­tle three-cylin­der turbo en­gine pushes out 92kw and 170Nm of torque: not shabby at all for its size.

In ev­ery­day driv­ing you hardly no­tice that the en­gine is as small as it is, but at speed you need to give it a bit of stick to make a safe pass, and here the gear­box takes a bit of time to get to the lower gear.

It’s also then that you wish you had a few more cylin­ders and horse­power.

It’s eas­ily recog­nis­able, with its cheeky SUV stance and the spare wheel mounted on the back door, unique to South Africa. There’s been some de­bate as to whether it shouldn’t be hid­den, but ap­par­ently that’s the way South Africans like their SUVS, and own­ing a De­fender, so do I.

In­side all con­trols are easy to reach,

Ecosport 1.5 TDCI Am­bi­ente 5MT – R264 500

Ecosport 1.0 Eco­boost Trend 6MT – R287 500

Ecosport 1.0 Eco­boost Trend 6AT – R300 700

Ecosport 1.0 Eco­boost Ti­ta­nium 6MT – R327 800

Ecosport 1.0 Eco­boost Ti­ta­nium 6AT – R339 900

◆ All mod­els come stan­dard with a 4-year/120 000km war­ranty, 4-year/60 000km ser­vice plan, 3-year/un­lim­ited dis­tance roadside as­sis­tance and 5-year/un­lim­ited km cor­ro­sion war­ranty.

while leather seats make spend­ing time both as a driver and a pas­sen­ger a plea­sure. As an added fea­ture the seats are heated. In sum­mer there’s no chance to use this ex­cept to be ju­ve­nile and switch it on max­i­mum un­til a pas­sen­ger no­tices and asks ques­tions.

There’s space aplenty for odds and ends, in­clud­ing a slid­ing, fold­ing arm­rest with an in­te­grated stor­age com­part­ment, as well as space un­der the pas­sen­ger seat.

Ford have also put their SYNC 3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem in the Ecosport, and with­out sound­ing overly dra­matic it must rate as one of the best in the in­dus­try for ease of use and prac­ti­cal­ity. It has Blue­tooth, voice con­trol, sat­nav, and the eight-inch screen can be op­er­ated with pinch and swipe ges­tures. Handy too are the au­to­matic head­light and rain-sens­ing wipers as we head into sum­mer show­ers.

Safety peace-of-mind comes in the form of elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, trac­tion con­trol, roll sta­bil­ity con­trol, hill launch as­sist and a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor which will tell you that the tyres are los­ing pres­sure long be­fore you may need the use of the six airbags, in­clud­ing dual front, side and cur­tain as well as a driver’s knee airbag.

I’ve mostly driven the Ecosport in and around town, with an oc­ca­sional trip along the high­way, so I haven’t had the op­por­tu­nity to put it through its han­dling ca­pa­bil­i­ties yet, but at the launch driv­ing from Dur­ban back to Joburg along mostly back roads I had loads of fun on a lot of dirt and tar roads around the twisties.

Keep in mind it’s an SUV with a small­ish en­gine so don’t ex­pect X5 cor­ner­ing and sus­pen­sion, but it’s more than ca­pa­ble and steer­ing feed­back is light with­out feel­ing com­pro­mised.

I’ll be tak­ing it down to the KZN South Coast in De­cem­ber and with three of us trav­el­ling I sus­pect the 334litre boot will be well-filled.

The trip will also be an in­di­ca­tor of how the Ecosport be­haves loaded on the open road.

ALL con­trols in the Ecosport are in easy reach and leather seats make for a com­fort­able ride.

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