WHO LOVES YA, BABY?

The all-new EcoS­port is prac­ti­cal and roomy but is that enough to war­rant a thumbs up from Im­ran Ma­lik?

Friday - - Motoring -

Un­der the ‘One Ford’ global strategy, the all-new EcoS­port – orig­i­nally de­signed and en­gi­neered in Brazil for Brazil since 2003 – is now avail­able all over the world. But should it have stayed put way over there in South Amer­ica where we can’t see it? On first glance, yes!

This lit­tle CUV isn’t very pretty; the wheels are too small and the body too big. Then there’s the lit­tle mat­ter of the rear tail­gate hous­ing a spare tyre while the front end is miss­ing a bumper. This isn’t a great be­gin­ning. But then you start it up and the 1.5-litre four-pot bursts into life. It gets up and go­ing with min­i­mal fuss and though the mo­tor makes just 108bhp, that’s more than enough for this 1,243kg Ford.

It comes with elec­tric pow­eras­sisted steer­ing that has a nat­u­ral feel about it and is light enough to make park­ing a breeze. It’s also smart enough to vary its as­sis­tance based on the speed you are trav­el­ling at and as there isn’t a belt-driven power steer­ing pump, it saps less power from the mo­tor and re­duces fuel con­sump­tion by at least 3 per cent com­pared to a hy­draulic sys­tem.

The six-speed pow­er­shift au­to­matic shifts just fine too, but do it man­u­ally from the but­tons on the lever and it takes its sweet time to shift up or down. My ad­vice is to leave it to its own de­vices.

It sits high up on the road and has a ground clear­ance of 200mm. Cou­ple that with a de­cent sus­pen­sion and it glides over pot­holes.

The in­te­rior looks mod­ern and it doesn’t take more than a minute to fa­mil­iarise your­self with all the con­trols and but­tons, al­though the dash is far too heavy on the plas­tic. There are no soft-touch ma­te­ri­als to break it up ei­ther – ob­vi­ous signs of the EcoS­port’s low-cost roots. The leather seats aren’t the most sup­port­ive; when navigating a cor­ner even at low speeds, you tend to slip and slide around and that sharp piece of the cen­tre con­sole that digs into your right leg is, as you can imagine, far from amus­ing.

The elec­tric win­dow switches on the driver­side door are an­other nui­sance. The ones for the front win­dows have been po­si­tioned too far for­ward; you end up hit­ting the switches for the rear win­dows in­stead. My other gripe is with the push start but­ton. It’s no big­ger than a bot­tle top, which is fine, but why Ford chose to adorn it with the Blue Oval logo, the word ‘power’, and the signs for start and stop, is a mys­tery. Find­ing that but­ton is an­other mys­tery as it’s hid­den be­hind the steer­ing wheel – which is also pla­s­ticky. The ra­dio isn’t the sharpest and this top-of-the-range Ti­ta­nium trim doesn’t get a sun­roof but once you – or rather I – stop nit­pick­ing, the EcoS­port has many plus points.

Vis­i­bil­ity is a ma­jor plus; there are hardly any blind spots to speak of, while there is plenty of room for those in the back seat, which splits 60:40. The Ford Sync – the voice-ac­ti­vated in-car con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tem – is also muchim­proved and there are 20 prac­ti­cal stor­age spa­ces in the cabin. What’s more, its ar­ray of airbags (driver, front pas­sen­ger, side and cur­tain airbags) pro­vides ad­di­tional peace of mind.

Nope, looks-wise it isn’t the best but it could grow on you. It has a high rear end and looks like it’s about to pounce. But the body has way too many creases and you may feel the need to give it a quick iron. The slim head­lights are de­cent and the high­mounted trape­zoidal grille at least gives it the typ­i­cal Ford fam­ily face. The belt line as­cends as it runs to the rear, while the back end fea­tures oblique tail­lights. The right side clev­erly houses the door han­dle for the tail­gate.

Just when you think it’s get­ting good, that spare tyre back there ru­ins it all. Ford says some mar­kets like that rough-and-ready im­age but it’s just that – an im­age. The EcoS­port is front-wheel drive and doesn’t have any off-road ca­pa­bil­ity. To be fair, plac­ing the spare wheel on the out­side saves a bit of boot space, which grows to an im­pres­sive 705 litres when you drop the rear bench. But the real prob­lem with the tail­gate is that it hinges on the left and swings open, mean­ing if you were to re­v­erse park in a mall car park, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t be able to open the door without whack­ing some­one else’s car. Ford’s go­ing global with the EcoS­port and I can see why; it’s prac­ti­cal, spa­cious and en­ter­tain­ing enough to drive. That makes up for the stumpy looks.

I guess you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover af­ter all.

MOTORING

MOTORING

The cabin of­fers enough space for five adults

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