Do you like the commanding seating configuration of an SUV, but you’re not looking for a large one for serious 4x4ing? Then consider the new Ford EcoSport.
Let’s just say upfront that the EcoSport does not have all-wheel drive, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this simply isn’t the vehicle for you. What Ford’s baby SUV does have in its favour is a very good traction-control system and favourable ground clearance for when the going gets rough.
We were surprised by how well it fared in a remote reserve, hopping over rocks that would have lesser vehicles balancing between their axles.
They couldn’t plan this though
It’s long past dark when the convoy ambles along on the very rough gravel road as we penetrate deeper into KwaZuluNatal’s Midlands and closer to our lodging for the night at Zingela Safari and River Company. Truth be told, none of us, bar the Ford staffers guiding us and bringing up the rear, actually know where we are.
It’s been some time since we’ve left the bustling N3 and relatively busy R74. One thing is for sure, we had lost signal quite some time before that. It’s that time of year when the Midlands gets awfully misty and, coupled with the dust from the convoy’s 60 km/h drive, it makes conditions a bit unfavourable.
We’re just about to mention over the two-way radios that we should probably slow down to save the low-profile rubber on the range-topping EcoSport models, when a sickening thud resounds through the cabin and the tyrepressure monitoring system shows a rapid decrease in the front left. All of 2,3 bars out within seconds due to a nasty snakebite.
We stop on the roadside in near pitch-black darkness, but we’re grateful the EcoSport packs a fullsized spare. As is the case with the previous generation’s model, the spare is situated on the tailgate and you access it by unclipping the cover and then unscrewing the tyre. The 205/60 R16 spare tyre perfectly complements the remaining three 207/50 R17s, being the same width and overall diameter. Unlike the many space savers that require you to adhere to a lower speed, it allows us to continue our journey without giving the replacement any further thoughts. >
It’s nice inside
On setting out from King Shaka International airport in the direction of Johannesburg, the EcoSport creates a largely positive impression. The boot swallowed two backpacks, a large duffle bag and a single piece of carry-on luggage with room to spare for perhaps one more.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large tablet-style infotainment screen that takes pride of place on the centre of the facia. This 8” touchscreen unit (the lesser Trend models get a 6,5” version) makes use of Ford’s SYNC 3 system that includes voice control and built-in navigation. Hooking up your mobile phone via Bluetooth is a simple affair and you can also choose to switch the screen off while your favourite tunes are playing and still be guided by the GPS system.
Spritely about town and the open road
The turbopetrol three-cylinder thrums along happily as we make our way toward Pietermaritzburg on the N3 and, because the ECU is automatically programmed for economy, the six-speed automatic in this particular EcoSport wants to shift to the highest ratio as fast as possible. This isn’t always ideal – especially in the hills of this particular region.
The gearbox isn’t a fast responder but, for quicker overtaking manoeuvres, you can pull the transmission lever down one position into Sport so as to keep the engine on the boil longer via the paddle shifters. Also, don’t try to override the transmission with the up and down paddles when it’s in Drive, because it simply won’t respond.
Overall, though, the motor is quite lively, with a pleasing exhaust note. If you’re not in a rush, it will reward you with the positive side effect of having to visit the pumps a bit less. We got instantaneous readouts in the region of 7 ℓ/100 km on the second day of our trip when we have a more relaxed pace as we near our second destination.
On the third day, however, the fear of missing our flights from OR Tambo back home took has us forego an economy run. With throttles pinned for plenty of overtaking on the N3, the EcoSport consumed well over 9 ℓ/100 km.
The EcoSport has always curried favour with those who sought out a more modern and comfortableto-drive-everyday alternative.
With new looks thanks to LED daytime running lights, sharper design details and family-friendly features on both the technology and safety fronts, the new EcoSport will simply soldier on and continue to impress.
The boot swallowed two backpacks, a large duffle bag and a single piece of carry-on luggage with room to spare.
FORD ECOSPORT 1.0 ECOBOOST TITANIUM AT