NEW WHEELS

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.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS - Text and im­ages Kyle Kock

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.

Con­clu­sion

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

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