Quick test: Ford Ecos­port

Model tested 1.5 Ecoblue 125PS AWD St-line Price £23,950 Kerb­weight 1520kg

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

Does this up­dated SUV rate as a tow car?

What’s new?

The Ford Ecos­port has been up­dated to keep up with newer de­signs like the Mazda CX-3. A new 1.5-litre Ecoblue diesel has been added to the range, and it’s avail­able with four-wheel drive. That makes for a healthy kerb­weight, as well as bet­ter per­for­mance in poor weather. We’re driv­ing the range-top­ping St-line.

What are we look­ing for?

This ver­sion of the Ecos­port might be heav­ier and have more pulling power than any other, but is it a prac­ti­cal tow car for car­a­van­ning? Tow­ing abil­ity Take a look at the spec, and at first the Ecos­port looks like a promis­ing small tow car. It has a strong diesel en­gine, four-wheel drive and a 1520kg kerb­weight. That makes this by far the heav­i­est model in the Ecos­port range, with an 85% match fig­ure of 1292kg. How­ever, look fur­ther down the spec sheet and you’ll come across the dis­ap­point­ing tow­ing limit of just 1100kg. That rules out the Ecos­port for any­thing other than a very light car­a­van. We matched it to a Swift Base­camp with a MIRO of 916kg. The Ecos­port had no trou­ble pulling the Base­camp up to speed – hardly a sur­prise, given how light it is. With 221lb ft of torque, by rights you’d think the en­gine was up to the job of pulling some­thing heav­ier. Cer­tainly, there’s enough mus­cle to deal with hill starts while tow­ing a light­weight tourer. We had to give the hand­brake a firm pull to stop car and car­a­van creep­ing back­wards, but oth­er­wise the Ford han­dled the hill start well, pulling away with­out fuss on a 1-in-10 slope. Our test took place in dry con­di­tions, but the car’s 4x4 sys­tem would be a ben­e­fit when pulling away in the wet. In reg­u­lar tow­ing, you’d hardly no­tice that the car is four-wheel drive, ex­cept for the dis­play on the in­stru­ment panel, which shows to which wheels the power is be­ing di­rected. Even in dry con­di­tions on Tar­mac, four-wheel drive helps make a brisk exit from junc­tions with­out spin­ning the wheels. Once up to speed, the Ecos­port shows ac­cept­able sta­bil­ity. It can fid­get a lit­tle when the wind picks up, but it’s more a slight rest­less­ness than a feel­ing of be­com­ing un­sta­ble. On ar­rival at your camp­site, ma­noeu­vring should be fine. There was no hot smell from the clutch af­ter re­vers­ing onto a pitch. When it’s time to hitch up again, the re­vers­ing cam­era makes life easy for the driver. The swan-neck tow­ball costs £400 and is de­tach­able. There’s

plenty of clear­ance be­tween the ball and the bumper. The easy­ac­cess 13-pin electrics fold down from un­der the bumper. Solo driv­ing Re­cent re­vi­sions have im­proved the Ecos­port’s driver ap­peal. The steer­ing is keen, and well con­trolled sus­pen­sion keeps body roll within rea­son­able lim­its when cor­ner­ing. Our St-line model rides on sports sus­pen­sion, and there is a trade-off for the con­trol it of­fers. At lower speeds, the ride is on the firm side. With a pos­i­tive and pre­cise feel, the six-speed gear­box is a plea­sure to use, and helps to make the most of the en­gine’s per­for­mance. Sixth gear is a lit­tle tall when tow­ing (you need to change down to fifth quite of­ten), but the ra­tio feels well cho­sen at 70mph in solo driv­ing. How­ever, the wind noise is ex­ces­sive and there’s also clearly no­tice­able road noise if the sur­face is coarse. Space and prac­ti­cal­ity The in­te­rior has some sporty touches, such as a me­tal-topped gear­lever, me­tal ped­als and red stitch­ing on the seats and wheel. This can’t dis­tract from the hard plas­tics on the lower dash and doors, but ev­ery­thing seems well screwed to­gether. There’s lots of space in front – tall and short driv­ers should be able to find a sound po­si­tion. For­ward vis­i­bil­ity is ham­pered by ex­ces­sively thick front pil­lars. Con­sid­er­ing the Ecos­port’s size, rear leg and head­room are rea­son­able – two adults should fit with­out much of a squeeze, al­though sit­ting three across the rear bench will be very tight. The boot’s 356-litre ca­pac­ity looks rea­son­able, of­fer­ing a frac­tion more than the Mazda CX-3’S 350 litres. But it’s a less prac­ti­cal space than the 520 litres of the Citroën C3 Air­cross. It’s not so much the lug­gage vol­ume that’s the prob­lem here, more the side-hinged tail­gate. This fouls on the jockey wheel win­der if you try to open it fully while hitched up. Buy­ing and own­ing The 1.5 Ecoblue 125PS AWD St-line is the range-top­ping ver­sion and comes well equipped. But £23,950 is quite stiff for a car of this size and per­for­mance. How­ever, re­search by What Car? shows healthy dis­counts are avail­able. We’re rea­son­ably happy with the 27.9mpg re­turn while tow­ing and the 16E in­sur­ance group­ing. How­ever, re­sale val­ues are pre­dicted to be so-so at 38% af­ter three years and 36,000 miles. Ver­dict This is the best ver­sion of the Ecos­port, but a diesel 4x4 of over 1.5 tonnes should be able to tow more than 1100kg.

Our St-line has sports sus­pen­sion and, at lower speeds, the ride is on the firm side

Tow­ing sta­bil­ityOnce up to speed, the Ecos­port shows ac­cept­able sta­bil­ity, but it can fid­get a bit if the wind picks up Swift Base­camp cour­tesy of

Be­hind the wheelThe in­te­rior has some sporty touches, such as a me­tal-topped gear­lever, me­tal ped­als and red stitch­ing on the seats and wheel

Rear seatsBack­seat leg and head­room are rea­son­able for two adults, but fit­ting three across the rear bench will be very tight

Lug­gageBoot can hold 356 litres, but the side-hinged tail­gate might be a rather ir­ri­tat­ing hin­drance

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