Indian-made EcoSport catches the eye but needs more finesse
Ford breaks new ground with its Fiestasized ‘sports utility vehicle’. Frederic Manby takes it out on the road.
THE merry month of May, is when buyers can take delivery of a new small Ford with a number of firsts. One, it is the first Ford from India. Two, it is the first recent Ford not to get the optimum five stars in the EuroNcap safety tests.
EcoSport is a Fiesta-sized “sports utility vehicle” with a bulkier body. It has better ground clearance, a wading depth of half a metre (some 19 inches) and in Brazil, from where it originates, and most of the world, is sold with an all-wheel-drive option and a spare wheel hung, Jeep-like, on the back. It is also being made in China, soon Thailand and next year Russia.
Yes, these are nations with different motoring needs than the UK. While many may like the 4x4 option, the Indian imports to the UK are frontdrive. We still get the outboard spare wheel. Doing without it would mean a new tailgate. That may or may not happen some years hence.
Britain is Ford’s biggest European market (30 per cent of sales) but we get an EcoSport set up for left-handdrive markets, so the tailgate is hinged on the wrong side. You have to walk round it from the pavement to get into the load area. Another glitch: park it facing down a steep hill or on a cross slope and you may find that the gas strut does not hold it open. A solution would be to fit a lock-out mechanism.
The more you examine the EcoSport the more shortcuts you see. The dashboard looks like a transplant from a Fiesta but the plastics are cheaper and hard. The display screen is smaller and less advanced. There are no interior grab handles – which help when boarding or on bumpy tracks. There are no coat hooks either. One of the screen wipers does not park flush because of the screen geometry.
Overall, it reminds me of the cheap, price conscious, Indian-made CityRover, which was a re-badged Tata, and Nissan’s Indian Micra – cars which were not refined enough for the British buyer. Ford Europe has managed a few tweaks – fitting struts to sharpen the steering response, for example. Nor should users worry about the four-star safety rating. It has a 93 per cent score for adult passenger protection and in fact the detailed results show a high level of protection for all ages. The lack of a rear seat belt reminder and speed limiter let it down – neither being crucial.
Confusingly, given its potential off-road ability, Ford says the EcoSport is aimed at city driving with weekend runs in the country, for the 30-something driver etc, but adds it is still up to a romp in the woods.
Externally, there is a lot more appeal. It has a chunky
It reminds me of the cheap, price conscious Indianmade CityRover and Nissan’s Indian Micra.
character, not as overtly funky as a Nissan Juke but eyecatching in a subtler manner. That outboard spare wheel in its body coloured shell gives it an activity attitude. There is a bold deep face and nice 16-inch alloys.
Its dominant rival is the Juke, the runaway success from Nissan’s factory in Sunderland and the only UKbuilt contender. Vauxhall’s Mokka is made in Spain and is disappointing. Peugeot’s softer 2008 comes from France with a smart gripenhancing system and is the most car-like to drive.
The EcoSport has some pitch on corners – to be expected given its ground clearance. Then there’s the name. It is neither outstandingly ecosensitive (the lowest CO2 rating is 120g/km and they are shipped all the way from East India). As for sport, you’ll have to make your own. Still, it is a clever name.
The origins are 10 years ago in Brazil, based on the boxy car we knew as the Ford Fusion. I sense that users are going to find the EcoSport a bit cumbersome. First, there’s the heft of opening the heavier tailgate if the car is facing downhill. Then there’s the need to have plenty of space to open the tailgate if you reverse park. Want to fold the seats away? There’s an oldschool strap to tug and then you have to roll them forward to make a flat deck and lash the assembly to the front headrests to stop the heavy seats crashing on to your load.
On the other hand, there is a smart communications system which can, through a suitable cell phone, give you access to Spotify, the virtual internet jukebox – albeit requiring several spoken prompts. It also has lifetime emergency assistance cover.
Prices start at £14,995 for the 110bhp 1.6 petrol, then £15,995 for the 133bhp onelitre Ecoboost petrol (a great Ford unit) and £16,495 the 90bhp 1.5 diesel – all with five-speed manual gearboxes. Automatic gears are offered on the 1.5 petrol at £16,495.
I tried the Ecoboost and the diesel on a route into the hills through rush-hour Barcelona and then looping back to the coast. The Ecoboost, with more climbing in its route, showed 33mpg (its official average is 53mpg). It pulled well enough. The diesel showed 44mpg (brochure average 51mpg) on easier going but lacked the guts I expected. Ford says there’ll be improvements before sale day.
The new Ford EcoSport is eye-catching in a subtler manner than its main rival, the Nissan Juke.