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.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - FORD ECOS­PORT

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.

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