October 21, 2018

Ford EcoSport First Drive Review

Caroline drives Ford's updated compact SUV

Ford EcoSport
The new Ford EcoSport, arriving in Ireland in January 2018

I recently travelled to Lisbon, Portugal, to drive the new Ford EcoSport. The Ford EcoSport is Ford’s compact SUV and first appeared in Ireland in 2014. Now Ford has taken their baby SUV and given it a midlife refresh for 2018, citing improved quality, technology and capability. The EcoSport arrives in Ireland in late January 2018.

Styling

The Ford EcoSport’s basic dimensions remain the same but there has been significant restyling. A new grille and headlamps with incorporated LED daytime running lights make the EcoSport more recognisable as part of Ford’s SUV family, with a scaled down Kuga look to it. The rear bumper and tail lights have also been revised.  The EcoSport is robust and tough looking, and Ford has introduced more personalisation options with the option to select a different roof colour. Customers can choose from 12 exterior colours, including Lightning Blue, Ruby Red and Tiger Eye. There are new 17- and 18-inch alloy wheel designs, offered in a number of finishes, including Flash Grey, Dark Tarnish and High Gloss Black.

Interior

The Ford EcoSport’s interior has been completely overhauled and the new dash design is similar to the interior of the Ford Fiesta with an 8” touchscreen as standard forming the focal point. The new system has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The controls are easy to navigate and the quality of the cabin materials is similar to competitors. There are lots of hard plastics but the build seems good. The seats have been redesigned for more comfort and partial leather is included as standard. There’s also ambient lighting with a selection of seven colours.

Practicality

The Ford EcoSport has seating for five. Headroom is very generous but the footwells in the rear are not huge when two adults are occupying the front seats and realistically two will be most comfortable across the rear bench. The boot is 334 litres, on the small side for a family car, though there is an adjustable boot floor. The boot door is hinged from the side as opposed to a liftback style boot lid. Apparently, some buyers like this feature but it can be impractical in tight parking spots. The new Ford EcoSport is now offered for the first time with Intelligent All Wheel Drive technology for improved traction on- and off-road.

Ford EcoSport
The interior of the new Ford EcoSport

Engines

The Ford EcoSport is available with Ford’s award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with 125 and 140hp, and Ford’s 1.5-litre TDCi with 100hp and a 6-speed manual gearbox. A new 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with 125hp will be available from mid 2018. An automatic gearbox is available with the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre EcoBlue.

At the launch I drove the 1.0-litre EcoBoost 125hp with an automatic gearbox and the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with a manual gearbox. I’ve sampled the 1.0-litre EcoBoost before in the Fiesta and Focus but it does not feel as lively in the EcoSport and the automatic gearbox had a lazy feel to it with a lot of revving and engine noise under pressure. The 1.5-litre diesel with manual gearbox was a more successful combination. It was refined for the class with plenty of power and the manual gearbox gives a pleasant, precise gear change.

On the road

You sit high in the Ford EcoSport so it feels more like an authentic SUV than some more low slung rivals. The EcoSport’s ride and handling has been tuned specifically for customers in Europe, with optimised springs, dampers, spring aids, steering gear, rear axle twist beam, Electronic Stability Programme settings and steering assistance profiles. The Ford EcoSport handles well for the class with good front end grip and steering that weights up well in the corners. It’s still not as involving to drive as a Fiesta and there is more body roll owing to that higher ride height. It’s comfortable and refined at motorway speeds with little wind noise reaching the interior.

Equipment

In Ireland, Ford is avoiding any sparsely trimmed entry models so the EcoSport will be available in just two high spec trims: Titanium and for the first time ST-Line. Standard equipment will include Ford SYNC 3 Navigation with 8” touchscreen, DAB radio, Emergency Assistance, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, Rear View Camera, Keyless Start, Cruise Control with Speed Limiter and Partial Leather Trim.

The EcoSport ST-Line has sportier bumpers and side skirts, black-finish roof rails and headlight bezels, 17-inch Dark Tarnish alloy wheels, ST-Line badging and extended painted roof and door mirrors as standard. The interior offers a unique ST-Line leather-trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel, partial leather seats with suede effect inserts and red stitching, leather handbrake lever and gear knob, ST-Line branded scuff plates and stainless steel sports pedals.

Ford EcoSport
The Ford EcoSport range starts from €26,900

Pricing

The new Ford EcoSport will go on sale in Ireland priced from €26,900 for a Titanium 1.0-litre 125hp EcoBoost petrol. Full specification and pricing will be issued when the new EcoSport arrives in Ireland in January 2018.

Rivals

The compact crossover segment is huge but Ford cites the Opel Mokka X as the main rival. Other rivals occupying this space are the SEAT Arona, Kia Stonic, Hyundai Kona and Renault Captur.

Verdict

Ford has improved the EcoSport package considerably. The car looks better and the new interior is on par with rivals in terms of design and quality. This is a super competitive segment and the Ford EcoSport is now at the more expensive end of the market, though not particularly generously sized. But Ford is not offering a poorly specced car and both engines are turbo powered affairs. The new EcoSport is a step in the right direction for Ford’s grand SUV plan, though the package is lacking the brilliance that makes the Fiesta so dominant in its segment.

Caroline Kidd