Design Review

Not so long ago, buying an affordable new car was a pretty simple affair. One had to pick either a hatchback or a sedan and that was it. But today, things are a little different. Your local dealership is full of cars with different body styles. With premium hatchbacks, sub-4 meter sedans and compact crossovers taking up the floor space, there is practically every sort of car to suit each and every need.

 

One such car is the EcoSport, Ford's latest offering that happens to be a compact crossover and a rather good one at that. Post the launch of the Figo, Ford hasn’t had a lot of success here in India, but the company is confident it can turn things around with the EcoSport and having bagged 30,000 bookings in little over two weeks of launch, this new model already is shaping up to be a clear success.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

Part crossover, part hatchback – the EcoSport nearly looks every bit the same as the original concept first shown at the 2012 Auto Expo. Upfront, it’s all bling with an oversized chrome-garnished grille and some unique design cues never seen before on a Ford. 

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

The pair of sleek looking headlamps and that high bonnet line gives the EcoSport a purposeful stance. However, move onto the side and you'll notice that the car looks tamed in spite of the unique 16-inch alloy wheels, black-cladding and the flared wheel arches. At the back, the EcoSport gives a proper impression of an SUV thanks to the tailgate mounted spare wheel. 

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

The EcoSport on the whole sports a refreshing design but it is really compact if you pit it against the Renault Duster, it's arch rival. Having said that, the Ford looks generously proportioned on the road, standing next to, say, a Swift or any other big hatchback. It is, of course, longer and wider but substantially taller than a regular hatchback and it’s the high, commanding stance that helps peg the EcoSport as a compact crossover.     

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

User Experience Review

If you are a fan of the exterior design, chances are you will like the interior also. The contemporarily designed dashboard looks very special although one could easily mistake this for a Fiesta if it weren’t for the new air vents and the redesigned lower half. Like the Fiesta, the centre console here too seems like it could do with less buttons and knobs. The EcoSport gets an upgraded infotainment system with a more advanced version of the Microsoft-developed SYNC tech.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

SYNC lets you connect your cell phone to the system via Bluetooth and will allow third-party applications to be controlled even by voice commands. The system will let you make and receive calls, play music or have your text messages read out to you. It will even make an automatic call to the emergency service number – 108, if the car has been involved in a serious accident and airbags are deployed.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

Get inside using either of the doors and what’s immediately apparent is that for a compact crossover, the EcoSport doesn’t offer as much space as one would think. While legroom is good and under-thigh support is just about adequate, the Ford just cannot match the Duster when it comes to space and comfort. The cabin is too narrow for three adults to sit comfortably at the back. However, the long list of features and good build quality make up for the lack of space.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

This particular car is the top-of-the-line Titanium model with the option pack so it comes with plenty of features to keep you occupied on long journeys. Now I won’t name them all but there’s climate control, rear parking sensors, ABS, six airbags and steering mounted controls for the audio system as well as for SYNC interface from Microsoft.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

Those familiar with Ford’s other models may be in for a bit of a shock. Though the overall quality is decent, fit and finish at some places is a huge letdown; having said that, the futuristically designed cabin is a much nicer place to be in compared to the Duster’s old school interior.

Enough about cabin space and features, how does the EcoSport feel like on the road?

Performance Review

What sits ahead and powers this car is a familiar diesel engine. This 1.5 litre TDCI unit is the same engine that powers the Fiesta. It’s known for its linear power delivery and impressive refinement and even in the EcoSport, this engine doesn't disappointment.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

The 4-cylinder engine makes 90PS of power and 200Nm of torque and delivers all of it in a very linear way. There is no sudden surge of acceleration even when the turbo spools up. Instead, the ample torque is spread out evenly which is a boon when driving at slow speeds in city traffic.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

When the going gets twisty and should you choose to push it to its limits, the EcoSport performs reasonably well, if not as well as similarly priced cars wearing the Blue Oval badge. Those with a thing for driving might prefer more feedback from the chassis and more power out of the engine, but there’s no reason for others to complain.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

Thanks to the high ground clearance and chunky 205 section tires (offered in higher grade models), the EcoSport feels like it can take on bits of rough terrain. That said, it doesn't give you the same sense of confidence that you may find driving a full size SUV.

Ford wades into the high-volume compact crossover segment with the impressive EcoSport

Conclusion
The EcoSport is not perfect. The cabin is a bit short on space and fit and finish in some places is iffy. But we know it will still sell in huge numbers mainly because it manages to combine the ruggedness of an SUV with the practicality of a big hatchback. It’s a recipe that’s hard to fault.

Just remember to book yours in Mars Red.