The EcoSport is a successful lineage in Brazil – a country that is similar to India in a lot of ways. However, it is only with the new generation EcoSport that Ford decided to bring the compact crossover to the Indian soil. After all, it is also a part of ‘One Ford’ strategy to have a uniform portfolio across the globe. The timing of the launch can be questioned to an extent since the compact crossover boom has started quite some time back and the Renault Duster has made a fortune with its free run – so much so that even the feature-rich and relatively cheaper Mahindra Quanto hasn’t been able to dent the French strategy. This is unlike other Mahindra products like the Xylo and the XUV500 which have dominated their respective segments. A lot can be blamed to the Quanto’s ungainly design compared to the Duster’s typical SUV styling. The Ford EcoSport though won’t commit the same mistake.
The styling of the EcoSport has been the primary factor that has kept the interest in the compact crossover alive for all these months. When we sampled the car in Goa we had onlookers flipping out their cell phones and shooting the car at every given opportunity. We almost got rammed by an Audi Q3 as its driver squeezed the car through the narrow lanes of Goa, only to get a closer look at the EcoSport. Such is the interest for the vehicle around the country.
Rightfully so, the sleek headlights are something that you have never seen before on a Ford car, but that will change in the coming years – not because the EcoSport could become a common sight, but because this is the new design philosophy that the Ford cars will adopt around the world. Its is an evolution of the Kinetic design language and therefore you still have the hexagonal grille – but it is huge on the EcoSport. The top spec trims also get chrome garnish for the grille whereas the entry-level spec is expected to get an all-black unit – and that would make the EcoSport look like a goldfish! But that said, the fascia of the EcoSport is quite menacing and that is what the consumers like.
Look at the vehicle from its side profile though and the pint-sized dimensions are evident. The designers have done a good job of maintaining the butch appearance on the side too, though. You have the prominent belt-line and the 16-inch alloys that add to this effect. There is also the black-cladding at the base of the vehcile which imparts a sense of ruggedness to the design. Also good-looking is the Fortuner-esque quarter-glass behind the C-pillar. However, the absence of skid-plates below the bumpers and the side-steps below the doors, mars the SUV look to an extent.
But where the EcoSport quickly redeems itself is at the back. The tailgate gets the spare wheel prominently mounted on the fifth door. Ford says, “If it is an EcoSport, this is where the wheel belongs”. We would like to go a step further and say, “If it is an SUV, this is where the wheel belongs”; purely from a design perspective, of course. The tailgate wears the badges for the model name, the trim level and the engine variant. Then there is the intelligently designed fifth door-handle which is integrated within the right taillight.
In fact the entire car has been intelligently designed. The exterior appearance perfectly camouflages the sub-four-meter length and makes the EcoSport come across as a butch, menacing SUV.
So if it is small, how good is the cabin space? Read on to find out…
User Experience Review
Get inside the EcoSport and the first thing you notice is the design of the dashboard. It takes its inspiration from the new Fiesta and therefore has the same layout for the buttons and the switches – which is the confusing so called ‘Cell phone inspired’ layout. The infotainment system that it is mated to is more feature rich now and features a more advanced version of the Ford-Microsoft SYNC tech. Unlike the SYNC you find on the global arena, the one in the EcoSport has limited capabilities. Forget the collection of apps or voice-guided satellite navigation.
The EcoSport’s SYNC lets you connect your phone to the system through Bluetooth and will let you stream music and make calls. It also gives you the voice commands for changing audio tracks, searing for music by artist / album / track, making calls and reading out text messaging. While this system works very well with a Windows OS phone, it had trouble in searching through the music library of iOS and Android devices that we tried out. The woman behind SYNC is better well-versed with Indian accents now though, compared to the lady in the Fiesta. In case of an accident, if the airbags are deployed the woman will make a call to the country-wide emergency number, 108, using your paired phone. She will also share the GPS co-ordinates of your car to get you timely assistance. Lets hope the people at 108 understand her properly though. In a country like India, shouldn’t this system be calling 100, the police helpline, first? Because between an accident and a trip to the hospital, there is something called as ‘fist fight’!
Below the SYNC’s switchgear are the controls for the climate control / air-conditioning. It gets rotary switches like the one seen in the Fiesta and have a gloss-black finish on them. It goes well with the gloss-grey finish of the centre console and the instrumentation. The gear-shifter on the other hand has a gloss-gun-metal finish to it. The rest of the plastics have a combination of the dark and light grey. So you see, the colour combination doesn’t have a clear uniformity. But what is more disappointing is the quality of the plastics. As we have shown in the video, the plastics feel clumsy; have quite a few panel gaps and the entire instrumentation shakes! With the kind of roads that we have in India, we feel that these will start rattling and squeaking as the car ages.
The front seats on the top spec Titanium Plus trim come with perforated leather upholstery, which looks and feels good. We also like the choice of colours and fabric that Ford is offering on the entry-level and mid-spec variants. The front seats are adequate for the average Indian and the driver’s seat also comes with a centre arm-rest, which further adds to the commotion of the centre console. Between the two front seats are a few cubby holes, cup holders and the Aux, USB and 12V sockets. However, their placement feels too cumbersome and cramped. There is a storage tray under the front passenger seat as well.
Move over to the rear bench and the EcoSport’s tiny cabin makes itself evident. With the front seats moved completely backward, there is just about adequate knee-room for an average Indian. Under-thigh support feels inadequate at first, however there is a good amount of foot space under the driver’s seat and so you can slide your feet under it for better thigh support. Same isn’t the case behind the passenger seat though, thanks to the under-seat storage space. The rear bench is flat unlike the Figo’s contoured seats. Even then, you won’t have enough shoulder-room for seating three adults in comfort – especially on a long drive.
Speaking of long drives, the boot space is over 340-litres. However, the number is primarily because of the height and not because of the depth. There’s also an indentation in the door panel of the fifth door, which adds some additional space. Even then, it is enough only for a few backpacks or a couple of mid-size suitcases – but space for a long drive worth of luggage seems less. After all, Ford is placing the EcoSport as an urban SUV and not necessarily a long-distance tourer. What about the mechanicals though? Read on to find out…
Since factors like low CO2 emissions and high fuel economy have hit the carmakers in the face, most of them have started turning to downsized engines. These engines use technology like turbocharging, supercharging, direct injection, etc. to make sure that the small displacement doesn’t hamper drivability in any way. Fiat’s MultiAir, Volkswagen’s TSI line and even Tata’s upcoming small diesel engine are examples of this fact. Ford is no different and this year they are introducing their downsized engine to India – the EcoBoost.
The EcoBoost variant of the EcoSport uses a 1.0-litre petrol engine that is mated to a fixed-geometry turbocharger and direct injection technology. Thanks to this tech, it manages to churn out a power output of 125 PS and a torque output of 170 Nm. The engine settles in a very silent idle at around a 1,000 revs and remains quite silent till the mid-range, even with its three-cylinder configuration. Higher up the rev range, it makes quite a bit of sound but Ford has ensured that it produces in a sporty note.
The mid and high rev range is where you’ll find yourself most of the time. Being a fixed geometry turbine, there is a noticeable turbo-lag under 1,800-2,000 RPM. So for pulling off overtakes in the city or on the highway, you’ll need to downshift and / or rev the engine considerably. But trotting in the city or cruising on the highway is where this engine shines. It also claims a fuel economy of 18.9 kmpl in an Indian driving cycle – but our test car refused to stay anywhere outside the 7-8 kmpl range. We believe that your regular commuting should see you past the 12 kmpl mark though.
Now the mixed reactions – Ford cars are expected to have a great suspension setup, direct steering response, a well weighted steering wheel and good grip levels. Everything from their hatchbacks and sedans to t
he behemoth Endeavour stay true to this fact as if it is a part of their DNA. So it is a no-brainer that you expect the same from a compact crossover like the EcoSport. After all, crossovers are supposed to handle like a car while giving you the commanding driving position like an SUV. The EcoSport we drove however, disappointed on most of those aspects.
The suspension setup was decent and soaked up all the bumps and potholes that Goa had to throw at us. It also handled the weight of the monocoque very well and did not induce too much body roll while pushing the vehicle around bends. But unfortunately, the setup isn’t complemented well by the rest of the elements. The steering wheel for one, doesn’t feel as direct as any other Ford car. It uses an advanced Electronically Assisted Power Steering system, which negates the nibble and also compensates for the driver effort by providing a lighter feel. While this sounds great for city use, the trade-off is that the steering doesn’t feel as well-weighted as a Figo or the older Fiesta nor does it feel as direct. There is pronounced dead feel at the centre and the play is too high for my liking, especially after knowing what Ford can manage. This steering felt like it came from a Hyundai – spongy and without any feedback!
Even the grip levels from the tyres aren’t all that good. Our test car came with 205/60-R16 tyres from Apollo and they felt skittish through ever corner that they were subject too. The story was the same with the Continentals and even worse with the MRFs. The slightly stiffer suspension setup could have a role to play in this feel, but then Ford claims that these tyres are specifically developed for the Indian EcoSport. This translates into an unnerving drive around the twisties and a skittish feeling when you are changing lanes at high speeds. Ford wants us to think of the EcoSport as a driver’s car, but I cannot agree with them on this.
So if you ask me, the EcoSport stays true to its ‘Urban SUV’ tag by giving you a good ride quality on bumpy roads; can cruise along well on a highway and trot around the city with a lot of presence. But unfortunately, it doesn’t stay true to the Ford badge as it doesn’t handle like a well-engineered front-wheel-drive car from the blue oval.
The EcoSport has a good set of features on offer and has a premium design. However, the moment the cramped cabin, clumsy plastics and uninspiring driving dynamics come into play – the ownership experience could feel compromised. If you are in the market looking for a five-seater CUV/SUV with the dynamics and utility of an SUV, then the EcoSport’s 15-month long wait could have been disappointing. But the Ford EcoSport could be a good buy for you if you are single or have a nuclear family and city driving is your primary concern. Let us hope that Ford prices it right though.