Ford EcoSport review
Ford EcoSport small SUV takes on Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008, with EcoBoost engines
It uses the same platform as the Ford Fiesta, but its design and development were carried out by Ford Brazil. However, that’s not the end of the EcoSport’s global credentials, because it’s being built in Thailand and India for emerging markets.
The Ecosport is part of Ford’s global One Ford philosophy: developed primarily for the South American market, but tweaked for global appeal and with UK cars built in India.
The car does get the excellent 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, but sadly it lacks the charm of the Fiesta. Awkward styling, compromised practicality, not especially good economy and poor quality let the Ecosport down badly.
However, Ford listened to criticism and just a few months after the EcoSport went on sale in the UK it released a raft of updates to try and tailor it to more discerning European tastes. Changes include removing the awkward-looking spare wheel, tweaking the steering and suspension settings and dropping the springs by 10mm, and upgrading the interior materials.
Our choice: EcoSport Titanium 1.5 diesel
While the EcoSport is based on the same platform as the Fiesta, the supermini’s dynamic shape is lost on the awkward SUV.
It has the usual 4x4 styling touches, including black plastic cladding low on the doors, a silver front skid plate and silver roof rails, but the boxy lines look a bit odd when compared to the rounded Renault Captur and Nissan Juke.
The EcoSport’s nose gets some chrome trim, but the large grille is more like the pre-facelift Fiesta’s, so looks a bit dated, while the high-set headlights appear a little out of place. On the plus side, the standard LED daytime running lights look distinctive, while the chrome-ringed foglamps give the nose a lift.
An odd addition on the first EcoSport models that arrived in the Uk was the tailgate-mounted spare wheel. It was a little bit of a throwback, and the only other recent cars with this set-up are the Suzuki Jimny and Mitsubishi Shogun. Fortunately, Ford has now removed it from the tailgate, which instantly tidies up the rear styling and and improves the EcoSport's appeal. Suspension dropped by 10mm helps to give it a slightly sportier stance, too.
One neat touch at the rear is the boot release that’s integrated into the right-hand tail-light, but the chrome-trimmed, flimsy plastic handle will pick up scratches easily.
Inside, the EcoSport gets a dashboard inspired by the Fiesta, so there’s a centre console keypad, blue LCD displays and angular air vents. The cabin has improved since the materials, seats and switchgear were all updated, but plastic quality is still on the hard side. Ford's voice-operated Sync infotainment system is a welcome addition, too. You get cloth seats as standard, and while they’re relatively comfortable, they lack support.
Ford has a strong reputation for building cars that are fun to drive, so it’s a real shame that the EcoSport is so disappointing. By firming up the springs and dampers and changing the steering ratio, Ford has had a second stab at sharpening up the EcoSport's dynamics, but while the changes definitely improve road-holding, it still doesn't drive as well as the Fiesta-style looks promise.
Things start quite well, because the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder EcoBoost engine is an absolute gem. It’s not too noisy, and the 123bhp version offered in the EcoSport range has a decent turn of speed. While it’s not setting the world alight, the engine’s torquey power delivery and a sweet-shifting, five-speed gearbox mean it’s no hardship to make the most of the power on offer.
The EcoSport has decent steering, too. The wheel is well weighted, and initial turn-in is positive, but things quickly unravel if you try to explore the EcoSport’s handling. While it shares its underpinnings with the Fiesta, the raised ride height and longer-travel suspension mean the car feels soggy through bends. There’s plenty of body roll thanks to the high centre of gravity, and the EcoSport is easily unsettled by bumps.
Push harder, and the tyres soon start to squeal in protest, while the standard electronic stability control cuts in early and abruptly to keep the Ford in check.
Unfortunately, the long-travel suspension isn’t soft enough to deliver cruising comfort. Instead, the EcoSport bounces along as it hits one bump after another, and the Renault feels a lot more stable in comparison.
At least the tall and narrow shape means you have a good view out, although it’s front-wheel drive only, so you won’t be able to head very far off road. It’s easy to weave through narrow streets, although we’d highly recommend adding the £210 rear parking sensors if you want to avoid any reversing shunts with that unappealing, door-mounted spare wheel.
The multi-award-winning 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is available in 123bhp form, and seems the logical choice if you put driving dynamics ahead of efficiency, even if in the EcoSport this unit lacks some of its usual verve. A better bet generally is the 1.5-litre 90bhp diesel, which combines improved refinement, handling balance and, more importantly, economy – not that the diesel, EcoBoost or entry-level 1.5-litre petrol engines stand out as particularly frugal in a class where high mpg and low CO2 are the norm. None of the three engines offer especially sparkling performance, either.
The Ford EcoSport only managed four stars in its EuroNCAP crash test, in spite of having a full roster of airbags on board. An adult occupant score of 93% is good enough, but with 77% for child occupants, 58% for pedestrian safety and 55% for safety assistance features, the Ecosport trails some rivals.
It's a product of the ‘One Ford’ strategy, where cars are sold globally and components are shared between models. Under the skin, the basic platform is sourced from the Fiesta, while the EcoBoost engine is also of European origin, and both of these are tried and tested.
UK EcoSports are made in India, though, and while our car seemed relatively well put together, it wasn’t up to the same standard as European-built Fords. Time will tell whether the newcomer can be as reliable as other models in the range - it was too new for the 2014 Driver Power survey.
Space inside the Ford EcoSport is reasonable, with lots of headroom and decent elbow space, although legroom in the back is tighter than you’ll find in rivals like the Renault Captur. One plus point is that the 60:40 split seatbacks recline to offer a more relaxing seating position.
The glovebox up front is decent for storage, but a shallow tray ahead of the gearlever and equally shallow cup-holders behind let it down.
The back seats fold flat with the pull of a lever by the seatbase, but there is a big step down to the boot floor. You can tumble the seats forward to increase load length slightly, but the EcoSport is well behind the Renault for space. The 333-litre boot has a high floor, and the bodywork underneath means there’s no extra storage to be had. The large, heavy side-hinged door also restricts access in tight spaces.
The Ford Ecosport is only available in top-spec Titanium trim with the option of a £1,000 X pack for a few additional goodies. That makes the car quite pricey to start with, but at least you get plenty of goodies for your money - including Ford’s much vaunted Sync with AppLink smartphone connectivity - so it works out at a similar price to equivalent models from rivals.
Ford tends to peg its running costs low with servicing costs that err on the affordable side. But the economy figures for the EcoSport are nothing to write home about. The diesel model is our pick of the range, not least because of its claims of 61.4mpg and CO2 of 120g/km. That’s not especially outstanding in the modern world, but the Ecoboost engine only offers 53.3mpg and CO2 figures of 125g/km – they’re not award winning stats.