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EcoSport’s winning formula

As an adventure wagon that doubles as a city commuter, Ford’s recently revised EcoSport SUV sets the standard in the compact crossover sector.

 

 

 

Ford’s latest EcoSport SUV is more refined than its predecessor – both in terms of styling and in the way it drives – and, in addition, boasts more technology in its cabin. As an adventure wagon that doubles as a city commuter, the model remains an attractive option in the compact crossover sector of the market – a sales segment it has dominated since its introduction to South Africa in 2013, accounting for more than 45 000 units.

 

 

With the majority of derivatives in the range now manufactured at a recently established Ford plant in Romania – only the diesel-powered, entry-level Ambiente model is still imported from the company’s factory in Chennai, India – the revised EcoSport tends to impress for the overall standards it continues to set.

 

Styling-wise the car now bears greater resemblance to a bigger SUV brother – the recently facelifted Kuga. The front end features a large, trapezoidal grille and distinctive angular headlights which, on Trend and range-topping Titanium derivatives, incorporate LED daytime running lights. Angular fog light housings complete the front three-quarter profile.

 

 

While the EcoSport’s rear bumper and tail light designs have also been revised, changes are subtle compared with those at the front, Ford’s spokesmen claiming that the alterations have been implemented to deliver “a cleaner, more sculpted appearance.” 

 

 

 

 

 New alloy wheel designs – five-spoke, 16-inch versions on Trend derivatives, 17-inch counterparts Titanium models – complement the new look, with Ambiente versions retaining 16-inch steel rims with plastic covers

 

Inside, the remade cabin looks to have been based on that which graces the recently upgraded Ford Fiesta, with a similar dashboard layout ahead of the driver and a centrally mounted, floating infotainment screen that varies in size depending on specification level – 6,5-inch for Ambiente and Trend models, 8,0-inch for Titanium variants

 

The design of the seats has been changed, too – they are said to have been optimised for comfort – while a number of smart stowage solutions have been added. For instance, Titanium models feature under-seat storage on the front passenger side, while a centre console with a built-in armrest hides a compartment capable of holding a tablet or iPad. 

 

 

Additionally, all models feature a boot floor that can be raised or lowered to provide a concealed storage area or to increase luggage space. With rear seats in place and the floor lowered to its maximum boot capacity measures 334 litres – a good size for a small SUV. 

 

Throughout the cabin soft touch plastics have been used in high traffic areas, helping to underline perceptions of quality. The instrument cluster is easy to read, while the infotainment system – rated among the most user-friendly in the automotive world – offers crisp and clear graphics.

 

The systems installed in Trend and Titanium derivatives are equipped with Ford’s SYNC3 operating software which incorporates Bluetooth, voice and touch control – including pinch and swipe gestures – and steering wheel mounted audio switchgear. In addition, the Titanium version includes a navigation system. In contrast, the Ambiente gets a SYNC1 version, which does away with touch control but retains Bluetooth. 

 

 

 

Stock items across all models in the range include air-conditioning, electrically powered windows, remote central locking, rear park assist, a trip computer, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control and at least six airbags in the cabin, Trend and Titanium models gaining a driver’s knee airbag to bring their tally to seven.

 

In addition, the higher-specification variants are each equipped with a leather-covered steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a tyre pressure monitor, roll stability control, a hard cover for the rear-door mounted spare wheel and chrome trim on the front grille. 

 

The Titanium grade adds keyless entry, automatic climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery, LED ambient lighting, auto-on headlights and windscreen wipers, as well as body cladding on the exterior.

 

Engine choice for the upper-spec models is confined to Ford’s award-winning, 1,0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol-fuelled Ecoboost unit – which produces 92kW and 170Nm – while the Ambiente version retains the previous generation’s 1,5-litre, four-cylinder, 74kW diesel plant. 

 

Gearbox options for the petrol versions include six-speed manual or six-speed automatic shifters, while the diesel-fed plant is coupled with five-speed manual transmission. According to Ford’s spokesmen, the new auto gearbox – which features a torque converter – is similar to that which recently debuted in the correspondingly powered Fiesta.

 

In a test drive of Trend and Titanium derivatives during the launch of the models in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, I was impressed by the refinement each of the derivatives showed, with little in the way of noise, vibration or harshness apparent in the cabin.

 

 

Apart from a numb steering feel that’s manifest in the dead ahead position when driving on a straight road, the vehicle tends to acquit itself well in terms of directional stability, suspension compliancy and the engine’s willingness to work, especially when traversing long, steep inclines. Road holding is generally good, with body roll well managed. 

 

On the down side, the higher up the rev-range the engine spins the more fuel economy suffers, the outward journey into the Drakensberg’s foothills from the coast – using a variety of hilly gravel and tarred country roads – accounting for a consumption figure of more than nine litres per 100km. The return journey – on the highway with considerably fewer gear changes – saw the figure drop to less than six litres per 100km.

 

Easy to drive, with a commanding but comfortable seating position, in my view the EcoSport offers good value. Though compact, it is versatile, practical and refined, likely to continue to dominate sales in its market segment.

 

 

 

 

 

PRICES

 

EcoSport 1,5 TDCi Ambiente 5MT    R264 500

EcoSport 1,0 EcoBoost Trend 6MT    R287 500

EcoSport 1,0 EcoBoost Trend 6AT    R300 700

EcoSport 1,0 EcoBoost Titanium 6MT    R327 800

EcoSport 1,0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT    R339 900

 

All models are sold with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and

five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A four-year/60 000km service plan is included. Service intervals are 15 000km.

 

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