Okay, so it’s a compact vehicle, and with the best will in the world, it won’t accommodate your large family’s luggage on your annual motoring holiday. But Ford’s new EcoSport “urban SUV” is a great little car – versatile and manoeuvrable, with a choice of gutsy powerplants, a surprising amount of cabin space and a whole bunch of other desirable features, including good views all round.
We experienced the EcoSport in a variety of conditions, from smooth highways to potholed back roads, and found it both comfortable and agile. In fact, the only negative we can think of is the placement of the rear-door hinge: it’s on the left, which poses a potential problem when loading or unloading. Against that, of course, the road camber makes it easier to open the door, weighted as it is with the spare wheel.
Based on Ford’s global B-segment platform, the EcoSport is described as suitable for five adults. This is a slight exaggeration, though: the three passengers at the rear would have to be of small stature. However, Ford get it right when they describe the car as a game-changer: personal experience suggests that this vehicle – available here with three engines, two transmission variants and three trim options – will do very good things for the brand.
At the risk of gushing, we have to say that we love that 1-litre EcoBoost engine, first encountered during a Focus launch earlier this year. The smallest engine in its class, it delivers 92 kW and a peak torque of 170 N.m, rivalling some 1,6-litre petrol powerplants (it’s no accident that it has won the title of International Engine of the Year for the past two years). On a combined cycle, it burns fuel at the rate of just 5,7 litres/100km.
The EcoSport is also available with a 1,5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (82 kW at 6 300 r/min and peak torque of 138 N.m at 4 400 r/min) and a 1,5-litre TDCi intercooled and turbocharged diesel engine (66 kW at 3 750 r/min and 205 N.m of torque from 2 000 rpm to 2 750 r/min). A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on all models bar the 1,5-litre petrol Titanium, which comes with a 6-speed PowerShift automatic box.
Some other appealing features:
— A high ground clearance of 200 mm means you need not worry too much about speed bumps and potholes. The EcoSport will even wade through 550 mm of water (which, on the eve of another horrendous cold front in Cape Town, is strangely reassuring).
— Ford SYNC, a voice-activated in-car connectivity system powered by Microsoft. This allows you to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while choosing your favourite music and making phone calls via voice commands.
— A reputed 20 practical storage spaces (we managed to locate most of them), including a glove box that can cool up to six beverage cans. Cargo space at the back is pretty good, too: with the rear seats tumbled against the front seats, the boot space increases to 705 litres, which is big enough to accommodate a washing machine (we’ve actually seen this done). Alternatively, the rear seats can be split 60:40 to transport longer objects. Hence our earlier reference to “compact and versatile”.
— An array of airbags includes protection for the driver and front passenger as well as side airbags and curtain airbags.
— An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is available on all models, and Electronic Stability Control is an option on some high-series models: this clever piece of tech helps the driver stay in control at all times, especially on slippery roads. When it detects that the car is er… about to lose it, the system automatically reduces engine power and selectively brakes individual wheels to stabilise the vehicle and keep it on track.
# Starting price for this little charmer is an affordable R199 000 (for the 1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Manual), rising to R249 000 for the 1.5 TDCi Titanium Manual. Our recommendation: go for it. For more information, and a chance to enter a competition and win an EcoSport, visit Ford’s site.