The Ecosport, Ford's smallest crossover model, has been improved with the addition of a pokier 140PS EcoBoost petrol engine at the top of the range. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
The Ford EcoSport uses tried and tested Fiesta mechanicals to offer buyers a front-wheel drive car with added ride height and chunky good looks. Now it's got a pokier 1.0 EcoBoost 140PS petrol engine at the top of the range, while more recent versions also boast a smarter interior, cleaner engines and more equipment. It all sounds quite promising.
Ford didn't rush into bringing us a supermini-based Crossover model. Indeed, the market was awash with the things by the time the brand brought us its own take in this genre, the Fiesta-based EcoSport, in the Spring of 2014. Even so, there were signs that all was not quite right with the product planning. Early buyers questioned the car's refinement, its driving dynamics, its interior and the need to drive around with a huge great spare wheel hanging off the back of the tailgate. Fortunately though, Ford was listening. So, the brand has been continually moving to rejuvenate the car. Tweaks to the suspension have improved the ride plus there's greater refinement, a smarter cabin and the option to do without the rear-mounted spare wheel. More recently, a pokier 140PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine has been added in at the top of the ange. Otherwise though, this car is much as before, with chunky looks that offer up a bit of Amazonian attitude, even if in truth, this car is more CBeebies than SAS in its take on hostile streetlife. Let's check it out.
The EcoSport now gets a choice of four engines, three petrol units and one diesel. The 1.5-litre diesel now boasts 95PS, 22PS less than before. Most EcoSport buyers though, will continue to choose a petrol option, possibly the old 112PS 1.5 Ti-VCT unit but more probably Ford's innovative 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. It makes 0-62mph in 12.7s on the way to 112mph. If you want more performance, there's also now a 140PS version of this unit in the top Titanium S derivative. On the road dynamics have improved since the original launch thanks to suspension retuning with revised rear twist beam suspension and more carefully considered spring and damper rates for chassis optimisation, plus a 10mm reduction in ride height and optimised Electronic Stability Control and power steering systems. Crossovers of this kind need to drive as much like the superminis they're based on as possible. From here on, the signs are that this one will. As before, there's no 4x4 option, but you do get a great raised driving position and a comprehensive package of driver assistance technologies, including Electronic Stability Program and Hill Launch Assist.
Design and Build
The key visual change made to this car since its original launch is that you no longer have to have a huge great spare wheel pinned to the back window - though that option's still available if you want it. It means that the car's existing attributes come over with a more contemporary air. As before, the almost Aston Martin-style front grille looks good, the glasshouse is elegant, the headlights and wheelarch treatment is very deft and the stance of the car is better than it has any right to be. Inside, there's a restyled instrument cluster with a chrome surround, a light dimming function, plus there are chrome tips for the window switches and the handbrake lever's easier to get at. Small changes to be sure, but they promise to give the cabin more of a quality feel. For vehicles without the spare wheel, the rear swing-gate has been revised to allow for easier partial opening where space is limited. That side-hinged tailgate still accesses a load space that Ford reckons is big enough to swallow a 560-litre washing machine - once the 60/40 split rear seats are folded, that is.
Market and Model
There are three trim levels - 'Zetec', 'Titanium' and 'Titanium S'. Expect to pay from around £14,600 for entry-level petrol versions of this car, with a £1,500 premium if you want the Powershift automatic. The 1.5-litre diesel variant starts from just over £16,000. You can also talk to your dealership about a sportier-looking 'S' variant that gets the pokier 1.0 EcoBoost 140PS petrol engine, along with features like a black roof, mirror caps, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear diffuser and privacy glass. There's are partial leather seats on Titanium models and options include sat nav technology and a rear view camera. Equipment levels across the mainstream range are strong. Expect to find equipment items like keyless entry, rear parking sensors and Ford's SYNC voice-activated in-car connectivity system as well as SYNC Emergency Assistance. In addition, this crossover offers Ford's SYNC AppLink set-up, which enables customers to voice-control smartphone apps from the driver's seat. Ford SYNC with Emergency Assistance directly connects the vehicle occupants to local emergency services operators after an accident, in the correct language for the region using information from the vehicle's on-board GPS unit and mobile network to pinpoint the accident location.
Cost of Ownership
Economy and emissions aren't too far off the vehicle this car is based upon, the Fiesta. There's been some small controversy around the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine not making anything like its claimed fuel economy figures in real world conditions, but that can be said of many small capacity turbocharged petrol engines. It's just a quirk of the NEDC fuel testing program. This 125PS variant claims to manage 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and 125g/km of CO2, while for the 140PS model, the figures are 52.3mpg and 125g/km. The base 1.5 Ti-VCT engine delivers 44.8mpg and 149g/km. Finally, there's the 1.5 TDCi diesel which manages 64.2mpg and 115g/km.
In this guise, the Ford EcoSport looks a more promising prospect. It's more of a crossover and less of a small SUV - which is what buyers seem to want. And, as before, its practical and decently equipped. Ride and refinement are now very good by class standards too - and the SYNC connectivity AppLink system is just brilliant. All these reasons will combine with the small Crossover segment's current popularity to ensure that Ford will probably sell as many of these as they can import. My daughter, for example, would love one. It is, as ever, a case of giving the market what it wants.