First Drive: 2018 Ford EcoSport
Ford’s little big idea
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: EcoSport adds another choice to Ford’s extensive SUV lineup. Modern content levels, entry-level pricing.
- What’s Worst: Swing gate impractical in some applications. Power and fuel economy levels need tweaking.
- What’s Interesting: The EcoSport is the latest addition to a future Ford SUV/truck inventory that, shockingly, plans the elimination of all cars except for the Mustang by 2020.
JOHN’S, NL: Ford’s big plans for the future include a new small idea – the 2018 EcoSport.
Well, maybe not exactly a new idea.
This made-in-India subcompact, now the smallest crossover ute in Ford Canada’s lineup, actually debuted in other markets 15 years ago.
The second-generation version that was launched in Newfoundland this May has been refreshed with new exterior cues and interior content for its 2018 model year release in North America.
The appetite for SUVs of all sizes just keeps growing as customer demands shift in search of crossover qualities – the easier access and higher driver’s viewpoint, the added utility, along with a go-anywhere attitude and rugged truck-like character cues.
But with all of those qualities mitigated with passenger car-like levels of ride, handling, content and fuel economy. And the EcoSport is aimed squarely at both new customers to the crossover market and older owners looking to downsize from bigger sport utes.
The Ford EcoSport offers 10 exterior colours, six interior palette selections and a choice of two powertrains packaged within four trim levels – S ($22,099), SE ($25,099), Titanium ($28,599) and SES ($29,399).
A standard 1.0-litre direct-injection EcoBoost turbo three-cylinder engine makes 123 hp and 125 lb/ft of torque.
It’s a capable little mill, slightly anemic in performance but I have to keep reminding myself that the only lapping most customers do consists of circling the parking lot, looking for a spot closest to the store.
Power, what there is of it, is translated via a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. Fuel economy is rated at an unimpressive 8.6/8.1L/100km (city/hwy) although the EcoBoost turbo does allow for regular octane gas. Our first tester showed a historical 8.4L/100km (comb) average for the 1,500 km on its trip meter.
A naturally aspirated, direct-injected TI-VCT 2.0-litre four-banger adds a little more hubris with 167 hp and 149 lb/ft of torque.
Granted, it still won’t exactly put you in a whiplash collar, but there is more available chutzpah for highway passing maneuvers, even enough oomph to allow for a bump up to a 907 kg (2,000 lb) trailer tow rating. The 2.0-litre engine, packaged with a variation of the six-speed automatic, also comes with Ford’s Intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
This upgraded powertrain comes standard in the sport-oriented SES trim and is available as an option ($2,500) in S, SE and Titanium models. Fuel economy with this combo is rated at 10.2/8.0L/100km (city/hwy).
Both engines come with Auto Start-Stop but the 2.0-litre is definitely a more satisfying choice if you can swallow the extra cost. And the added security of its included all-wheel-drive system seems a natural fit for our Canadian climate.
Ride and handling seemed surprisingly competent during our test runs.
I expected more pitch, yaw and body roll from the short-wheelbase, taller-than-a-car architecture but the EcoSport felt composed and capable on the road, cutting corners nicely and handling the bumps, if a little buzzy and econobox-noisy in its demeanor.
The cabin is comfortable up front with high-positioned, upright seating. Second row access and accommodation is do-able with a little compromise from front passengers.
The EcoSport also boasts a variety of 30 storage pockets, bins, nooks and hooks for passengers and gear. And rear seat bottoms can flip forward to allow the second row seat back to flop flat, opening up the normal 592 litres of cargo room to a maximized 1,419 litres of luggage room.
A height-adjustable three-position removable floor shelf adds versatility to the cargo storage space.
And that cargo space is accessed through a sideways-opening swing gate, rather than the usual hatchback lift gate. This saves on head-bonking for taller drivers of this smallish sport ute. But it will also demand some parking planning.
The door can’t swing fully open with any vehicle, wall or object positioned close to its rear. It’s something to think about before you pull into that open slot.
The EcoSport lineup starts with the S model. Unlike “stripper” entries of old, the base S includes Torque Vectoring Control, AdvanceTrac, manual A/C, 16-inch aluminum wheels, 4.2-inch SYNC display, automatic halogen quad-beam headlights, dual USB and 12V ports, rearview camera, remote keyless, six-speaker audio and much more.
The SE, which will probably make up 50 per cent of Canadian sales, adds a power moonroof, power mirrors, reverse sensing, heated front seats, fog lamps and signature LED accents, black roof rails, 6.5-inch SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, more standards and more options.
The Titanium tops out with 17-inch wheels, eight-inch SYNC 3, a WiFi Hotspot, 110V power outlet, heated steering and B&O Play premium audio by Harman.
And the SES adds paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspensions and sporty copper-coloured interior accents.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport is available at Canadian dealers now.
2018 Ford EcoSport
BODY STYLE: Two row, four-door, subcompact crossover SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: Six-speed automatic, FWD or intelligent AWD.
ENGINE: 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo three-cylinder (123 hp, 125 lb/ft); 2.0-litre TI-VCT four-cylinder (167 hp, 149 lb/ft).
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 1.0-litre 8.6/8.1L/100 km (city/hwy); 2.0-litre 10.2/8.0L/100 km (city/hwy).
TOWING CAPACITY: 1.0-litre 635 kg (1,400 lb); 2.0-litre 907 kg (2,000 lb)
CARGO: 592 litres, 1,416 litres behind first row.
PRICE: S $22,099, SE $25,099, Titanium $28,599 and SES $29,399. For 2.0-litre engine and AWD option in S, SE, Titanium, add $2,500.
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