First drive: Ford EcoSport
As the SUV segment continues to expand in Europe, Ford is keen to become the lead provider of multi-functional vehicles in the UK. The all-new EcoSport marks the start of the brand's influx of 'soft roaders' that are soon to hit forecourts up and down the country.
What is it?
Originally built in Brazil from 2003, the EcoSport is the second of Ford's brand new SUV models to come to the UK. It follows the brand's all-wheel drive Kuga and comes ahead of the larger, more luxurious Edge. Because the segment has grown 150 per cent since 2012, Ford believes that its new multi-activity vehicle (or SUV to you and me) will be a huge hit with younger buyers and ideal for both city driving and longer commutes. Now built in India, the EcoSport looks like a beefed-up Fiesta, only with a few more creature comforts, evidence of improved practicality and some, ahem, interesting exterior design touches.
What's under the bonnet?
The EcoSport comes with the choice of three engines, two of which are petrol units and one diesel. These include the familiar and multi-award-winning 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol, a 1.5-litre Duratorq turbodiesel with 90bhp and a 110bhp 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol Duratec, all of which are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit is most definitely the engine to go for. Both the 1.5-litre petrol and diesel units suffer from a significant lack of torque during acceleration, while the diesel is notably noisy in the cabin.
What's the spec like?
The range starts from £14,995 but customers can only opt for the well-equipped Titanium trim, which features a number of external niceties such as 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and silver roof rails as standard. Inside, the EcoSport remains relatively basic, equipped with a CD/radio with USB connectivity, a multifunctional steering wheel and electric front and rear windows. It also has keyless entry and a Power Start Button. To spruce things up a little, the EcoSport is also available in a choice of seven colours, including flamboyant bright yellow and kinetic blue. For buyers who desire a few more gadgets and a little extra luxury, they can go for the Titanium X-Pack, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, full leather interior, automatic headlights and cruise control for £15,995. It's bold B-Max-styled grill coupled with its angled headlights form a rather chunky front-end, but it's bulky bumper almost looks out of proportion in comparison to its short body, which (excluding the spare wheel) is only 4cm longer than a Fiesta. What's more, the rear-mounted spare wheel smacks of Toyota's RAV4 or Land Rover's Freelander models which, funnily enough, is exactly what the EcoSport is trying not to be but it fails somewhat.
First drive: Ford EcoSport
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What's it like to drive?
Incredibly laid back. The EcoSport is surprisingly relaxed, it's stress-free to drive and because it's not much larger than the best-selling hatchback Fiesta, it's easy to squeeze in and out of tight spaces, too. Unfortunately, there does come a point when the relaxed demeanor becomes a bit mundane – only the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has a bit of poke but even then, acceleration from stand still or overtaking is extremely delayed. Engine and tyre noise is relatively low in both the petrol units, but the 1.5-litre diesel seems to cause loud cabin vibration, which can be an issue when cruising along the motorway at 70mph. If nothing else, the EcoSport is comfortable along most roads. The ride does feel a little firm when you reach country lanes, but it cruises well on the motorway and, as in many modern Fords, the steering is nicely weighted.
As you'd expect from a growing segment, the EcoSport has quite a few rivals to compete against. Nissan's funky crossover Juke is a major player in the young buyer SUV market, while the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur are both fighting for the top spot being £2,000 cheaper.
The AOL Cars verdict
It's clear that the EcoSport is definitely going to attract some attention when it comes to the UK, but whether or not it'll make a good impression is another question. Granted, it does look new and exciting, but you can't help but feel a tiny bit disappointed when you slip behind the wheel. It's just not quite there yet.
Model: Ford EcoSport Titanium
Engine: 1.0-litre, three–cylinder
EcoBoost Power: 123bhp 170Nm
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
MPG: 42.8 (urban), 60.1 (extra urban), 53.3 (combined)