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Car reviews - Ford - EcoSport - Titanium 1.0 EcoBoost

Our Opinion

We like
Ride and handling, efficiency, packaging, manoeuvrability, media connectivity, reclining rear seats, low cargo floor
Room for improvement
Cabin material quality, no overhead grab handles, spec not worthy of Titanium badge, no auto option, LHD-opening tailgate

Gallery

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Ford logo6 Feb 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

Old Henry’s brand is trying to free itself from the shackles of the fading Falcon with a new line-up of hip-and-happening vehicles.

Two engines are available: an ordinary 1.5-litre atmo petrol and the fabulous 1.0-litre turbo EcoBoost three-cylinder – a manual-only proposition (for the moment) that doesn’t so much punch as slam-dunk above its weight.

Since Ford’s factories are struggling to meet demand, Australia’s EcoSport range is currently Titanium-spec only in $25,790 1.0 EcoBoost manual or $27,990 1.5 Powershift dual-clutch auto guises.

We chose the former for this review.

Leather trim, alloy wheels, cruise control, auto climate control, a glovebox cooler, front fog lights, roof rails, keyless entry with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlights and Ford’s Sync infotainment/Bluetooth connectivity system are standard.

However, since the Titanium is the range-topper, we wonder where the reverse camera, satellite navigation, 17-inch-plus wheels, uploadable app interface and colour touchscreen are...

Ford should be mindful of degrading the variant nameplate. Perhaps ‘Trend Plus’ might be more apt.

Interior

A jacked-up Fiesta through-and-through – that’s the EcoSport experience inside.

Current-generation Fiesta owners might wish for something a little different, since the vast majority of (hard yet hardy) dashboard bits and pieces have carried through to the sub-compact SUV.

C’mon, Ford. Surely you could have scraped together something to liven up the ambience? If you need inspiration, check out the appealing fascias found in the Holden Trax and Peugeot 2008.

There are some obvious differences compared to the Fiesta though – the elevated body makes for easy entry and egress as well as more commanding seating position, deeper side glass improves all-round vision, while you can wear a top hat for the amount of extra headroom available.

In fact, the basics are more than amply covered – clear instrumentation, effective automatic climate-control, heaps of storage (including under the front passenger seat) and a steering column that telescopes as well as tilts.

Regarding the air-con, it chilled us on dreadfully hot days like no other. Here’s what Ford says about it: “To ensure the Ford EcoSport’s climate control system can handle all weather conditions, it was tested in temperatures from -20 to 50 degrees Celsius, at humidity levels between 20 and 85 per cent, and went through at least 1000 wind tunnel tests.” Impressive.

Moving on, the front seats are well placed in terms of support, while the roomy rear bench’s split/fold backrest reclines a few degrees for folk who feel like catching 40 winks on the fly.

Being a narrow vehicle, you wouldn’t always want to carry three adults out back, but for shorter trips the Ford is fine for that sort of thing.

On the flipside, the lack of colour central display screen does bring a dull monotone look to the dashboard’s visage, and there are no overhead grab handles or central armrests in either seating row.

And why isn’t a rear camera fitted when Ford insists on providing a vision-blocking tailgate-mounted spare wheel? That whole heavy and cumbersome tailgate set-up is wrong for Australia, since it has not been engineered for right-hand drive. It swings open into the traffic, necessitating a trip out to the middle of the road just to load and unload stuff.

At least the boot itself is long, wide and deep as a result, with multiple cargo-carrying opportunities available courtesy of a rear-seat cushion that tilts forward for extra-big loads.

That’s something you won’t find in any post-2008 Fiesta!Engine and transmission

A real star of the EcoSport is the 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbo petrol engine that goes, feels and sounds like a much larger powerplant.

The World Engine of the Year recipient is quite an incredible achievement, delivering an impressive 92kW of power at 6000rpm and 190Nm of torque between just 1400rpm and 4500rpm.

Clutch in, push the start button, and the lack of the usual three-pot thrum is the first surprise, followed by how immediate the acceleration is the moment you tickle the throttle.

It just keeps building too, in a measured but determined fashion, all the way to the 6500rpm red line. It never sounds weird, or strained, and all it takes is a quick downshift for it to leap ahead again.

Cruising quietly on the open road, the engine is ticking over at around 2500rpm in fifth (top) gear. We wonder why Ford didn’t go down the six-speed manual route.

Whatever, the EcoBoost seems like the future, particularly when we’ve averaged 7.5 litres per 100km (on more expensive 95 RON premium unleaded petrol) over a wide variety of driving conditions, mostly with the air-con blaring (we had it during the debilitating January heat wave in Melbourne).

As with most manual Fords, the gearshift feels slick yet substantial, harmonising nicely with the clutch and brake pedal. In fact the whole drivetrain is our favourite in this class of vehicle.

However, the lack of any automatic transmission will hurt sales. And so it should. The same engine in the Fiesta has a dual-clutch auto option, but it’s also built in a different plant...

Ride and handling

Here is some more EcoSport praise.

Precise steering, excellent handling and a propensity to grip the road define the Ford’s superbly tuned chassis. There is no better driving sub-compact SUV on the market right now.

Obviously a high centre of gravity will induce some lean through some corners, but the EcoSport’s sheer responsiveness makes it a sharp tool when zipping around tight urban streets.

We’re also impressed with the effectiveness of the brakes, which have been beautifully modulated to the rest of the car. That’s despite the fact they’re drums-only in the rear – what is this, Ford? 1980 still?Since we’ve only driven the bigger-wheeled Titanium, it would be interesting to assess the Ambiente and Trend on their 15-inch rubber. Maybe they won’t feel quite as firm over bigger bumps than this one does.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Ford has leveraged its greatest asset in making the EcoSport a real driver’s car. Again.

Safety and servicing

As with all new Fords, the EcoSport brings a seven-year/105,000km (whichever comes first) capped-price servicing regime with free roadside assist.

Over that period the published cost is put at $1735 – or an average of $247.86 every year. The warranty period is for three years/100,000km.

The EcoSport scores a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, aided by lots of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, seven airbags – including one for the driver’s knee – and driver-assist systems such as Hill Launch Assist to stop roll-backs.

Verdict

You’re in the market for a small SUV, you say?If you want the one that drives best, the EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost is the answer.

But if you don’t want to drive a manual gearbox, and statistics suggest you probably don’t, then you’re out of luck.

We’re less convinced about the too-Fiesta-like dash, which seems as outdated as a Noughties Nokia mobile phone, and chastise Ford for not bothering to engineer the tailgate for right-hand drive. That spare wheel is no thing of beauty either. Daihatsu Terios, anyone?But the EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost’s fundamentals are more than sound.

Rivals

Peugeot 2008 Active 1.6 VTi auto (from $24,990 plus on-roads).

Look past the dated four-speed auto and the 2008 will impress with its good looks, spacious packaging, innovative dashboard, sharp steering and eager handling. We’d save a few bucks and go for the lightweight three-cylinder manual base car, though.

Nissan Juke ST CVT (from $23,990 plus on-roads).

Nissan really put the sub-compact SUV on the global map, thanks to bold styling and great marketing. It is also easy to drive and economical to own, though the design won’t be to all tastes.

Holden Trax CD (from $23,490 plus on-roads).

Nicely packaged with an appealing interior, but the ageing engine feels thrashy, the steering artificial and the ride unsettled. Looks good though.

Specs

MAKE/MODEL: Ford BK EcoSport Titanium 1.0T
ENGINE: 999cc 3-cyl petrol turbo
LAYOUT: FWD, transverse
POWER: 92kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 170Nm @ 1400-4500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-spd man
0-100km: 12.7s
TOP SPEED: 180km/h
FUEL: 5.7L/100kmCO2: 131g/km
L/W/H/W’BASE: 4245mm/2057mm with mirrors/1708mm/2521mm
WEIGHT: 1289kg
SUSPENSION f/r: Struts/Torsion beam
STEERING: Electric rack and pinion
BRAKES f/r: Discs/drums
PRICE: From $25,790 plus on-roads

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