Car reviews - Ford - EcoSport - Titanium
Solid build feel, peppy 1.0-litre engine, Sync3 interface, good specification levels, quirky rear-mounted spare tyre
Room for improvement
Strange transmission behaviour, impractical side-opening tailgate, too-narrow seats, paddle shifters not worth it
Ford’s EcoSport Titanium has no shortage of quirk, but is it enough to sway buyers?
10 Sep 2018
SMALL SUVs have never been more popular in the Australian new car market. In 2017, more small SUVs were sold than all passenger vehicle segments, bar small cars.
It was the fifth-best selling segment overall behind small cars, medium and large SUVs, and 4x4 pick-ups, and through the first eight months of 2018, has usurped large SUVs for fourth spot on the list.
Ford joined the small SUV race in 2013 with the Indian-built, Fiesta-based EcoSport, however the Blue Oval’s smallest high-rider has struggled to cash in on the small SUV boom, registering no more than 2453 yearly sales since its inception, and just 1364 in 2017 – a yearly drop of 25 per cent.
In December, Ford updated the EcoSport for the first time in an attempt to help it better cash in on the SUV boom that is currently in vogue.
Will the changes help Ford give the EcoSport a bigger slice of the small SUV pie?
Price and equipment
As the dearest of three EcoSport variants, Ford asks $28,990 plus on-roads for the Titanium, $4500 more than the mid-spec Trend and $6200 dearer than the entry-level Ambiente.
Price-wise, it stacks up favourably against other top-spec front-drive rivals such as the Holden Trax LTZ ($30,490), Honda HR-V VTi-L ($33,340), Hyundai Kona Highlander ($33,000), Mazda CX-3 Akari ($33,490), Mitsubishi ASX XLS ($32,000), Nissan Juke Ti-S ($29,790), Suzuki Vitara S Turbo ($29,990) and Toyota’s C-HR Koba ($33,290).
Standard specification on the EcoSport Titanium includes 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome finish front grille, automatic HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, front and rear foglights, power side mirrors with puddle lamps, silver finish roof rails, automatic climate control, electrochromatic rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry with push start, 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio, 4.2-inch driver display, two 12V power outlets and two USB ports.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, front seatbelt reminder, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, traction control, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Six exterior paint colours are available, with Diamond White the standard hue and Moondust Silver, Smoke, Canyon Ridge, Shadow Black and Lightning Blue all premium options.
Overall the Titanium comes with a generous level of specification for a vehicle of its price and segments, with the nifty Sync3 interface and leather-trimmed upholstery highlights. Having a range-topping variant under $30,000 is a testament to the EcoSport Titanium’s value.
Stepping into the EcoSport’s cabin for the first time, it gives the impression of a car that is solidly built with thick doors, minimal noise intrusion and no rattles to speak of.
The interior is predominantly a mix of stitched, perforated leather and hard plastics, indicative of a top-spec version of a budget car.
Trend and Titanium variants gain an 8.0-inch touchscreen display fitted with Ford’s sharp Sync3 multimedia system, which offers snappy and lag-free operation, easy navigation between apps and sharp clarity. In particular, the reversing camera provides fantastic clarity and clear vision for rearward obstacles.
One gripe is the set-up of the screen, which looks like a tablet that was stuck onto the dash as an afterthought.
The EcoSport’s leather-wrapped steering wheel sits comfortably in the hands, with the usual array of buttons as well as paddle shifters.
Aside from the simple air-conditioning cluster, and parking sensor and traction control buttons, the cabin layout is simple and uncluttered.
The leather-trimmed seats are well-padded, but too narrow and should be more comfortable. Furthermore, there is no electric adjustment, which probably should be included in the top-spec variant.
Front-seat dimensions are comfortable, with solid road vision and a sunroof adding extra interior ambience.
Rear legroom is poor if a tall occupant is occupying the front seat, but is otherwise adequate. Headroom, however is sub-par, which lets down the otherwise comfortable rear pews. Air-conditioning vents were also notably absent.
Unusually, the tailgate opens sideways instead of upwards, which is a novel change but probably less practical for a car that is likely to spend a decent amount of time in tight, urban confines.
Boot space is decent height-wise, but the space between the base of the rear seats and lip of the tailgate is relatively minor. Two shopping hooks are available, however they are positioned too high off the ground to let the bags sit flat on the floor.
The EcoSport’s interior is a mix of well-appointed materials with premium features, and plastic elements with sub-optimal passenger dimensions.
Engine and transmission
The EcoSport Titanium is powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, developing 92kW at 6000rpm and 170Nm from 1500-4500rpm, driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Having won multiple awards for its size in the International Engine of the Year awards, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit is well regarded in the industry, and in our time with the car, we can see why it punches above its weight.
The EcoBoost’s performance is punchy for its size, accelerating smoothly and making for an easy driving proposition around town.
Performance struggles slightly with hard acceleration, however the EcoBoost is a capable unit for the majority of driving situations.
The six-speed automatic, however, is less impressive than the engine, exhibiting some strange behaviours in our time with the EcoSport.
At times, we questioned whether the gearbox was a six-speed torque converter or a CVT, as it had a tendency to spike up and down the rev band from even throttle input, as the latter might.
Gear changes at low speeds can be clunky, slow and slushy, and taking matters into your own hands didn’t help much.
Using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters when in sports mode is not worth it, as the changes are so slow that it makes you think the gearbox has not recognised the input.
During our time with the EcoBoost we recorded a fuel economy figure of 7.3 litres per 100km with predominantly city and suburban driving, only slightly up on the 6.7L/100km official figure.
While the engine is a peppy and willing unit, the six-speed auto is disappointing. A more sophisticated transmission would go a long way towards helping the three-pot donk shine more.
Ride and handling
For a small vehicle, the EcoSport feels settled and poised on the road, making for an easy daily-driving proposition.
At high speeds, its short wheelbase and tall height means the ride can get a bit bumpy, but it is generally comfortable. It is not perfect considering its price point, however it gets a pass considering its dimensions.
The thick, well-built feel of the EcoSport helps contribute to its low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, with little road noise coming in from the cabin.
While many small cars have handling as one of their best features, the EcoSport is nothing special in that department.
Its tallboy styling makes it top-heavy and a bit awkward to handle, and its solid build leads to a feeling of heaviness while driving. It is not a big lump of a car by any means, but does not match its rivals for handling.
Having said that, it is still very easy to drive around town and parking is a breeze with its small exterior dimensions.
Safety and servicing
The updated EcoSport has not been tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), however the pre-facelift version scored a five-star rating when it was tested in 2014.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, front seatbelt reminder, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, traction control, front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera.
From May 2018, all Ford vehicles come with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, up from three years/100,000km.
Ford’s service price promise calculates the cost of a service before going in, with intervals scheduled over 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
For the first five services, EcoSport Titanium owners can expect to pay between $230 and $465, at an average of $283 per service.
The EcoSport is a funky alternative in a segment that is getting increasingly crowded, and where having a point of difference against the pack is increasingly more important.
Unfortunately, the EcoSport struggles to stand out against any of its competitors, which is needed in such a competitive area of the market.
The peppy powertrain, Sync3 system, funky styling and competitive pricing all get ticks, however offerings such as the Mazda CX-3 or Subaru XV offer a better-rounded package for a similar price.
Mazda CX-3 sTouring 2WD from $28,990 plus on-roads
The segment-leading Mazda CX-3 offers sharp styling inside and out, a reliable 2.0-litre petrol engine and an ergonomic multimedia interface set-up.
Suzuki Vitara S Turbo 2WD from $29,990 plus on-roads
Suzuki’s turbocharged Vitara employs a punchy 1.4-litre petrol engine and sharps styling. Some sub-par cabin plastics let down an otherwise capable and enjoyable small SUV.
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