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Ford EcoSport set for 2013 launch

Good sport: Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs unveils the new EcoSport compact SUV in Delhi.

Fiesta-based SUV “to create a new segment” for Ford, but up to 18 months away

Ford logo5 Jan 2012

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in DELHI

FORD has pulled the wraps from its long-awaited, sub-$25,000 crossover, the EcoSport, in India and Brazil, but Australian SUV buyers will have to wait up to 18 months before being able to drive one.

Codenamed B515, it will be priced and positioned beneath the upcoming Kuga compact SUV in Ford’s line up when sales start in Australia in the first half of 2013, and be pitched directly against the likes of the Nissan Dualis, Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Sportage and Suzuki SX4.

While Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps said it was too early to talk volume aspirations, she indicated the newcomer was an opportunity for Ford to show initiative and leadership in an evolving SUV market.

“We think (the EcoSport) will do a little bit of what the Territory did in the medium SUV segment,” she said.

“Though there are a couple of players in this segment in Australia, we think this will help create a new segment in terms of volume.”

Despite a strong visual connection with the SZ Territory around the nose treatment, there was little Ford Australia design or engineering input into the EcoSport beyond some discussion about particular market requirements during the early development stage.

The newcomer will be the first Ford down under to be powered by the company’s all-new 90kW/170Nm 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo-charged direct-injection three-cylinder petrol unit.

27 center imageCompared with a regular 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that Ford says the 1.0-litre EcoBoost matches for performance, fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are about 30 and 20 per cent lower respectively.

Also on the menu will be a normally aspirated 1.5-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine producing approximately 82kW and 140Nm, as well as an as-yet still-secret 1.5-litre four-cylinder TDCi turbo-diesel that is a development of the DV6 1.6-litre TDCi found in the Fiesta diesel in Australia.

While the petrol models will offer either five-speed manual or six-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission combinations, the TDCi might only be available in six-speed manual guise for the time being.

Whether all three powerplants will make it to Australia has yet to be determined.

An all-wheel drive version can be developed if there is sufficient demand for it, Ford assistant vehicle line director for B Car David Filipe revealed, but for now the EcoSport will be a front-wheel drive only proposition.

Built on a variation of the existing B299 (WS/WT) Fiesta platform, its body is a little more than four metres long, and sits on a slightly longer wheelbase.

All the major drivetrain components, including the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems as well as the electric power steering and braking system, are essentially pilfered from the Fiesta.

As a result, all powerplants easily meet existing emissions regulations the company also expects a five-star ENCAP crash-test safety rating too.

While Ford officials would not reveal any further information – including what the interior will look like – Mrs Phipps confirmed that the compact crossover will be sourced out of India for Australian consumers.

The EcoSport displayed at this week’s Delhi Auto Expo show is about “95 per cent” true to the final production car, according to Ford design chief J Mays, as it boasts flights of fancy like oversized wheels, a ‘panoramic’ glass roof and LED headlights compared to the EcoSport that will roll down the assembly lines at Chennai, India, and Bahia, Brazil, later on in the year.

In India, the EcoSport will be manufactured alongside the recently released Fiesta sedan (B409) as well as the Australian-developed Figo hatch, which is a highly successful derivation of the previous-generation B256 (WQ) Fiesta.

Ford says it will eventually be sold in almost 100 markets globally, although there is no word as to whether Western Europe or the United States will join the queue for the B-segment crossover.

That situation may change soon, as one executive admits the massive sales success Nissan has enjoyed since the conceptually similar Juke was released in 2010 may prompt Ford to offer the EcoSport in as many markets as it possibly can.

Ford’s Brazilian arm led the homeroom development, since the B515 will eventually replace the first-generation BV226 EcoSport that has garnered a strong following in South America since 2004.

That car, by the way, is based on the B256 Fiesta-derived B226 Fusion wagon from Europe that is just about to be replaced by the B232 B-MAX – which is essentially a wagon/people-mover version of the B299 Fiesta.

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