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Driven: Ford EcoSport from $20,790

Jacked-up Fiesta: Ford's EcoSport baby SUV comes all the way from India, and undercuts its main rivals.

Fiesta-based front-drive Ford EcoSport hits Australia to tackle the Holden Trax

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27 Nov 2013

FORD has undercut all rivals in the fast-growing micro-SUV market with its new, Indian-made EcoSport by pricing it from a sharp $20,790 plus on-road costs.

Based on the Fiesta hatch but featuring a new body and the kind of jacked-up ride height in vogue with urban dwellers, Ford’s baby will fight Holden’s Barina-based Trax (from $23,490) and the Nissan Juke ($21,990), as well as the Peugeot 2008 and forthcoming Renault Captur.

But don’t let the rugged looks fool you, it’s a front-drive only proposition like most of its rivals, albeit one with a sizeable 200mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 550mm if you’ve got the guts to take it on.

Designed in Brazil and made in India, the EcoSport will be offered in three specification levels: Ambiente, Trend and Titanium, priced from $20,790, $22,290 and $25,790 respectively, with automatic transmissions adding $2000 to the price across the board.

However, only the Titanium will be available this year – from December 1 – with the Ambiente and Trend not due until February 2014.

Like the Peugeot and the Renault, Ford’s headline act is a potent three-cylinder turbo engine from its EcoBoost family, churning out a buzzy 92kW of power and 190Nm of torque between 1400 and 4500rpm.

Ford says the tiny engine – winner of the International Engine of the Year award for two years running – chews as little as 5.7 litres of 95 RON fuel per 100km on the combined cycle. However, unlike the same engine in the Fiesta, Ford is only able to offer it in the EcoSport with a five-speed manual gearbox, relegating it to niche status in a segment dominated by autos.

For automatic buyers, Ford will instead offer its familiar Fiesta-sourced 1.5-litre atmo four-cylinder unit with 82kW at 6300rpm and 140Nm of torque at 4400rpm on tap, matched to a six-speed Powershift dual-clutch unit. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.5L/100km.

Luggage space is a handy 346 litres, or 705L with the rear seats folded. At 4245mm long (but 4010mm excluding the old-school external spare wheel), the EcoSport takes up nary more parking space than an average low-slung city car.

Inside, the EcoSport boasts no fewer than 20 storage nooks and crannies, but lacks a centre console armrest.

The rear seat not only splits 60/40 and folds with a ‘tumble’ function, but also reclines.

Standard features include Sync infotainment with a system that calls emergency services in an accident for you, seven airbags, a full-size spare wheel, electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), a slide-out draw under front passenger seat, Ice Blue illumination for the instrument cluster, steering wheel mounted audio controls, air conditioning, a trip computer, front and rear power windows and six-speaker MP3 audio system.

Additional to the Ambiente, the Trend and Titanium add cruise control, driver’s seat lumbar support, glovebox cooler, front fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Titanium also adds silver roof rails, leather seat trim, leather-trimmed steering wheel, leather gear shifter (manual only), electro-chromic rear view mirror, automatic climate control, Smart key-free ‘Intelligent Access’ with push button start, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights.

All versions use front McPherson strut suspension with coil spring and an anti-roll bar while the rear has a semi-independent twist beam with twin gas and oil-filled shock absorbers. Brakes are discs up front and humble drums at the rear.

Steering is electric assisted, with a number of new-age features such as “anti-nibble compensation” – to keep the car on the straight an narrow at highway speeds without constant steering adjustments by the driver – and “pull drift compensation” that is said to compensate for a road’s camber.

To suit EcoSport’s urban pretensions, its steering circle is a tight 10.5 metres.

The smallest Ford SUV joins the Kuga and Territory in the local SUV range, with one more to come in 2015 – the Australian-developed Everest large 4x4 that is based on the Range ute.

Ford Australia declined to reveal sales targets for EcoSport, but pointed to the massive 40 per cent growth in small front-wheel-drive SUVs this year as indicating a bright future for the vehicle.

Ford EcoSport pricing*
Ambiente 1.5L $20,790
Ambiente 1.5L (a)$22,790
Trend 1.0L$22,290
Trend 1.5L (a)$24,290
Titanium 1.0L$25,790
Titanium 1.5L (a)$27,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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