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Driven: Ford’s new EcoSport to find more homes

Back off: The EcoSport will still be sold with the tailgate-mounted spare wheel, but Ford says it will be dropped as part of a model year change in 2018.

Refreshed EcoSport base pricing remains static as Ford hopes for more sales

Ford logo15 Dec 2017

FORD Australia is confident of an uptick in sales for its facelifted EcoSport crossover that hits showrooms this month with a new look, a redesigned dash and more tech than before from $22,790 plus on-road costs.

The updated version of the Indian-built small SUV arrives without a manual gearbox option this time around, but the new Ambiente six-speed automatic matches the price of the outgoing base auto.

Mid-spec Trend variants start at $24,490, representing a $200 increase over its equivalent predecessor, while the top-spec Titanium has risen by $1200 to $28,990.

The updated version will continue to be offered with the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate for now, however Ford Australia confirmed that it will be ditched as part of a model year upgrade in about mid next year.

Speaking with GoAuto at the media launch of the EcoSport this week, Ford Australia marketing director Danni Winter refused to discuss specific sales targets, but said sales of the refreshed EcoSport would get a boost following its launch.

“Yes we do expect a sales increase with the model,” she said. “The small SUV segment is 10 per cent of the industry this year, we expect it to grow into next year and with that our volumes will continue to grow as well.

“We do expect it to do a lot better than its predecessor given the technology and safety features this vehicle has in it, versus the previous model.”

After launching in late 2013, the EcoSport recorded 2200 sales in 2014, its first full year on sale, and then hit a high of 2453 in 2015, before sliding by 25.8 per cent last year to 1819 units.

To the end of November this year, the EcoSport has found 1243 homes, a drop of 26.4 per cent year on year, and well off the pace of its key rivals in the sub-$40,000 small SUV segment such as the Mazda CX-3 (16,204) and the Holden Trax (7078).

While the EcoSport gains a number of features over the outgoing version, it does not add autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to its safety equipment list.

Ms Winter said AEB was not available as part of the packaging from the Indian factory, but highlighted the high level of standard gear compared with its competitors.

“We will continue to evolve to what buyer needs are and that is reflective of the product we have brought in in terms of the infotainment and other content we have added in there,” she said. “Some of that is well ahead of other competitors in the segment in terms of standard equipment in the entry level.

“AEB wasn’t available so it is not something we had a choice on. There has been a dynamic shift in the market in the past year. Some of that has been generated by media, some of it by consumers. So we will continue to re-evaluate but it is just something we didn’t have available to bring in.”

Despite the lack of AEB, Ford executives confirmed that the EcoSport will retain its five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program crash safety rating that it first achieved back in 2013.

Ford says the average buyer of the EcoSport is either older couples with no children, or empty nesters, as well as people in their early 20s who are either upgrading from a light hatchback or buying it as their first car.

As reported, Ford has replaced the old 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit used across the range with a 90kW/150Nm (up 8kW/10Nm) 1.5-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated engine for the Ambiente only.

The Trend and Titanium are both now powered by the 1.0-litre three-pot EcoBoost turbo-petrol unit delivering 92kW/170Nm.

All variants are front-wheel drive and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford no longer uses the troublesome Powershift dual-clutch transmission in the EcoSport.

Fuel economy for the Ambiente is rated at 6.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, while the Trend and Titanium sip 6.7l/100km. CO2 emissions are 159 and 153g/km respectively.

The shift to the three-pot engine is the only mechanical change Ford has made under the skin.

The EcoSport gains the latest Sync3 infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility across the range, as well as Emergency Assistance and a reversing camera.

In Ambiente guise, it uses a 6.5-inch screen and also features App-Link and DAB+ digital radio, while Trend and Titanium use an 8.0-inch screen and add voice-activated sat-nav.

Ford says its entire SUV line-up is now fitted with Sync3.

On top of the Sync3 functions, standard gear from Ambiente up includes six-way manual driver’s seat adjustment (but no height adjustment for the front passenger), cloth seat trim, 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio and steering wheel-mounted controls.

It also has seven airbags, ESC, hill launch assist, cruise control, rear parking sensors, follow me home lighting, a retractable cargo blind, more than 20 stowage areas including a slide-out drawer under the front passenger seat and 16-inch steel wheels.

The Trend, which Ford says will be the top selling variant, adds body colour mirrors and door handles, black finish roof rails, front foglights, silver-finish grille, leather-wrapped steering wheel, seven-speaker audio, a rear armrest with twin cupholders and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The range-topping Titanium has a chrome finish grille, HID headlights, daytime running lights, power-folding mirrors, front and rear bumper inserts, silver finish roof rails, front parking sensors, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, a sunroof, leather-accented seat trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless entry, climate control, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and 17-inch alloy wheels.

EcoSport is offered in six exterior paint colours, with Diamond White the only non-premium option. Moondust Silver, Smoke, Canyon Ridge, Shadow Black and Lightning Blue all carry a price premium.

Ford says the EcoSport can swallow 743 litres up to the roof with all seats in place, increasing to 1178L when the second row backrest is folded.

2017 Ford EcoSport pricing*
Ambiente (a)$22,790
Trend (a)$24,490
Titanium (a)$28,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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