Words: Stephen Spyropoulos
Published: July 24, 2017
MUSKOKA, Ontario - Ford has finally decided to dip their feet into the North American subcompact SUV pool and introduce us to the new(ish) Ford EcoSport (pronounced ‘echo’ not ‘ee-koh’ like you do in EcoBoost). The EcoSport was first introduced in Brazil in 2003, and the second generation EcoSport was then released in 2012 in China, India, Thailand and Russia. It has now been slightly altered to hit the mean streets of North America. Canadians can expect to get their hands on this Fiesta-based SUV some time next year.
Ford is targeting millennials who essentially want an affordable smartphone with wheels and an engine. Also in the crosshairs are retirees who want to have a car that is small and something that doesn’t make their backs hurt during egress. Ford seems to have the answer with this stylish and quirky little SUV, but the field is quite packed at the moment with competitors like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Qashqai, Chevy Trax, and the Jeep Renegade. The list will continue to grow, no doubt.
The compactness of the EcoSport does give the impression that good driving dynamics lay beneath the South American styling, but we won’t know for sure until we get a chance to get behind the wheel. Canadians can choose between four trims: S, SE, SES, and Titanium. Both front- and four-wheel drive are available.
FWD models are driven by Ford’s 1.0-litre 3-cylinder EcoBoost motor. This small engine is turbocharged to enhance performance. Quick factoid: The EcoBoost engine design is quite compact, with the entire engine block's height and width dimensions comparable to an A4 size sheet of paper. Ford hasn’t said how much power the EcoSport will churn out but I’d estimate around the 150-hp and 150 lb-ft. mark.
4WDs on the other hand will feature the 2.0-litre direct injected four-cylinder engine. Both motors will have a six-speed automatic transmission. Intelligent 4WD is all about the computer telling the car when to go 4WD, not you. From regular monitoring of your speed, turn rate, and accelerator position, it senses when a tire slips, and when the rear wheels need power to increase grip to the road.
A unique option is the “floating” infotainment screen. It looks like someone glued an iPad to the centre console and said voila! It’s available in 6.5-inch and 8-inch flavours, fbut or those that pick base, you’ll get a 4 inch screen that’s placed right in the dash. SYNC 3 will be standard and is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible.
SYNC Connect is also featured on the EcoSport. Purchasing it will enable your EcoSport to become a 4G internet hotspot. The FordPass app will be able to pair with your vehicle, enabling you to unlock, lock, remote start, and locate your car when you lose it in a big mall parking lot. It can also tell you how much petrol the car has in the tank.
Remember, although this is a Ford, the EcoSport is a global car, and there isn’t any wasted space at all. Taller and longer than the Fiesta but smaller than the Escape, the EcoSport will seat four adults (five if you really want to turn it into a torture chamber). The seats split 60/40 and there is reasonable headroom in the back. Not much legroom though.
Interior space is abundant with cubbies, nooks, and crannies. A false floor in the rear maximizes cargo storage and can be a good hiding spot for your MacBook. Interestingly, the rear gate swings outwards and to the left instead of the traditional SUV that goes up and down. It is distinctive and interesting, but it requires a lot of space in order to fully extend out. For city drivers, this might cause an issue when you’re parallel parking, or parking in the downstairs parking lot of your condo.
Ford says it’s to prevent taller people from banging their heads on the liftgate. Did they do testing with adults who were incapable of bending down? I think it has more to do with the fact the EcoSport came with an extra tire on the rear gate, and even though this one does not have that feature, Ford didn’t feel like changing the hinge location. No harm, no foul, but it may cause an inconvenience for some.
The EcoSport is another entry into the subcompact SUV market that is becoming increasingly diversified. This quirky and nimble looking SUV will probably win the hearts of many first time car buyers who want something simple and somewhat spacious to own. Although it does not look as cool as it’s bigger brother, the Ford Explorer, the EcoSport is definitely an eye catcher.
EcoSport will be built in Chennia, India and be exported to Canada right around the new year. Pricing is not out yet, but if I had to guess I’d expect a EcoSport Titanium to hover around $30,000 CAD.