EcoSport on the right track
Spurred on by the company's current "One Ford" mantra, which will see cars from the Mustang to the new Ka built the same for all markets on a global basis, Ford of Europe crossed the equator and scooped up a Brazilian success story to fill a gap in the market.
It had to take the bold step as the company was taken by surprise by the ever-growing demand for a crossover vehicle in the supermini SUV segment. But what goes down well in South American markets will not cut the muster in more sophisticated climes, so Ford had a lot of tweeking to do in a hurry before production started in India.
Enter the EcoSport, a funky high-sided vehicle based on the Fiesta platform, which shares parts with the Fiesta and B-Max. Its task is to plug a hole left open to models such as the Nissan Juke, Opel Mokka and Peugeot 2008. Suspension, steering and safety issues have been improved in models produced at the European launch, but there is work in progress before the April/May arrival here.
The pre-production models on test were not up to Fiesta's excellent standards but one expects that more European quality features will be included. One feature it could do without is the spare wheel hanging on the wide tailgate, a feature beloved in Brazil, even though the EcoSport is aimed at an urban market. To replace it with an underbody spare wheel was not possible because it would compromise safety.
And the door is hinged the wrong way round for the Irish/UK right-hand drive market, so that is a feature which should also be altered sooner rather than later. But inside, the boot space is good. It can jump from 340 litres to 1,238 litres, with rear seats fully folded.
The target market for the EcoSport is urban motorists in their 30s, have a small or young family, like the high driving position, rugged outdoor look but still want economy.
There is a choice of three engines but only one trim specification, the top of the line Titanium, so that specification is good. In a novel approach, Ford management here has decided that there will be one price only -- €23,995, which covers petrol and diesel models and even the automatic transmission version. This may be the EcoSport's weak point as some of the opposition is on sale several thousand euro cheaper, although not with the same specification.
The engine choice with a 5-speed gearbox is a one-litre EcoBoost 3-cylinder petrol engine 125bhp and a 1.5 litre 90bhp diesel unit, which is capable of 4.5L/100km (61 mpg), with a sprint time of 14 seconds to 100km. The petrol version returns 6L/100km.
For the 6-speed CVT automatic transmission version, Ford had chosen a 1.5-litre powerplant.
SYNC, Ford's in-car safety and control system, is on board and there is the option of an Applink, which gives voice control on mobile apps, including Spotify, so music and books can be downloaded for the driver's entertainment.