Ford's EcoSport plays the crossover game - but there's a price to be paid
JUST remember this new Ford EcoBoost small SUV/crossover was originally designed for, and made, in Brazil and a lot of things make sense.
Ford's European people initially hummed and hawed a bit, took a look at the surge in demand -- and rivals' sales -- and then hastily adapted it for our continent's tastes.
They changed about 300 components, made the front look a lot different, put in some structural steel, re-worked steering, springs, dampers, tyres, the look of the inside, etc. Engines were brought up to Euro levels and they tuned ESP, ABS and steering software.
That brought limited success in some ways and decent accomplishment in others.
The versions coming here in the middle of 2014 are being built in India. You see, this is a global car. There is global demand (50pc increase forecast over five years).
The EcoSport will have just the high-level Titanium spec. There will be a 1-litre EcoBoost (3cyl, 125bhp, 125g/km), 1.5-litre diesel (90bhp, 120g/km) and 1.5-litre petrol automatic (149g/km).
They will all cost the same: €23,995 (delivery and related charges extra). Good idea? Don't know.
Some colleagues compared that price for me with rivals such as the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Suzuki X-Cross and we wondered why this costs €4,000 or so more.
Ford say the price is competitive as it is Titanium spec. We'll wait and see but it will need to be heavily laden with stuff.
It only has front-wheel-drive -- no need for 4WD with its urban buyers. Mind you, it has 200mm ground clearance (it does sit tall), has 550mm wading depth and 25 degree approach angle. Why you would go wading or up sharp inclines without 4WD is a matter for yourself.
The SUV theme is probably most pronounced with the covered spare wheel outside on the tailgate.
It swings out long. It is not for car-cramped kerbside loading. To open it safely you need the same length again as the distance between the middle and back pillars.
I do think it is a drawback.
However, there is a lot of space in the back seats -- impressive for a motor based on the Fiesta platform.
I did not like the front seats at all. They were extremely narrow and gave little support as we flung the car around a few mountainy twists.
The first version we drove didn't inspire either. It was the 1.5-litre diesel with just 90bhp.
This is a sturdy, weighty little SUV and that engine just hadn't enough oomph. I had to churn the gears a lot.
By contrast, the 3cyl petrol EcoBoost made all the difference. I felt a lot better about the car. It may cost you a bit more in road tax, but this is the one to go for. They say it is the first SUV to be powered by a 1-litre engine.
I could see how 'lifestyle' they wanted the inside to be with more than 20 stowage slots.
Safety? It has driver, passenger, side and driver knee airbags as standard as well as traction control, ESP, roll-over mitigation and hill-launch assist.
Despite that it got four NCAP stars, not five. That's because it doesn't have a speed limiter, forward-looking camera for city-safety brownie points and rear seat belt minders.
I have to be fair here and say the cars I drove were pre-production and not completely reflective of the finished product.
You can't have a new Ford rolled out without its communications facilitator SYNC being extolled.
They have developed Applink -- it links your hand-held device to the system. They showed us how it would work with Spotify, the music-streaming service. You connect your iPhone, say, to the system and it plays the music you have stored.
You control and decide what you want and call out the instructions to the system. It did what it was told by the nice man from Ford but I just know it won't be able for my flat-Clara accent. I've been there.
Another nice one is Audioteka. You can store audio books on your phone, choose one from your 'library' and the system will play it for you.
And there's more to come.
All in all this is a smart, sturdy looking motor but it has its drawbacks -- price being an obvious one at this remove. We'll wait to see what the spec is like.