Monday 22 January 2018

New Ford is a good sport but it needs far more glam

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Two young family/friends have decided they are going to make their rags-to-riches story in the clothes trade – well for a few weeks this summer anyway – so they chose a small stall in a flea market for their first foray into the world of business.

Naturally, I was roped in to ferry "just one small set" of discarded but recently washed clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves etc.

Flea markets . . . now there's a world all of its own. People laugh and loan each other hangers, give advice. And the tea was good.

Bizarrely, the adventure was to underscore drawbacks (one in particular) and highlights in my Ford EcoSport. It was also sort of appropriate that my test-drive car should be this small 'crossover' because its story begins in Brazil (what a World Cup).

Based on the Fiesta platform, they've been making a version of it in Brazil for some time. But because so many people elsewhere are buying rival versions, Ford had to go get it to market ASAP (a 50pc increase globally over four years is forecast) or lose out.

In the EcoSport's case, it was a bit like a Brazilian footballer tailoring his game to European ways. They substantially altered around 300 components, re-worked the front, stiffened parts with structural steel, revised steering, springs, tyres, dampers and brought the engine to Euro emission levels. They did a fine job on the cabin too.

This is now a global car. The one I had was made in India. It fits the profile so many want; a big, blaring front, hint-of-SUV haunches, comfy interior and even more connectivity.

It would have taken too long, I suppose, and cost too much to change one thing that my brief exposure to the rag-trade laid bare – the back door/tailgate swings out and back rather than up and down.

That meant that I needed one-and-a-half parking spaces to open and unload. I thought I had enough a few times but didn't. On one, separate, occasion I actually ended up adding Scratch 101 to the bumper of another family member's car.

That tailgate has a full, covered, spare wheel attached which adds to the robust look and leaves good boot room (needless to say we folded the rear seats for more space).

One thing I learned from my day out was how much people talk and banter in the business. I thought I was gabby, but one of those I 'spoke' to in transit never seemed to understand a word. 'She' was the voice in the latest Ford SYNC system (supposed to allow you to talk on the phone, navigate and listen to music etc while keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road).

They say the new, optional version with voice control (where you tell it to do things and don't have to press buttons) is great. I gave up. 'She' rarely understood me. All I wanted to do was make a call about motoring to someone. I didn't get to the more complicated parts. The name is clear and concise in my contacts so I don't see why I had such difficulty. I'm not stupid around technology. I'm not bad; no more, no less than most people. Frustrating. It's a great idea, now let's make it idiot proof.

I have to say it was a handy motor around town (we journeyed to the midlands too) – lots and lots of coming and going and I enjoyed the excellent driving position (seats much better than pre-production versions I drove last year).

It was comfortable, easy to live with (just as soon as that 'woman' was banished), although some of the instrument readouts were too small and faint.

With 200mm ground clearance it sits tall and drew its fair share of looks from passers-by. I like the look of it, and it was never short of pep with that excellent one-litre petrol.

These EcoBoosts are wonder engines in their own way, but I don't believe they are as economical as might appear. You hit the 3,000rpm quickly and that's where the fuel consumption hits hard.

Still, I thought it was really good around town, and there is decent rear-passenger room, as well as more than 20 stowage slots.

All in all, it's a fine package but pricey. Competitors such as the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke, Suzuki X-Cross are a few grand less expensive. Ford say their top (and only spec) Titanium is much better equipped, but you could argue all day.

It's a bit like doing business at the flea market; you want more glitter and glam you pay a few euro more.

EcoSport facts and figures

* Ford EcoSport crossover/SUV, 5dr Titanium, 1-litre EcoBoost (125g/km, €270 road tax), 5spd manual, front-wheel drive.

* Standard equipment includes driver, passenger, side and driver knee airbags, traction control, ESP, hill-launch assist. Options include SYNC with AppLink, six speakers; Bluetooth; voice control; emergency assistance; 3.5ins colour screen with USB, rear parking sensors and more.

* Price from €23,995. Remember: delivery, related charges are extra.

My Side of the Road

I'm telling you this because it can be verified – and I'm a bit psyched out. As you know, a few weeks back I saw a family of ducks wiped out (nothing the driver could do) as they crossed the M4. Two weeks ago, we witnessed a goose and goslings destroyed by a lorry in Holland in similar circumstances. On Saturday, a pigeon plunged to its death on our windscreen near Enfield. Thump. I've never experienced anything like it. Chilling. Is there something weird going on?

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