Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 18, 2018
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland and Labrador - The Ford EcoSport comes at an opportune time as the blue oval puts their slow-selling sedans like the Fusion and Taurus to the slaughterhouse, and investing that money into their heavy hitting SUVs and trucks instead.
The EcoSport is the smallest SUV in the Ford lineup, and the cheapest too. Think of a Ford Escape and reduce the size by around 20% with your imaginary shrink ray gun. That’s the EcoSport (pronounced echo-sport, not e-co like you would with EcoBoost - don’t ask us why), and this handsome yet inoffensive ute blends right into the heated crowd next to the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Hyundai Kona.
The Ford EcoSport comes in four trims: S ($22,099), SE ($25,099), SES ($29,399), and Titanium ($28,599), along with two engine choices: a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder and a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder. The 1.0L comes with FWD only (123hp, 125 lb-ft), and the 2.0L comes with AWD only (167 hp, 149 lb-ft). The 2.0L is available across the board on all trims. Ford predicts the mid-level SE trim to be the projected volume seller, offering a standard moonroof, passive entry and push start, and heated seats at a bargain of a price.
The SES trim on the other hand is the sporty variant of the bunch, adding the 2.0-litre engine as standard with paddle shifters, brake-based torque vectoring, and a sport-tuned suspension. SES starts off with a higher price-tag than the top-trim Titanium due to its standard 2.0L engine, whereas it is optional on Titanium. The Titanium offers standard features like heated sideview mirrors and steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system.
The EcoSport’s interior feels better than its smaller outer dimensions may suggest. Plastics run rampant but feel perfectly welcome here at this price point. Everything feels functional and usable rather than trying to be overly tech-laden while accidentally coming off as complicated. It just works, and the orange accents in the SES model helps to accentuate the details.
The infotainment screen is a fair size of 8-inches, and floats on top of the dashboard like many other subcompact offerings. I think this is actually the best part about the EcoSport’s cabin, and funny enough there are three display sizes spread throughout the trim levels. Here, bigger is better. The interface has an incredibly low learning curve, giving users a lag-free and intuitive experience, and the physical volume and tuning dials are welcome additions. The EcoSport also comes with 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability, and offers a 3GB (or 3 months, whichever comes first) trial upon purchase, keeping them competitive against their GM rivals).
This may be a common complaint about small crossovers, but the seating position can be a little odd, especially for taller folks. You sit incredibly upright, so you might feel like you’re falling forward and peering over the windshield rather than into it. Headspace was excellent for my six-foot figure, though the same spaciousness isn’t shared with the back seats. It's cramped to say the least. Legroom is abysmal, and headroom is equally lacking. I have an easier time in the back of a Qashqai. If you plan on having guests in the back row who are a bit taller, you may want to look at an Escape instead.
The trunk is a decent size, and can swallow more volume than a Chevrolet Trax, but falls short of the Honda HR-V. The liftgate swings sideways too, a neat little feature that can pose a problem when your garage is limited in length. It also means you always have to stand on the right side when opening it. For those wondering, the trunk button is cleverly hidden under the right-side taillight. The rear shelf panel can be positioned in three heights, allowing you to slightly compartmentalize the trunk. I say slightly because the heights aren’t terribly far apart (just by a few centimetres, not making much of a difference). That being said, the rear seats can flip up or fold down, and it is incredibly easy to manipulate the available cargo space.
The EcoSport nameplate is bit of an oxymoron. I’m sure this baby crossover is economical but I’m not so convinced about the “Sport”. As mentioned, Canadians get a choice of two engines, and I had a chance to sample both engines across the beautiful landscapes around St. John’s, Newfoundland. I encountered many uphills and downhills, which proved a bit of a challenge for both engines. The 2.0L had to work incredibly hard to get moving, with most of the power in the mid- to high-range, meaning you really had to rev it out to get some juice. It left me wanting more power. On the highways going around 100 km/h, it does drone a bit and would definitely benefit from an extra gear or two. Attempting to summon some power for overtaking at triple digit speeds is met with a lethargic and underwhelming response. This is definitely a vehicle meant for the metropolitan city streets, rather than the open road.
The same goes for the petite 1.0L, chugging along with heavy breaths and the six-speed gearbox struggling to stay one step ahead, jerking at low speed takeoffs but fairly smooth once cruising. The turbocharger in the 1.0L kept it feeling potent throughout the powerband though, and is actually my preferred engine.
The size and dimensions of the EcoSport translate into an effortless drive through tight streets. The turning radius is excellent, offering easy three-point turn maneuvers, and the steering is light. Ride comfort is nothing to write home about, but it was coddling enough for me not to complain or even think about the ride quality during my full-day trek along the eastern coastline from Cape Spear to Pouch Cove.
In the end, the Indian-made EcoSport makes sense in everything but the name. It’s the perfect size, the perfect price, and it all comes at the perfect time. The powertrain is underwhelming but that’s my only disappointment. The interior layout, comfort, and equipped tech features get my two thumbs up, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The EcoSport enters the Canadian market with a competitive edge and unlike the Fusion and Taurus, I’m fairly certain this one is here to stay.
Model: 2018 Ford EcoSport SES
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,097 / 1,765 / 1,654
Curb weight (kg): 1,525
Engine: 2.0-litre naturally aspirated inline-four
Horsepower: 167 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 149 lb-ft @ 4,450 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.2 / 8.0 / 9.3