A new EcoSport retains Ford’s SUV presence

The Ford EcoSport was the first compact SUV — an SUV less than four metres long — when it was launched in 2014. It exploited a fast growing trend of buyers who wanted the features of a normal car in a younger looking and more aggressively styled car. Very few buyers really wanted to go ‘offroading’ but big wheels and a high ground clearance were a great asset when there were heavy rains or potholed roads. The EcoSport soon became very popular in India, USA, China, Brazil and other markets and naturally attracted strong competition, so Ford has just brought out an upgrade with over a hundred improvements.

Along with a 1500cc diesel mill, the old model had also introduced a remarkable 999cc 3-cylinder petrol engine that generated an unbelievable 125 HP with surprisingly good torque. It had been the only engine to win the prestigious global ‘Engine of the Year’ award two years running. But even a remarkable engine needed improvements, so Ford has retained many design features in its new 1500cc naturally aspirated 3-cylinder ‘dragon’ engine, which does not need a turbo charger so there is no turbo lag, and is also much smoother and more efficient. Like all new engines that are highly fuel-efficient, these will ensure that your fuel bill, even for a heavy vehicle, will not cause you anguish. The top petrol model has a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts and all the other petrol and diesel options have the well proven 5-speed transmissions. The suspension has also been tweaked up a bit for better comfort without compromising control.

While power plants are very important, most buyers will first notice a more attractive and slightly raised front grille framed by the aggressive projector headlights that has a row of LED running lights to make them even more noticeable. You will also notice a very satisfying solid feel of the doors when they are closed. Its overall styling however remains unmistakable EcoSport with flared fenders covering the big wheels. The effort to keep the overall length less than four metres does however make it look a bit squat but surprisingly this does not make the interior space at all cramped.

A lot of attention has also been lavished on the interiors where a big upright centrally mounted 20 cm touchscreen is immediately noticeable. While it seems a bit too upright at first glance, this position ensures that it does not catch distracting many reflections as you are driving. Needless to say the touchscreen gives you easy access to the rear view and to all the controls for communication, climate control and entertainment. Keyless entry and starting is available as is the not very useful cruise control. Like most new cars it also has an onboard computer to provide data on fuel consumption, outside temperature, et cetera that can be easily accessed from a control on the steering wheel. The entire dashboard and instrument cluster is new and a bit more sober than in the earlier model. The seats are also a bit wider and more comfortable with better back support.

The seat configurations are also better so that the rear seats can fold flat to make a large cargo carrying space. All variants have ABS anti-skid braking systems, dual front airbags, engine immobilisers to stop an engine during an accident and reduce fire hazards, automatic unlocking of doors in the event of a crash, rear child lock, and several other safety features. Only the top ‘Titanium’ model has 17-inch tyres and there are two models with 16-inch and 15-inch tyres respectively.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist