THE Ford EcoSport seems familiar – yet the latest model is very different from its predecessor.
There are 2,360 new parts but maybe the most important is the bit you never hope to see beneath the stylish outer skin. It’s a protective super-strength safety cell made from boron steel, lighter than normal steel to aid economy but four times stronger to enhance safety.
It’s a win-win solution, but then there’s plenty about this latest small SUV from Ford that will put a smile on your face, not least the ability to ring the changes on its two tone paint options.
In fact, so successful has the pre-launch been that dealers were inundated with orders before buyers had the chance to drive them. But that hasn’t stopped Ford continuing with its launch offer of a £500 list price reduction and the latest EcoSport is now included in Ford’s continuing scrappage programme, with the promise of another £2,000 off in exchange for qualifying older trade-ins.
Helping attract the many buyers is the new ST-Line with unique Ford Performance-inspired exterior detail. The interior is equally tasty with its special ST-Line features, among them a leather-trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel and partial leather seats featuring ecological suede inserts made from recycled polyester that makes Alcantara look very yesterday.
People who get serious about their SUVs will be pleased to know that Ford now brings its Intelligent All Wheel Drive to the party along with a choice of 1.5 litre diesel engines and an automatic gearbox on the 125 PS 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine.
Intelligent All Wheel Drive measures the car’s grip and adjusts torque delivery up to 50/50 between the front and rear wheels in under 20 milliseconds – twenty times quicker than a blink. The system seamlessly transfers torque between all four wheels to give a more secure footing in slippery conditions. And we know it’s a system that works because it’s already in the Ford range on the Kuga and Edge, Ford’s larger SUVs, as well as Mondeo, Galaxy, and S-MAX.
It makes sense with this all-new model to move production to Europe, especially as Ford has ambitions to grow its SUV sales considerably. The fact that EcoSport’s larger sister model, the Kuga, became the UK’s best-selling SUV in February underlines how serious the maker is in hitting the mark.
The EcoSport can hardly be a better introduction to the world of SUVs as far as Ford is concerned. It has the high-riding stance that buyers demand to get a better view of the world around them, a feature that’s delightful on country jaunts as you can see over hedges but also vitally useful in heavy traffic when you get a good view of what’s going on ahead.
Traffic turned out to be no problem for the 140 PS 1.0 litre petrol-engined EcoSport we borrowed from Edwards Ford in Salisbury and even with little more than 300 miles on the clock when we picked it up it felt full of urge. Even better, it was soon showing an average fuel consumption of 40mpg without even getting into a longer, non-stop trip, showing just how efficient these small Ford petrol engines have become, rewarded by multiple wins in the International Engine of the Year awards.
The six speed manual gearbox was slick, too, with the shift pattern laid out so that reverse is next to the driver where it’s easier to engage. With a light action to the clutch, driving in traffic was not tiring and once out on the open road the car fair bowled along without any sign of running out of puff or needing a down change on long climbs – hardly surprising as this engine has diesel-like maximum torque revs. For those who like an even easier life, the auto box on the 125 PS engine will be the answer.
Clear information is laid out in front of the driver thanks to an instrument display that can be configured to give the information individual drivers prefer. There’s also a large “floating” touchscreen to access major and secondary functions plus the Ford SYNC 3 system that responds to voice commands for real hands-free communication with both the car and the outside world through a paired smartphone.
Boot space is good, with a maximum 1,238 litres of space that’s enhanced by a seat that not only folds but also tumbles forward and accessed via a side-hinged tailgate with a “secret” handle in the offside light cluster. That clever seat still has ISOFix mountings, though, making this a very practical family car that’s also fun and stylish
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Ford EcoSport 1.0 140PS ST-Line
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 11.8 secs
Top speed: 116 mph
PS: 140 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 180 Nm @ 1500 rpm
…and your wallet…
Price: £20,695 (before offers)
Combined: 54.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 119 g/km
Best bits: top-class compact SUV