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Nissan Terrano vs Ford EcoSport - Psuedo SUV face-off

Snapshot: Before Hyundai Creta comes and unsettles the current compact SUV segment, we take a quick look at the two very popular options - Nissan Terrano and Ford EcoSport - and find out which is the best among the two.

While full-sized SUVs have come a long way in maintaining a balance between on-road driveability and off-roading skills, they still seem a bit less capable in comparison to the relatively new breed of crossovers. Sitting on the fine line between bloated hatchbacks (or hatchbacks on stilts, if the former title sounds a bit derogatory) and proper SUVs, these crossovers – the Nissan Terrano and the Ford EcoSport here – present a good case for themselves. In our short rendezvous with the two, we try to find out if they offer anything that would please not just the SUV lover but also someone who doesn’t like his/her car to handle like a boat – something that SUVs are infamous for. And of course, which of the two is a better buy.

Let’s start with the shorter and stubbier Ford EcoSport. Based on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta, the EcoSport measures less than 4 meters in length, comes with 16-inch wheels, and offers more than 200mm of ground clearance. The overall design is polarising – some like it and some don’t – but that has helped the EcoSport stay unique for a long time now, thanks especially to the boot-mounted spare wheel, the gaping grille, and an overall SUV-like stance.

On the inside, it offers a good looking cabin, and offers enough space for five and a few suitcases. Getting in and out isn’t a problem, but the view all-around is marred by a thick A-pillar and small-ish aperture that the rear windscreen offers.

And while the unavailability of an AWD (all-wheel drive) version precludes the Ford EcoSport from being an SUV, the wide range of powertrain options ensures that there’s something for everyone. The range starts at a 1.5-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine, followed by a diesel powerplant of the same capacity, and a 1-litre turbocharged petrol or ‘EcoBoost’ as Ford calls it. Gearbox choices include 5-speed manual for the three engines, but you can also get the EcoSport with a 6-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox (only available with the 1.5-litre petrol), which makes the EcoSport very easy to drive, and thus strengthens its everyday usability.

The Nissan Terrano is a rebadged (and slightly different to look at) version of the successful Renault Duster. And while the changes/updates are only skin deep, the Terrano with its signature Nissan grille, a different set of head and tail lamps, revised interior, and a few other changes, ensures that it stays distinguished from its Romanian cousin, the Duster. On the whole, it looks pretty good, especially while maintaining a design that neither looks neither OTT nor un-innovative.

The Terrano too offers three engine choices – a 1.6-litre petrol; a 1.5-litre 85PS diesel; and a more powerful version of the same 1.5-litre diesel engine that makes 110PS. Except the base diesel which comes mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, both petrol and the 110PS diesel come with a 6-speed transmission. And like the EcoSport, the Terrano isn’t offered with an all-wheel drive version, either, which is a misery since the very same AWD system makes the Duster AWD so much more capable.

In comparison to the EcoSport, the Terrano offers more room for the passengers as well as the luggage - the Terrano offers a boot space of 475 litres in comparison to the EcoSport's 346 litres (both with the rear bench in place). It’s also a 5-seater, but the rear AC vent hampers the legroom for the middle passenger on the rear bench. But since the Nissan is wider than the compact Ford, the cabin feels roomier. View from the driver’s seat is much better than in the EcoSport. But what lets the Terrano terribly down is the cabin design and quality. It feels cheap, and far from the EcoSport, which isn’t only pleasing to the eye, but also feels slightly more premium.

Get behind the wheel, and the Ford EcoSport welcomes you with very light controls, a responsive steering, and the kind ease that you would associate with a midsize hatchback, but without necessarily bottoming out on every single pothole. In fact, the EcoSport can handle almost everything that the urban environment throws at it – be it less than perfect roads or beautifully paved tarmac. It’s ready to change directions, too, which becomes handling windy roads fun.

Take it out on a spin and it feels nice. The engines, except the base petrol, are torquey enough to pull cleanly from standstill, and achieving triple digit speeds isn’t a huge task, either. The diesel engine (91PS;204Nm) is the most popular choice, and there’s no reason for it to not be. The cabin is isolated so you don’t hear a lot of that diesel clatter, and it handles most scenarios quite well. The 1-litre EcoBoost (125PS; 170Nm) is a totally different engine altogether: it’s way more spirited and with turbocharging, it offers a decent compromise between fuel efficiency and outright performance. Although not as pleasing to drive as VW/Audi’s turbo-petrols or the ones offered by FIAT, it needs to be noted that at 999cc, the EcoBoost is the smallest among them, and quite talented given its size. The 1.5-litre petrol is the oldest of the lot, and sadly, it’s neither very interesting to drive nor very economical. The optional 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (available only on the 1.5-litre petrol) makes life very easy, especially in bumper to bumper traffic.

Where the EcoBoost lags is on the highway. No, the engines aren’t underpowered or anything, but the way it tackles corners isn’t really confidence-inspiring. Body roll exists and in comparison to the Terrano, it doesn’t feel as stable. The Terrano not only feels more stable at high speeds, it surprisingly gobbles potholes with equal ease. But if you’re looking for quick maneuvers and three-point turns, then the EcoSport is a clear winner.

On the road, the Terrano feels a bit more robust, and that gels well with its ability to do long distance trips without breaking a sweat. The controls aren’t as light as the one on the EcoSport, which might be a concern if you deal with a lot of stop-n-go traffic. Among the range of engines, it’s the 110PS diesel that makes the most sense. There is enough torque to pull you out of difficult situations (read slush, although the 2WD drivetrain is surely going to be a problem if you decide on doing moderate to serious off-roading) and enough power to maintain highway speeds. The 6-speed gearbox ensures that the engine isn’t too strained, but the engine picks up pace from almost any gear, which is certainly a good thing for hyper-milers.

Ride, as mentioned above, is class leading, and that without spoiling the handling bit is a feat in itself. There’s some understeer if you stab the accelerator mid-corner, but nothing that a trained right foot and a slight change in steering angle cannot deal with!

Time for the conclusion, isn’t it! Okay, then.

Nissan has positioned the Terrano a little above the Duster. Prices start at Rs 10.13 lakh for the base petrol version, and go all the way up to Rs 12.91 lakh for the top-end petrol. The diesel variants start at Rs 10.14 lakh for the base 85PS version while the top-spec 110PS Terrano is available at Rs 12.60 lakh. The Ford EcoSport starts at about Rs 6.75 lakh for the base petrol, Rs 7.88 lakh for base diesel, and the EcoBoost at Rs 9.14 lakh.  The range concludes with the top-spec diesel, priced a smidgen above Rs 10 lakhs.

If you look at the above mentioned ex-showroom prices (registration and insurance will cost you extra), the Terrano is about Rs 2 lakhs more expensive than the EcoSport. That is a lot of money, even if you consider what the Terrano offers above the EcoSport. And while the former wins by a very small margin, it’s the EcoSport that offers more value for money, albeit less stability and driving pleasure. Between the two it’s hard to choose because neither is the EcoSport a standout nor does the Terrano prove its case well.

And with introduction of vehicles like the Hyundai Creta and Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, the battle is going to be a lot more intense. What must be noted, though, is that it’s still the Renault Duster (which actually led the compact SUV/sub-full size SUV segment back in 2012) makes more sense. It matches the Terrano in terms of space and driveability, but even eclipses it, with a more capable AWD version.

 Among the two, if you’re looking at something good at doing everyday urban chores, something that could replace your ageing hatchback, then get the Ford EcoSport. But if you want something that could handle outstation trips and bit of off-roading, the Terrano makes for a better option.

But in case you're inclined towards buying a full-sized SUV, you can have a look at our Tata Safari vs Mahindra Scorpio comparison.

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