Calling the EcoSport a compact SUV isn’t really fair. The car is essentially a crossover. It’s got the road presence of a SUV, the practicality of a hatchback and the space of an entry-level sedan. The car was launched in June last year and managed to become an overnight sensation recording well over 50,000 bookings. It’s keen pricing(which started at around Rs 5.60 lakh at launch) was a major attraction, since it provided a viable alternative to established hatchbacks in our SUV-crazed market. All this excitement also meant a six month long waiting period in most parts of the country with Ford dealers refusing to take fresh bookings around October last year. But that enthusiasm was largely for the base versions of the car which looked like solid value and accounted for over 50 percent of the bookings. Along with the 1-litre EcoBoost petrol and 1.5-litre TDCi diesel Ford had also introduced a 1.5-litre petrol with an automatic gearbox option. We’ve managed to get our hands on that car here and find out if its worth the extra cash or should you just stick with the cheaper manual versions.
The EcoSport is based on the same platform as the Fiesta sedan. Like most hatchbacks the EcoSport is under 4-metres in length and like most SUVs has a generous ground clearance of 200mm. This gives it a unique stance. The short overhangs and small quarter glass windows give it plenty of personality as well. There are smart designing touches as well. The spare wheel mounted in the middle of the rear door is one as well as the hatch door opening button, which is neatly integrated into the tail lamp. The front-end is dominated by the large chunky grille and the swept back headlamps, which give the compact SUV a bold and dynamic face. The 16-inch alloys and the wide 205mm-section tyres add to the SUV looks as well.
It’s easy to like the EcoSport’s cabin immediately. Drivers will love the high-set seats which offer a commanding driving position. You can slide onto the driver’s seat, rather than having to stoop, and you get a good view of the road ahead. The dashboard is similar to the Fiesta’s, but while most of the major controls fall easily to hand, the plethora of buttons can be confusing for most users. But Ford has done a good job with providing plenty of cubbyholes throughout the cabin. There is plenty of space all across.
The EcoSport isn’t very wide, so squeezing five adults in is a challenge. There’s plenty of space for four, including generous head-and legroom. The large glass area means that everyone gets a good view out. Boot space is competitive at 346 litres. The back seats can be flipped to enhance boot space to 705 litres. The top-end Titanium version gets lots of goodies like steering mounted audio controls, rake and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, automatic climate control, multiple airbags and driver’s seat height adjustment amongst other things.
Engine, transmission and performance
The EcoSport automatic comes with the same 1.5-litre petrol shared with the Fiesta. The engine develops 110bhp of power and 140Nm of peak torque. The six-speed dual clutch automatic performs best when you don’t hustle it through the gears. It’s best for long distance cruising but don’t expect it to deliver power in a hurry when you push pedal to the metal. The gearbox takes a second or two to summon the engine for the much needed power when you want to overtake that slow moving bus or truck up ahead. So, in essence this car is ideal for bumper-to-bumper city traffic.
If you want spirited performance then sticking the gearshift into the ‘S’ mode is ideal. There are small buttons placed on the side of the gear lever to manually shift the gears. In this mode the car holds onto the gears a bit longer and you get much spirited acceleration. However, as the revs mount, the engine gets noisy.
Ride, handling and safety
Though it doesn’t have the agility of the Fiesta, on which it’s based, but it is still the best mini-SUV to drive.
No rival can match the way it steers or corners, body roll is almost non-existent and it feels stable on the highway. It also effectively deals with potholes and bumps in the road, so comfort is another huge asset. The engine is silent for most part and doesn’t get coarse even when the revs rise. The road noises are isolated well too and the cabin remains relatively calm.
The top-end Titanium EcoSport comes loaded with safety kit. You get side and curtain airbags along with the driver and passenger airbag. Traction control and ABS helps the driver get out of tricky situations as well. While the hill launch assist stops the car from rolling downhill when you remove your foot from the brake pedal, giving you just enough time to smoothly accelerate away.
The EcoSport offers good looks, an involving drive, comes with a practical and spacious cabin and a refined engine as well. Though we wish it had a keener gearbox, the comfortable ride and adept handling means that it’s hard to resist the charms of this car. If you are in the market for an automatic and don’t want that hatchback, then we’d recommend the EcoSport to you.
Although the EcoSport automatic doesn’t have any direct competition at the moment, the grapevine suggests that Renault will soon bring out an automatic version of the Duster. But we are still to figure whether the Duster auto will come with petrol or diesel power.