Ford EcoSport Review: Urban Survivor
Compact SUV is a segment which is fast catching up. Every car maker wants to be a part of this bandwagon as this segment calls for special tax benefits which the manufacturer plans to pass on to the customers.
The EcoSport was shown at the last Auto Expo in Delhi 2 years back and since then it has been a yawning wait for all. Renault has been milking this scene with its Duster with staggering sales figures. Following the Duster is Mahindra Quanto which has not been very successful in churning numbers. Mahindra is believed to be working on the S101 which would take on the compact SUV segment with surprise.
Ford seems to finally have made up their mind to launch the EcoSport with official bookings starting from 5th June. Powering this urban SUV will be three engines. Interestingly, out of these engines, two are petrol and one is diesel. The EcoSport will be offered in the award winning 1 Litre EcoBoost engine which claims to match a 1.6 litre engine in performance and at the same time delivering greater efficiency. We jumped at the very moment we were invited to drive the EcoSport in Goa. Is it worth the wait? Find out in different sections of this review.
I remember the first time I saw the EcoSport it was on a podium at the Auto Expo. Amidst the hustling crowd who were extremely busy getting one glimpse of the car, I finally made my way near the car. Before I could start seeing the vehicle properly, a gentleman requested me to click him with the car to which I was not left with any escape ideas.
So in Goa, I had made up my mind that I will be clicking only the car and nothing else (apart from the beautiful beaches). Before anyone among us could vote for their favorite color to shoot in, Ford decided to be rational and arranged for uniformly colored orange cars. Our car was numbered 6. Please note that the crashed 6 number car whose images are floating online was not ours as we were extremely careful with it.
There were thousands of photos which were floating online which included test mules camouflaged in different forms and colors. When I saw the EcoSport in flesh, the first word that I uttered was “Small”. It looks smaller than the one shown in images. I had a theory before seeing the car of it having looks earlier than its time but then in real it is not true. The EcoSport looks like a jazzy and sporty SUV. If the Renault Duster is a matured looking car, the EcoSport looks like a party ride. The Mahindra Quanto looks like a …. hmmmm….moving on.
The front face of the EcoSport looks very much like a hippopotamus with a broad multi layered trapezoidal grille with sleek headlights on top. The face gives the EcoSport a family face with all its international models. A very close resemblance with the international Fiesta can be seen. The front hood is nicely chiseled and has a wide stance. The lines on the hood are very prominent and flow till the mid line between the headlights. The hood and the bumper are split by a very slim section and the Ford logo looks nicely placed in between.
Chrome garnish is evident on different sections to give it a premium look. The radiator grille, hood line and the fog lamps are engulfed in chrome. Laser cut headlamps are very sleek and it spreads from the front face all the way to the silhouette.
The beltline is very muscular. Adding to the aerodynamics of the EcoSport are the sectional lines flowing from the hood to the A pillar. This design also claims of the lowest coefficient of drag in its segment which is 0.371. Just below the A Pillar, a sharp front quarter panel begins the window line. It has a very tight and sharp glasshouse. The ORVMs are planted firmly on the front door. The ORVMs have a 2 tone finish with the upper section being body colored and the rear is in black plastic.
In almost all modern day SUVs, it is about looking massive even though it is not one in real. In the EcoSport too, the wheel arches are flared to give it a bulky look. The flares combined with the wider stance of the car are an attempt to make it look bigger than normal. This styling looks good only till the time it is in its elegant best as and when it crosses its balance, it looks ugly and out of proportion.
A smart wedge line runs across the side profile. In order to make the EcoSport look a go-anywhere-kinds, it has a ground clearance of 200mm. The running board is finished in dark plastic. This is a very nice thing as over a period on conventional cars, the paint begins to chip off with the accumulated muck. The alloy wheel design looks striking as well.
The C-Pillar has to be the best design curve-link. It very stylishly connects the roofline with the body. Ford designers claim that this particular pillar was tweaked and re-tweaked several times to make it aerodynamic. The entire design has been made to negate the imbalanced wind forces. Instead of cutting though the forces, the design helps the wind flow across them without disturbing the drive factor.
Rear sees the SUV claiming spare wheel. The design of the EcoSport looks balanced with the spare wheel like in case of the Duster which looks better sans it. Apart from aesthetics and macho appeal, the tail mounted spare wheel also accounts for saving cargo space.
The rear profile looks very exciting and happening. This one looks generations better than a Mahindra Quanto, which looks like a last minute job. The tail door release button has been smartly camouflaged with the rear tail lamp design. So the EcoSport looks vibrant and fresh. It does not compete against the Duster as both cars have different characters. While the Duster might appeal to the stable minded, the EcoSport is more of an enthusiast’s choice.
A lot of thinking has gone behind the interiors of EcoSport. The designers have seeked inspiration from varied sources. Even a small thing like the fabrics of the seats has been worked upon individually depending on the different series of variants. The Ambienete series gets a theme of “Techtronic” to give it a high-tech look. The fabric used in this series is called Patna. Similarly, on the “Trend” series it is called Beijin wherein the cloth has a three dimensional feel. On the Titanium variant, the cloth fabric gets the “Clay Art”.
The front row seats are nice and comfortable. Thankfully, there is an arm-rest for the driver which is a superb support on long journeys. With the tall dashboard, there is enough knee room for the driver and co-driver. The seats also get adjustable lumbar support. Ford claims that the seats were designed in such a way that the hips get more support to make the ride extremely comfortable for the driver. I agree, as normally the lower portion of the seat is flat and does not give adequate support.
The second row seats can be inclined and adjusted which makes it a segment first. However the second row is not as spacious as the knees begin to rub the front row seats. The visibility for the rear seated passengers is not very convenient cause of the climbing window line. The under thigh support for rear passengers needs more cushioning.
The upside of the interior lines is it is very dynamic. The edgy exterior look flows inside too and can be seen on the central panel or the prism shaped AC vents. The buttons feel and are very easily accessible. The colors used in the trim are primarily black and greys. It has silver and aluminum accents everywhere. The downside of the panels is the quality of plastics is not too pleasing. They look quirky. Agreeably, the lines are better than Duster but then the built quality looks weak.
The instrumental panel is very stylish with all the digits and fonts giving an athletic approach. It is very aptly illuminated. Love the styling of the needles and the cool blue background lights. The instrumental panel has been split into four different sections which show various information.
With the new EcoSport, Ford also debuts SYNC which is a after product of combined efforts between Ford and Microsoft. The SYNC helps control the different entertainment as well as mobile options via voice commands. The SYNC can be operated via controls mounted on the steering also. The novelty of SYNC in not just mobile and entertainment connectivity but also a life saving feature known as Emergency Assist. This feature is an industry first and is complimentary for the life span of the car.
The Emergency Assist paired with SYNC makes use of the mobile which is connected through Bluetooth to call the emergency services. It gives the exact coo-ordinates to the operator and sends an automated message informing the team about the crash. The Emergency Assist cuts the fuel supply. Also, it gives the driver an option of continuing the call. When we asked questions about reliability of this, Ford assured us that they have tied up with GVK for emergency services.
Recently, during the media drive a bunch of guys crashed an EcoSport cause of their enthusiastic driving. Seeing the damaged vehicle, it’s commendable how every occupant escaped the crash without any bruise. The occupants vouched for the Emergency Assist as the GVK ambulance arrived at the scene in a short notice.
Utility wise the EcoSport makes a smart statement with its glovebox which can hold 6 beverage cans and keep them cool too. The central console has twin cupholders with a 12V power outlet. Immediately under the front passenger seat is a drawer which can hold a laptop. There are bottle holders on all door pockets.
So the EcoSport looks like a feature rich compact SUV with a bunch of segment and industry first options. Mundane features like keyless entry, Power Start button, rear parking sensors etc along with convenient and smart options make it the most lucrative car. This statement will hold true only if Ford decides to price this one suitably. So the interiors get mixed reactions.
How does the most anticipated compact SUV perform on Desi streets? I was clearly thrilled and filled with excitement as finally this ends the long wait to drive the EcoSport. The car may look smaller at outside but then the driver seating is tall and convenient. It felt as if the front section has two different zones for the driver and passenger.
Now known to all, the EcoSport would be available in three engine trims which include 1.5L petrol and diesel engines along with the 1L EcoBoost engine. Since 1.5L is the clear winner in popularity as the Duster and Quanto too have it, we expected our test car to have the same. All hopes went flying by the window as we realized it’s plonked with the 1L EcoBoost engine.
A night earlier to the drive, we were given a comprehensive and detailed explanation about the 1.0L EcoBoost engine and its perks. The company claims that this small engine which can fit on an A4 size paper and can be carried in a small suitcase equals 1.6 L petrol engines in performance. Call me orthodox but then this was difficult for me to believe it as I belong to the old school thought where strength of a vehicle is designated by the “CCs” it displaces.
The EcoBoost engine breaks all such myths and brings a lot on the table. This one is the smallest engine in its class and Ford’s first three cylinder engine in the country. It produces a power output of 125PS and a peak torque of 170Nm. The company claims that the EcoBoost offers 8% more power than a 1.6L diesel engine and 7% more torque than a 1.6L petrol engine.
To negate the demerits of a conventional 3 cylinder engine, Ford has intentionally unbalanced the pulley and flywheel with counteracting weights to act against the shaking forces of the engine and drive the energy in a less sensitive direction. The engine mounts uses also use the same theme.
Among other accolades, the cast iron block of the engine helps warm up the unit faster thereby cutting the warm-up period and saving as much as 50% energy used in it. The split cooling system has individual thermostats for the cylinder head. The engine drive belts are immersed in oil to make it a quieter and efficient engine.
All about the EcoBoost engine seems fantastic on paper but then how does it react in real time conditions? This engine is not a fun engine to begin with. The drag in its performance is evident. In the initial rpms, the car just refuses to pull. The pull felt on the engine however decreases as it climbs higher rpms. Till 2500 rpm, it acts a commuter but post that it begins to get more active and responsive. Unlike in the Duster where you get a sweet noise of the turbocharger spooling, in the EcoSport it is more of the three cylinders scream which is not disappointing.
The torque curve becomes a plateau post 1500rpm and it goes all the way till 4500 rpm. These figures are helpful while climbing terrains as well as in traffic conditions as it completely shun the use of gear shifts. The 5 speed manual transmission is very smooth and works seamlessly.
The 1L EcoBoost engine got exhausted on highways and the lag was strong but then in bumper to bumper Mumbai traffic conditions it will be a pleasure. The car does not feel its size in traffic conditions so maneuvering through the traffic is not an issue at all. The noise cancellation is superb with amazing noise deadening insulation throughout the body. More than 200 engineers in Duston, U.K. and Germany have worked together to make this small pint of an engine act smooth and refined.
Other than the EcoBoost, there is the 1.5-litre TiVCT 4 cylinder petrol engine which churns out 112 PS power at 6300 rpm and a peak torque of 140Nm at 4400 rpm. Diesel seekers get an option of 1.5-litre TDCi intercooled turbocharged diesel engine. This engine produces a peak power of 91PS at 3750 rpm and a torque of 204Nm between 2000 to 2750 rpm. The TiVCT engine has an optional 6 speed automatic transmission option.
The EcoSport is an Urban offering in the SUV market. It is what a Honda CRV or a Mutsubishi Outlander is in the premium segment. It is not for the hard core off roaders but more for the occasional soft roaders. The tall ground clearance of 200mm is fantastic for Indian road conditions so the moon craters won’t be felt much. It has an approach angle of 25 degrees and a departure angle of 35 degrees. The EcoSport also claims to have an ability to wade through 550mms of water.
To sum up the good, bad and ugly of EcoSport, the EcoBoost 1-litre engine is not a fun to drive motor. It gets exhausted on long stretches of roads. The transmission is smooth and the engine scores more on torque than power. It is an ideal configuration for city driving where performance is minimal.
The good rather fantasic bits about EcoSport are its handling and suspension. Ford cars are known for this and the EcoSport does a fab job too. It has no body roll. The reason of this is its aerodynamic design approach.
Suspension setup is capable of taking vigorous bruises on the street. It is inclined on the softer side with sufficient dampening. The only issue faced was during high speed braking where the bite was not sufficient.We did a small off-road stint with it and were mighty impressed with its ground clearance and suspension. We got a real time mileage of 11Kmpl during our test run.
|Engine Vaiant||1.0 Petrol MT|
|Power in PS/RPM||125/6300|
|Torque in NM/RPM||170/1400-4500|
|Ground Clearance in MM||200|
|Gross Vehicle Weight in Kg||1700|
|Front Power windows||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Driver seat height adjust||No||No||No||Yes|
|Tilt adjust steering||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Steering mounted audio control||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Bluetooth phone interface||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Intelligent Central locking||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Rear wash and wiper||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Dual front airbag||No||No||No||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Engine Vaiant||1.5 Diesel TDCi||1.5 dCi||1.5 mCR100|
|Power in PS/RPM||91/3750||110/3900||100/3750|
|Torque in NM/RPM||204/2000-2750||248/2250||240/1600-2800|
|Transmission||5 MT||5 MT||5 MT|
|Ground Clearance in MM||200||205||180|
|Gross Vehicle Weight in Kg||1700||1781||1640|
Ecosport’s history goes back to 2003 when it was launched in South America. The vehicle managed so tell more that 700000 units. In India, the EcoSport will be produced at Ford’s Maraimalai Nagar plant near Chennai.
Exporting the car from the same facility is also on the cards. The company wanted to make sure that the capacity is sufficient to produce large numbers for which they invested USD 142 million. It promises to be a global product for Indian consumers. The Ecosport indeed is a feature rich urban SUV.
The Good, Bad and the Ugly: The good factor about the EcoSport is the way it looks. The aggressive stance and the future ready looks would really click well with the urban users. Razor sharp lining and hidden camouflages make it a dynamic looking SUV and a strong place of Ecosport scoring against competition.
The ride quality and suspensions perform fantastic. The suspension setup is on the softer side which takes on uneven surfaces decently. It has a good water wading capacity. Inside, the interior lines are nice. SYNC, which operates via voice controls, is a beneficial feature. This one can read text messages, download phonebook and understand voice commands to play the desired music of a particular artist. Stowage capacity is also very useful with smart holders at different places.
The Emergency Assistance is a superb feature and should be made mandatory in all cars. As soon the vehicle detects collision, the SYNC using the paired phone dials Emergency Service giving the operator an automated message as well as the coordinates of crashed location. The feature raises the level of safety offered in India. It is astonishing how Ford offered in EcoSport and none of the premium car makers offer it in their high-end products.
The bad factor is the 1L Ecoboost petrol engine lacks the performance of a bigger block. Ford may claim the merits of a 1L over 1.5L but then it just gets exhausted on empty patches. It is a smooth and refined engine but then the lag is evident and more so during overtaking. However, we assume that the same won’t be an issue in the 1.5L Diesel engine which we would be reviewing soon.
Another factor which is scoring not in favour of Ford is the prolonged delay in launch. Since it was shown at the Auto Expo there was already hype built around the model. This was second by testing the car in different cities in India. Furthermore was when Ford decided to go aggressive and test the car without any cladding. Since many were waiting for the EcoSport, they had put their decision to buy a new car on hold. This delay period has confused lot of buyers wherein the Duster raked in some more numbers.
Ford India maintains that that EcoSport is well within its launch schedule. The company wants to make sure that the vehicle has gone through its sufficient tenure of vigorous training before they launch in the market. The delay in launch might not seem fair to some but then from Ford’s perspective they don’t want to repeat their earlier mistakes. The EcoSport is an extremely important car for the American car maker and to make sure it is received well they are not taking any chances. The only savior to this would be sweet and smart pricing of the EcoSport. With the launch date nearing, the level on anticipations has gone up. We hope 11th June 2013 the launch date of Ford EcoSport makes it a super value for money deal.