When Ford India first unveiled the EcoSport back in 2012, the entire nation took notice. It came with all the SUV credentials (Read: macho styling, chunky tyres, high ground clearance and a tailgate mounted wheel) while falling under the crucial sub-4m mark. The rest, as we know, is history.
Half a decade after spearheading the compact SUV trend in India, the EcoSport is back in the game in an all-new avatar. The competition now is fierce, what with the Maruti Vitara Brezza selling like hot cakes and Tata impressing everyone with the hugely capable Nexon. Naturally, the new EcoSport isn’t taking this lightly – it’s got a few neat tricks up its sleeve. Let’s find out about each in great detail.
On first impressions, the new EcoSport appears a lot more flamboyant especially when compared to the car it replaces. That new front-end design is rather bold and divides opinions, as we found during our first drive in Goa. Make of it what you will, but it’s certainly not lacking road presence.
Upfront, the EcoSport looks entirely different – it no longer gets a twin grille setup. Instead, the front is dominated by the large trapezoidal grille with the Blue Oval logo, pretty much like the Ford’s global SUV line-up. The sculpted hood features a wider central dome and the headlights, too, are larger than before for a more commanding presence. The only other design change is apparent as you move onto the sides – here you will find the new 17-inch alloy wheels which frankly look brilliant. The large alloys coupled with low profile rubber make the EcoSport look genuinely sporty.
This midlife update isn’t just a cosmetic makeover but a full-on development over the old EcoSport – a fact that is apparent the moment you step inside the cabin. Everything from the dashboard and the dials to the steering wheel is completely new – only the dash top and the gear lever seem to have been carried over. Nonetheless, we are happy to report that the new dash design isn’t as cluttered as before and is in fact rather smart looking. The biggest highlight comes in the form of the 8-inch touchscreen display that’s been placed closer to the driver’s line of sight. Featuring Ford’s infotainment system called SYNC 3, it’s surprisingly easy to operate and the UI is crisp too. It also comes with in-car connectivity systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In typical Ford fashion, the cabin is home to a mix of grey, black and silver materials – some feeling more premium than others. While the overall quality is on par with the segment, some of the plastics aren’t exactly well finished – the opening for the cubby hole around the steering column and the glove box is poorly finished. Storage is adequately addressed with two cup holders and decent-sized door pockets, although the glove-box is a touch too small. The EcoSport also gets a centrally located media bin to stow a smartphone while charging. Ford says it’s designed to accommodate a phone as large as an iPhone 7 Plus.
Outward visibility remains unchanged which means the EcoSport is still slightly more difficult to navigate than its rivals. The high-set dash, thick A-pillars and a small rear glass seriously limit overall visibility. Thankfully, the front seats are now wider and feature softer cushioning. While there’s a great deal of headroom and lateral support, the passenger side knee room isn’t as generous as the driver side – the centre console is angled more on the passenger side and fouls with their knees.
At the rear, you will find a better sense of legroom thanks to the scooped out front seats - they do work and liberate more knee room. The headroom, meanwhile, is plentiful as always and the softer cushioning is great, too. The rear bench has good amount of contours, but seating three at the rear is still a squeeze.
Ford India has really upped the game in terms of features. Besides the usual stuff like climate control, height adjustable driver’s seat, electric mirrors and alloy wheels, you get a lot of niceties like projector headlamps, leather seats, daytime running LEDs, 6 airbags, ABS, tire pressure monitoring system and that brilliant 8-inch infotainment system.
What about from behind that all-new steering wheel? For our first impressions we got to sample the all-new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol motor dubbed ‘Dragon’. Replacing the old EcoBoost turbocharged engine, this new naturally aspirated motor is coupled to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters in our test car. The engine makes 123bhp and 150Nm of torque and while these outputs look alright, the EcoSport is a heavy car. This puts demand on every horsepower and Nm. Ultimately, this three-cylinder motor/auto box combo is impressive in the city, with good low-end response from the motor and smooth shifts from the torque converter. This engine is surprisingly refined, too, as long as you don’t floor it hard.
The EcoSport with this powertrain is no driver’s car. Flat out, progress is hardly thrilling as the engine struggles to pull the car’s heft – this is down to the weak midrange. That said, this engine pulls surprisingly hard at the top-end. Similarly, the 6-speed torque converter is no DCT – though the upshifts are fairly quick, it’s constantly hunting for the right gear, something that’s unnerving when going through the corners flat out. Overall, it’s a decent, no-nonsense auto box that does a good job of adding convenience to your daily drives.
The old EcoSport was often praised for its planted feel, and while it rode comfortably it erred towards firm. This resulted in a car with good body control that definitely put the ‘Sport’ into its name. For the 2017 model, Ford claims they have worked on optimizing the suspension bushes although we would like to add that this new car rides more or less the same as its predecessor. Over a mixed array of surfaces, we found the ride and handling to be about what you would expect from the Blue Oval. There is still a hint of firmness to the way this thing rides over bad roads, but the upshot is that you get a car that holds its line brilliantly through the corners and remains composed at high speeds. Similarly, the steering feels just as direct and quick at initial turn-in despite being worked on for a softer bite.
|Variant||Titanium Plus AT|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||123bhp @6500rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||150Nm @4500rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||52|
|Tire pressure monitoring system||Yes|
|8-inch touchscreen display||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||Titanium Plus AT||ZDI+|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||123bhp @6500rpm||89bhp@4000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||150Nm @4500rpm||200Nm@1750rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||52||48|
|Tyre size||215/50R17||215/60 R16|
So that’s the new EcoSport. Improved on several counts including a far more premium looking interior, more features and an urban friendly drivetrain, the new EcoSport seems to have made an impressive comeback. What’s more, the bold new design also gives it a lot more substance and road presence.
On the downside, the engine’s overall refinement is undermined by the lack of mid-range torque while a more responsive gearbox would have made the EcoSport a lot nicer to drive. All in all, in the hotly contested market of compact SUVs, the segment starter and now improved Ford EcoSport continues to be an excellent option. It’s certainly your only option if you happen to plan on getting a petrol automatic compact SUV.