2017 Ford Ecosport first look: Reconfigured for a better drive
The Ford EcoSport has always been a great all-round car, and though it may not have been the first-ever sub-4m SUV, it’s certainly the one that fuelled the meteoric rise to popularity of the cars now known as crossovers. In fact, its first real competitors, three long years later, are the 2016 Maruti Suzuki Brezza and the 2017 Tata Nexon. And yes, despite numerous small updates over the years, the plucky little Ford has lost its top spot from the glory days when it had the market all to itself. Now, however, it’s time for the much-awaited facelift.
On the inside, the new touch-screen unit has a free-standing design and is placed nicely within reach, although perhaps a bit too bolt-upright for our liking. The upshot is that it doesn’t catch any reflections. The latest Sync 3 interface, first introduced in the Endeavour SUV as an upgrade from Sync 2, is one of the slickest in this price range, and nothing else, not even Hyundai’s newest system, can compare. The graphics are sharp, the responses smartphone-smooth, and the frame rate, high. It does miss out on satellite navigation, but it gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In fact, wherever there are new controls or touchpoints—the knobs for the touch screen, the Figo-sourced AC controls, the oddly low-mounted central AC vents, the handbrake, the indicator stalks and the door-mounted lock-unlock buttons—it’s clear that quality has taken a step up. All these bits feel nice to the touch and operate with an expensive-feeling crispness.
The EcoSport has a new petrol engine, boldly named the Dragon. Rated at 123hp, it is very close to the turbocharged 1.0 EcoBoost motor, which is rated at 125hp, although the torque figure of 150Nm is understandably lower by a significant 20Nm compared to the latter.
The Dragon, a massive improvement over the old 1.5 Sigma engine it replaces, impresses instantly. What strikes you immediately is its refinement. Another revelation is the engine’s superb drivability and the way it pulls from low revs. The carmaker claims the new model is 7% more fuel-efficient than the previous 1.5 engine.
This petrol motor is available with either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The five-speed manual is still a bit imprecise, though the clutch is light. The automatic option is an old-school six-speed torque converter. This gearbox is not the quickest to react to pedal inputs or shifts, but purely as an automatic gearbox, it does the job just fine. This car also comes fitted with paddle-shifters in case you want to shift to a semi-manual mode.
The EcoSport’s diesel engine continues to be the 1,498cc four-cylinder unit, making 100hp and 205Nm of torque; it retains the same characteristics—nice and smooth, with a linear power delivery. However, like the petrol variant, the diesel’s five-speed gearbox isn’t smooth or effortless, demanding a bit of push to slot into the gates. The clutch, on the other hand, is well-weighted.
Outright space in the back seat was never one of the EcoSport’s strengths, thanks partly to a relatively long bonnet that eats up much of its 3,998mm length. However, Ford has raised the seat and used the car’s height to maximize interior space; the bonus is that you get a nice view out of the front. Following customer feedback, the cushions have been re-engineered to be a bit softer, and they’re better contoured.
On the go, the steering is as precise as ever, and perfectly weighted. It’s light enough while parking and has a reassuring heft to it at speeds. Also, the suspension has been softened a bit in deference to customer feedback seeking a more pliant ride. Hence, the new EcoSport’s dynamics are not as sharp or hard-edged as before, though it still strikes a brilliant combination of ride and handling. The good news is that Ford is offering traction control and hill-start assist on the top variants of this EcoSport.
As for the updates, they are mostly what you would expect—equipment gains designed to compete with and outdo the competition. But the new Dragon engine is what people should most look forward to. With an automatic option as well, the EcoSport has the upper hand over its two key rivals.
Ford’s compact SUV seems set for a great comeback. The prices of the updated EcoSport start at Rs7,31,200 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the petrol variants, and Rs8,01,700 (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the diesel variants.