Even though it was one of the first in the new breed of baby SUVs, the Ford EcoSport wasn't a knock-out hit. However, the blue oval has attempted to change that with a facelift that brings it closer in-line with the brand’s Escape and Everest SUV offerings. Not only does it look better, but Ford now call it ‘ecko-sport’ rather than ‘e-co-sport’, which would better suit its new three-cylinder only engine line-up.
It didn’t need to do much to be a better offering than before though and Ford hasn’t hesitated in giving its baby SUV a little bit of love for the better.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $22,790 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 90kW/150Nm, 92kW/170Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol, 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.9 l/100km, 6.7 l/100km
Base Ambient, mid-range Trend and top-spec Titanium remain as the only model grades and the distinctive side-opening tailgate with a mounted spare wheel will be gone soon once the MY18.5 update arrives next year. The door will still be side hinged though and its length makes it slightly awkward to open in tight parking spaces.
The update is more likeable though and its new styling compliments the compact SUV’s size better, and once the wheel on the back is gone it should help boost sales beyond its current major market of empty-nesters to 20-somethings and first car buyers.
Revised styling brings a beefed-up bonnet, new headlights and new grille, with Titanium models getting brighter HID lamps and daytime running lights. Differentiating the models are black grille and ascents for the Ambiente, silver for Trend and chrome for Titanium models.
The rear – although looking mostly similar – has new taillights and a slightly different bumper. The big change comes next year when the spare wheel is removed and replaced with an emergency inflator kit.
The Ambiente is priced from $22,790 (plus on-road costs) and comes with 16-inch steel wheels with covers, gloss black exterior accents and a 6.5-inch infotainment system. It's powered by a new 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated three-cylinder petrol that replaces the same-sized four-cylinder and produces 90kW and 150Nm.
The Trend starts from $24,290 and adds 16-inch alloys, fog lights, silver grille, black roof rails, leather steering wheel, and a rear centre armrest with cup holders. It's powered by the same 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine as before but in a slightly more powerful tune, producing 92kW and 170Nm.
Top-spec Titanium costs from $28,890 adding 17-inch alloys, chrome exterior grille and ascents, HID headlights, power fold mirrors, silver roof rails, sunroof, partial leather trim, keyless entry and start, climate control, sliding armrest, front parking sensors, auto headlamps and rain sensing wipers.
The previous 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine has been replaced with a new naturally-aspirated three-cylinder of the same capacity that is exclusive to the Ambiente while the carry-over three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol continues to power the Trend and Titanium.
Ford has dropped the five-speed manual and all models now come with a new six-speed auto that sends power to the front-wheels and the Titanium adds paddle shifters to the steering wheel.
- Standard Equipment: Cruise control and cloth trim.
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch or 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth, digital radio and Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
- Cargo Volume: 346 litres.
With a ground clearance of 209mm the EcoSport sits higher than the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V or Toyota CH-R, and it provides easy slide-in access for the front two cushions which Ford says is a deciding factor for older buyers. The front seats are also manually-adjustable and the steering has tilt-and-reach adjustment which provides good vision through a high driving position.
Front seats are generous for leg room and headspace and a new centre console removes the clutter of buttons found in the outgoing model. On top of the cleaner and easier to function centre console is the inclusion of a new infotainment screen that’s the hero inside.
All models benefit from the system which is loaded with Ford’s latest Sync3 software that brings mobile device connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and DAB+ on either a 6.5-inch (Ambiente) or 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Both 6.5-inch and 8.0-inch touch-screen displays are a notch above most competitors in terms of clarity and vibrancy, and the connectivity options work well with Apple CarPlay loading fast and music sounding honest if not punchy. The satellite navigation, standard in Trend and Titanium models, works well and during a trip through Melbourne’s inner-urban streets the maps appeared up-to-date with the latest changes.
An armrest has been added between the front pews and it has storage underneath with two illuminated USB ports for connecting and charging mobile devices. The armrest itself is made from a basic material, like much of the interior plastics, but the sliding top in the Titanium is a little nicer along with its partial leather seats and steering wheel.
The rear seats give up legroom to make the front more comfortable and the roof closes in so tall frames will feel crammed in. Knees will go into the rear of the front seats, particularly if they are slid backwards, but the seats offer enough comfort for basic A to B commuting and a rear 12 volt port is located drivers side for keeping devices charged.
Split-fold 60:40 seats open up the small 346 litre boot space to a capacious 1178 litres and the boot floor also features a concealed compartment that can mount the folded seat to provide a flat floor (though sacrificing some space), but the finish on items like the roller blind show where costs are cut.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 90kW/150Nm, 92kW/170Nm 1.5 3cyl petrol, 1.0 3cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: disc front and drum brake rear
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Ambiente’s thicker tyres and tall ground clearance help absorb imperfections and pot holes efficiently on city roads and the ride remains compliant which suits low-speed urban driving. Ford hasn’t mentioned any work done underneath the EcoSport but it feels a little more positive in feedback than before, as the steering is firm but accurate, though the brakes don't offer much modulation through the pedal.
Our test drive was limited to the inner-city and low speed driving but road noise was on par with most competitors up to 70km/h. The Titanium suffered from a firmer ride on its alloy wheels but was smooth enough around town.
The new 1.5-litre engine isn’t inspiring and it might run out of steam on the highway but its motivated enough to nip through traffic. The 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder is more energetic and makes negotiating traffic easier and the extra torque is useful on hills. In all models, the new automatic shifts confidently, though it is not geared for rapid acceleration.
Parking is simple with a short 4325mm length to deal with and reversing camera as standard across the range.
ANCAP Rating: ANCAP will carry over its 2013 Ecosport five star ANCAP rating.
Safety Features: Seven airbags, ABS and ESC.
All models feature bare-bones safety compared to modern ANCAP standards and miss out on features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane keeping assists that are becoming standard fare on rivals. Because the Ecosport can carry over its 2013 rating it will be awarded a five star ANCAP rating.
The Titanium is the only model to add any additional safety features which are blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Its pricing isn’t sharp enough to ruffle competitor’s feathers but the latest update adds some appeal and useful technology that make the Ecosport a better package. Perhaps removing the clunky spare wheel on the back is the ticket that will really boost sales to the millennial crowd but for now it still stands-out better than it did before.