Second time lucky?
You lot who know me here on Influx won’t be surprised to learn that I really, really didn’t like the last generation of the Ford Ecosport.
Actually, I hated it. So, when Ford sent me an invite to the launch of the new Ecosport later last year, I just had to go along and find out if they’d managed to win me back onside – because you know, despite naming an SUV after me, I still need to be impressed and stuff. You know how it is.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the last generation of Ecosport was the image. It was easily one of the ugliest cars on the market and a facelift did little to help it. A whole new model was always going to be required to fix the negative feelings surrounding it. We can all agree that Ford has fixed that now, and the new Ecosport is now far more likely to catch the eye for the right reasons, rather than the wrong. That of course is quite important for the brand, because this decade – and quite probably the next – has seen buyers on a huge surge towards small-SUVs across the car market. If Ford didn’t have a good one, they’d lose out on a lot of customers – and lots and lots of monies.
There’s a whole host of rivals out on the market that this new Ecosport needs to be able to hold its own against. Korea is the latest nation to go big on the small SUVs, with Hyundai launching the Kona, and Kia launching the Stonic. The two biggest Korean automakers have been on a roll over the last few years, but its still Nissan’s Juke that attracts the public the most despite being uglier than a toad with a cocaine habit.
The good news for Ford is that the new Ecosport is now good enough to take sales off the Nissan Juke, but there is still a little to worry about too. We were given an upcoming new engine to test out – a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine that is going to be badged as ‘EcoBlue’. Now, normally we just talk about how we found the car, but unusually this new engine created a big divide between various testers at the event, with some finding it to be too loud or rough and slightly underpowered. It is unusual for something to cause this much divide, but at the time this engine was still around 8 months from coming to the market, so only by testing closer to release will we know for sure if certain issues have been ironed out.
One engine we do know all about is the little 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboost engine – a real sweetie of an engine that is about as good as small petrol engines come. It’ll be available in the new car in both 140PS and 125PS outputs, and the 140PS is a fine engine for this little SUV, especially if your annual mileage isn’t all that high. It also happens to be the most enjoyable engine to drive with as the new Ecosport is about as fun as small SUVs get to throw into corners and see if it sticks. Of course, most buyers won’t be doing that and so the slightly stiffer setup for the car might frustrate some who are chasing a more laid-back, comfortable ride. It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s not exactly supple either.
Inside, the interior is the same as you’ll find in the new Ford Fiesta that the car is based upon. The touchscreen in the centre of the dash dominates the interior and it features Ford’s SYNC3 operating system, a decent system actually, with a clear sat-nav and easy to operate menu system. Aside from that, the usual features found in most new cars appear – cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, etc, but Ford has added the impressive B&O Play sound system to the car which will appear attractive to buyers, as well as a rear-view camera and a heated steering wheel – the latter becoming something that seems to appear in more and more Ford models. Curiously, Ford decided to have the boot open like a door with hinges attached to the left hand side of the car rather than like a conventional up-down boot. No, we’re not sure why either.
Really, you have to take these sorts of cars as they come. They’re never going to set anybody’s world on fire and they’re destined to never truly be desirable. The new Ford Ecosport, like many new small SUVs is just a car, a car that is perfectly competent and unlikely to disappoint.
It’s a big step in overall quality over the last generation, and guess what? I don’t hate it anymore. Buy one, if you like.
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