Fair to say we weren’t particularly impressed with the Ford Ecosport when we drove the 1.5-litre diesel version back in January. So here we are in the UK with the keys to the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol alternative. Has time and distance made the heart – or even the head – grow fonder?
Don’t bank on it.
The Ecosport – that's a ‘one Ford’ global model, right?
In a manner of speaking. The Ecosport originated back in 2003 as a compact crossover for the Brazilian market – Brazilian roads being what they are (which is to say a mixture of superbly new and shockingly ungraded for the world’s seventh largest GDP), cars with extra-added ride height are a popular choice in the region. This is actually the second-gen version, based on the current Fiesta.
But the B-segment crossover sector had bigger ambitions, and thus as the Nissan Juke took off and others swiftly followed, clearly someone at Ford had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Cost-effective though the decision to bring the Ecosport to Europe may have been, we’re not entirely convinced it was clever.
The Ecosport can’t be that bad, surely?
What are you looking for from your car? Do you really want nothing more than four wheels and a roof, wrapped up in a compact package that subliminally channels the last Daihatsu Terios? Perhaps you’re a sucker for a boot-mounted spare wheel, and the used selection of Suzuki Vitaras just isn’t doing it for you any more. Fair enough, plunge on.
Everyone else needs to step back and take a serious pause here. Ford builds some of the best cars in the world – the Fiesta, which the Ecosport really is ostensibly based upon, entirely justifies its long-standing number one spot in the UK sales charts. The Fiesta has been finessed to within an inch of its life. The Ecosport feels like a factory second.
Go on, tell us how you really feel…
Even in our Titanium spec test car the interior quality is verging on dire. The dashboard is fundamentally similar to the Fiesta’s but the plastic is horrible, which does nothing to appease your disappointment and confusion at the esoteric button-fest that is the infotainment interface. The front seats are narrow and short of squab. The side-hinged tailgate would be impractical in most situations even if it didn’t also open the wrong way for British pavements.
The Ecosport is not exactly bad to drive – Ford of Europe surely has worked some magic – but it bobs and weaves around on the motorway like a boat at the slightest hint of a breeze. Almost every other crossover on sale feels more grown up and reassuring from behind the wheel. Bad news.
On the plus side, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is pleasant enough. With 123bhp hauling a chunky 1350kg it’s hardly a rocket, and don’t expect to see the claimed economy, but it makes a pleasantly thrummy noise under power. In fact, refinement in general is highly respectable, in spite of the five-speed manual transmission. Grip is good enough from the front-wheel drive chassis, given the bodyroll will see you back off before anything unfortunate happens.
At a shade under £16k the Ecosport Titanium Ecoboost looks like reasonable value, but you still have to pay extra for items such as Sync and rear parking sensors, so it isn’t exactly overburdened with luxury. Ford could, and should, do much better with a car like this – and above everything else it’s this sense that the Ecosport is a shortcut that really sees the bile rise in our throats.