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Ford EcoSport First Drive

By raccars Published

Ford rolls out its long-awaited baby brother to the top-selling Kuga. The EcoSport is based on the fantastic Ford Fiesta and is launched with fresh, standout styling and a suitably tall and standout stance. Competition is high, though… can it cut it?

Price: From £14,995 (test car: 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium: £15,995)
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
MPG: 53.3mpg
CO2: 125g/km
On sale: May 2014
Insurance group: TBC

Three UK Ford EcoSport facts

1: Compact Ford SUV goes head-to-head with the already-established Vauxhall Mokka
2: Launched in high-spec Titanium trim, with an optional Titanium X pack
3: Ford will sell just 4000 EcoSport to Brits in 2014 – because that’s all it can get…

What is it?

Ford is late to the junior SUV party. Models such as the Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka have been cleaning up: the former is a regular UK top-10 best-seller while the latter has been supply-constrained since launch – Vauxhall could sell many more if it could get hold of them. Peugeot and Renault are doing good business with the 2008 and Capture respectively, too.

So the EcoSport will, when it’s launched in Ford dealers next spring, be a very welcome addition to the range. Compact – it’s just 4cm longer than the Fiesta it’s based upon – the EcoSport nevertheless manages to cram in lots of SUV styling cues, from the raised ride height and chunky lines to the oddly dated spare wheel carrier on the tailgate.

It’s a model that’s been designed by Ford in Brazil but assembly of UK cars is slowly gathering pace. Even so, Ford will only have 4000 to sell in the first year – Vauxhall moved five times as many Mokka in 12 months and even that wasn’t enough. Despite this restriction, EcoSport has the potential to seriously spice up the city car sector. Particularly if it’s any good to drive – after all, this is something we expect from all Fords…

Styling and interior

As with the Nissan Juke, we expect buyers to either love or hate the EcoSport. Ford’s not taken the middle ground route that Vauxhall has. To our eyes, it’s not bad, although the raised ride height and narrow track does make it a little tottering and top-heavy.

The bluff front end gives it a tough appearance in town, and we like the very big and bold Ford grille. We’re less sure about the side-hinged tailgate at the back, particularly as it seems to open on the wrong side for right-hand drive Britain.

Inside, it’s certainly spacious, with loads of headroom, while the cut-away dashboard on the passenger side makes it feel spacious and commanding up front – unusually so for such a compact model. It’s a pity the plastics seem a bit cheap and low-rent, though: Ford doesn't compare well with more opulent rivals here.

It is very well equipped though, particularly in the all-inclusive launch-pack Titanium model. Features include Ford SYNC smartphone integration, which can even control apps such as Spotify – using voice commands if you wish. The Titanium X pack adds on leather seats and big alloys, for even more indulgence.

Performance

Ford offers just three engines with the EcoSport: 1.5-litre petrol and turbodiesel, plus a 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol. We drove the latter and it really is the choice engine, with a thrummy, eager charm plus a peppy turbo-boosted response to the accelerator.

The five-speed gearbox is extremely slick and pleasant, though we’d have liked to see six gears. For automatic fans, their choice is restricted to the less appealing 1.5-litre petrol; the 1.5-litre diesel brings extra torque and seems well suited to the EcoSport, and it is barely any less refined than the EcoBoost, which boasts impressively low noise levels.

Handling

Handling is, surprisingly for a Ford, what lets the EcoSport down. It has loads of ground clearance and a high 500mm wading depth. But this has led to a raised ride height and the resultant soft suspension makes it feel vague.

The tall, narrow body rolls too much into corners, so much so that you actually have to slow down in order to keep things settled. The steering is very vague too and the front end understeers all too easily. It’s disappointing, given Ford’s reputation here.

At least the soft suspension delivers a pliant ride. It’s comfortable around town, soaking up bumps well. Just remember not to chuck it about too much like you can with a Fiesta…

Price and value

The launch Ford EcoSport is very expensive. This is intentional: availability is limited so Ford’s restricting the range to the model line that will deliver most for its dealers. Titanium prices start from £14,995, which is around £2000 more than rivals such as the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur.

Being a Ford, though, it still offers reasonable value, not least because of its very high standard specification. The engines are efficient too, particularly the EcoBoost petrol, and limited numbers plus the Ford badge on the nose should ensure depreciation isn’t too great.

Fuel economy

We reckon the EcoBoost EcoSport is best: fuel economy bears this out as, thanks to standard engine stop-start, it emits 125g/km CO2 and averages 53.3mpg – impressive for a petrol. The diesel alternative emits 120g/km CO2 and can average 61.4mpg but it costs more and diesel fuel costs more too. We’d stick with petrol.

The Ford EcoSport to avoid is the automatic petrol. This averages just 44.8mpg and emits a high 149g/km CO2. Such figures are not clever these days, particularly in a model as compact as this.

Verdict: Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport is an interesting addition to the small SUV sector from the UK’s largest car brand. It’s not as impressive as some of its other products though: those expecting the brilliance of the Ford Fiesta will be disappointed. It’s also expensive in launch guise.

It’s worth a look if you like the styling and big-brand support, but we still think you’d be better off with a Renault Captur or Peugeot 2008

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