One For The Masses? – The Ford EcoSport

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When I first heard I was going to be driving the new Ford EcoSport to say I was full of excitement may be a bit of an overstatement, you see I’ve never been a fan of these “crossover” vehicles. I’ve always in the mindset that if you want a family car you get a Volvo, if you want a 4×4 you buy a Land Rover and if you want a hatchback you get a Golf but more these days it’s all about crossovers and SUVs. To give an honest and unbiased review of the EcoSport, I had to remove all preconceptions I had of the crossover market and just go by the car in question, which I thought would be tricky at the start, but it was actually quite a fun exercise. Normally when I am testing these cars and reviewing I’m looking at them with the aim to decide whether or not I would want one, but with the EcoSport I am not the target demographic and therefore I needed to look at from a different perspective.

From the outside, you can instantly see why people like these things. The EcoSport has big chunky features with big arch gap and roof bars giving it a “go anywhere” look and the ST styling pack that this model came with also adds a sporting edge – like a fancy trainer for someone who does obstacle course races. The Lightning Blue paintwork contrasts well with the black top half and blacked-out rear windows and all in all, it’s a very handsome package. Things look good inside as well, it’s essentially a Ford Fiesta on stilts so the interior has that spacious and versatile form that the British have loved over the years. Everything is nice and clear and in the right place and the central infotainment screen is a good height. The sloping windscreen also makes the front of the car feel absolutely massive despite its modest footprint. Another thing I love about most new cars is the fairly standard integration with smartphones using either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. I can’t remember the last time I tested a new car’s nav system as it’s so much better to just use Waze or Google maps. One thing I did feel is that the seats have a weird way of feeling both spacious and cramped – the cabin is quite long for its size, but also quite narrow, so where you have plenty of legroom both in the front and in the back, you’re never going to get 5 grown adults in it.

Always allow at least 20ft of room behind if you wish to use the boot…

Overall space is okay and the car is well kitted out with regards to climate control, keyless entry, a full infotainment system and plenty of cubby space to lose your key fob in but the criticism I would have is the centre console feels a bit low down and as I stated before, it all feels a bit narrow – something which I will go into more detail about when I talk about the drive. But the biggest shortfall of this car is definitely its boot. First off, the side-mounted door hinge is completely impractical. If you reverse into a space and there is either a wall or a car behind you, you’re not getting in that boot. There is also a huge overhang from the rear bumper that will get scratched up every time you load anything bulky into it. Remember, this is supposed to be aimed at both young families and outdoorsy types, both of which will need good clear access to a decent-sized boot a lot of the time…

Engine-wise, the little road warrior has a 1.5 litre TDCi EcoBlue diesel engine that puts out 125PS which actually makes it quite nippy. However, why this didn’t have the 1.0 EcoBoost petrol engine is beyond me. It’s cleaner, more advanced, more refined just a much better option and will almost definitely be more desirable when you decide to sell it on… The TDCi lump drove fine, and despite its breeze-block styling there wasn’t as much wind noise as I was expecting but the AWD setup held the car back quite a bit. The steering felt a bit numb and it always felt a bit top-heavy in the corners and you really had to slow right down to tackle the understeer. Worst of all though is for a car with “Eco” in its name AND engine, the mpg really isn’t very impressive. over 10 days of combined motorway and country roads I averaged just below 40mpg which in this day and age is not anything to write home about – something I think the removal of the AWD system would definitely help improve. On a more positive note, the manual gearbox was lovely to use and the seating position is great and I am a big fan of the dash layout and traditional dials and buttons.

Nicely presented and straight from the Fiesta. Maybe a little bit bland compared to some competitors…

This all sounds like a bit of a bashing for the plucky little Ford, but I mean well. The crossover market is by far the most competitive right now and it seems to show no signs of slowing down with more and more manufacturers adding to their line-up of jacked-up hatchbacks, including Ford with this EcoSport, the Edge, the Kuga, the new Puma, the Focus Active and the Fiesta Active and as much as I like the Ford brand and the majority of its vehicles, this all feels a little bit disappointing. Ford has a great reputation for value, reliability and robustness and everything in the EcoSport felt well made and long-lasting, but there are other companies out there now building cars for similar money with far better fuel economy, more trim levels with a bit more colour inside. I must admit I did enjoy driving about in a raised driving position without the usual 4×4 fear of “will I actually fit in that gap” and I can certainly see the appeal in these cars if you want that rugged look and durability with hatchback practicality and driveability, but I’m not 100% sold on the EcoSport which is a shame as I think it looks cracking and has the potential to be as good as its sister car, the Fiesta, but just not yet.