Since Ford is making a move away from cars to crossovers and SUVs, their latest introduction can best be described as a cute ute. And cute it is with its subcompact size that makes it fun to drive.
Ford’s 2018 EcoSport is a five passenger ute offered in FWD and AWD and in S, SE, SES and top-line Titanium trim models. Each trim progression offers more features and capabilities, and with each, a taller price.
EcoSport slots beneath Ford’s popular selling Escape compact SUV, both in size and price. And it’s not really new as it’s been produced in Brazil, China, India, Romania, Russia and Thailand. So it’s a proven vehicle that recently hit our shores.
The EcoSport is a bit tardy in the subcompact SUV game as it’s competition in the form of the Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR, have beat Ford to this recently hot market. To be competitive, EcoSport offers good value for the money by including a number of features such as sunroof and safety items like Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control, Safety Canopy side air curtain airbags for first and second rows, side thorax airbags for rear passengers, reverse sensing, rearview camera and OS Post Crash Alert System, as standard.
We tested the SES trim model and it was nicely equipped with only three extra cost options, because most wanted features are included.
EcoSport is offered with two engine choices, probably the only subcompact SUV to do so. For S and SE there’s a 1.0-liter, turbocharged (EcoBoost) 3-cylinder putting out a meager 123-hp and 125 lb/ft of torque. Then there’s the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder with 166-hp and 149 lb/ft of torque offered in the SES and Titanium trim models. Both engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0L when coupled to the auto trans, garnered EPA mileage estimates of 23 city, 29-highway mpg and this is achieved with the engines’ start/stop feature. It has a tow capacity of 2,000 pounds.
With a modest 166-hp, EcoSports’ power builds linearly. It’s sufficient around town but when attempting to enter high speed traffic lanes, it’s advisable to allow an appreciable gap before attempting to merge this 3,327-pound crossover. It could use a turbo. The engine is a bit noisy at idle as are many four cylinders, but it dissipates once underway.
The SES tested is the sportier version with the more powerful 2.0L engine, 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sporty styling touches, automatic wipers/auto dimming rearview mirror, paddle shifters, leather/cloth seating and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. The latter is the best invention, as it saves a lot of fender-bender accidents.
SES’ interior was done up in a snappy black and orange theme. The seat inserts are long-wearing cloth while the outer high-wear surfaces leather. Ford then stitched the seams with contrasting orange thread. A sporty look for a viable crossover.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use. Perched atop the vertical stack is an 8-inch touchscreen in an iPad type design. It allows similar swipe-and-pinch-to-zoom control. And with Ford’s Sync infotainment system, the doors can be locked/unlocked, the car can be remotely started, can be located in a large parking and the fuel level checked all via your smartphone. This, plus AppleCarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is offered, and all four doors open automatically upon approaching the vehicle provided the keyfob is on you.
Back seats are comfy after a low 18.5-inch step-in. Ford says three can be seated back there but two adults are more realistic. Rear headroom is ample while leg room is adequate provided the fronts aren’t racked too well rearward.
Back in the cargo area, that has a low 26.5-inch liftover, cargo space is rated at 20.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up. Inch wise, it measures 24 inches deep, 40 wide and 36 high. Flip the seats and space increases to 50 cubic feet for 54 inches of depth. The back seats fold after pulling the rear seat bottoms forward then folding the seatbacks down behind them. This makes for a flat load floor.
Now comes the controversial part. The hatch door opens to the left, affording curb side loading. Ford says this design is better for low-roofed parking areas. But on the street and in tight parallel parking spaces, it opens to 53 inches at its widest point, so the car has to be far enough away from the car behind it to allow its full opening. A lift-hatch is better in one respect, as it provides cover when loading/unloading in a rain storm.
Ride wise on 17-inch Bridgestone tires? It’s a smooth rider on smooth roads but rough roads reverberate into the cabin which is common on short (99.2-inch) wheelbase vehicles. On the plus side, handling is good. Turn the steering wheel an inch either way and the nose points 15 degrees either way. EcoSport is easy to park as it’s very nimble with a tight 35-foot turning radius. And, as said, it’s fun to drive.
With an extensive standard list of features and safety items, the SES also came with classy aluminum wheels and Cold Weather Package that includes heated mirrors/steering wheel, windshield wiper de-icer and floor mats. Since this particular EcoSport was not for sale, the Monroney (sticker) didn’t show a price. But Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds list the EcoSport base model starting at $20,990, and an exceptionally loaded top-line Titanium coming in at $28,990. A compelling price for an AWD subcompact crossover.
EcoSport received four out of five stars in the governments overall safety rating, and four stars in rollover for the AWD model. It's ideal as an economical second car, college student car or retired folk’s car who wish to downsize to a single all purpose vehicle.