2013 Ford EcoSport urban compact SUV in Team ICB’s first drive review

      

Backdrop:

It’s been almost 18 months since Ford first showcased the all new EcoSport compact crossover to the world through the Indian Auto Expo 2012. Ever since, the Ecosport has been one of the most hotly anticipated car in India. Car? Well no, it’s an SUV. SUV? Er no, it’s an urban SUV. Yes that’s what Ford prefers to call the EcoSport as, its latest offering in India. While 18 months is a long time between the first unveil to the actual launch, this long period of time has seen Ford India getting the localization level of the EcoSport to a considerable 70%. In the meanwhile, we’ve seen the EcoSport at the Auto Exp0 and plenty of spyshots showing the car in every angle and colour have also been surfacing regularly onto the interweb.

2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover 17 2013 Ford EcoSport urban compact SUV in Team ICBs first drive review

2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover

Ford finally stopped playing hide and seek and unveiled the EcoSport in a one of a kind event across malls in major cities of the country. This event let prospective buyers of the EcoSport and mall hoppers alike, to experience the crossover in the flesh. In the meantime, Ford has just concluded the unique Ford Urban Discovery Campaign, a contest that allows 100 winners of the contest to drive EcoSport for period of 3 weeks. While this drive will start a few weeks from now, we’ll give you a lowdown on how the EcoSport feels on the road by means of the first drive that was organized by Ford India, a couple of days ago at Goa. Let’s get cracking, shall we?

Design and Looks:

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover Right Profile

The Ford EcoSport represents a new direction in terms of design as it is a compact SUV that measures under 4 meters in length. In a nutshell, Ford has compressed an SUV into a compact 4 meter package, a package that offers the traditional road presence of an SUV along with the compact dimensions of a B+ segment hatchback. From the looks of it, the EcoSport will be positioned between B+ hatchbacks such as the Hyundai i20 and the Maruti Suzuki Swift, and C-Segment sedans such as the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna. The compact dimensions and high ground clearance of the EcoSport makes for big potential in India, a country where SUVs are a symbol of aspiration amongst the teeming middle classes.

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover in Blue

Design wise, the EcoSport is quite a looker and everyplace we headed to in balmy Goa, the compact crossover managed to bag eyeballs and proved to be a center of attraction. So, the very design of the EcoSport has managed to get people to stop and stare, and this is a big brownie point right at the outset. Up front, the headlamps of the compact crossover wraparound the front end of the car in a narrow, long design that makes the headlamps look as though they’ve been laser cut and impressed on to the car. The typical hexagonal grill up front, which is turning out to be a standard fixture on all new Ford cars give the EcoSport an instant recognition as a Ford and most car lovers won’t have trouble recognizing the EcoSport as a Ford, even without the blue oval on the bonnet.

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover Front

Chrome bits on the bumper and fog lamps endow the EcoSport’s front end with some bling that appeals to plenty of car buyers in India. On the whole, the design of the Ford EcoSport is based on the new Kinetic design language that runs across all new Ford cars. The Kinetic design language is aggressive with huge muscular lines running on the hood, the high riding stance of the car and the huge chromed grill up front, all these design elements coming together to give the EcoSport a big SUV appeal.  Character lines on the flanks move rise up towards the tail, seamlessly merging with the haunches of the car to add to the overall presence of the car. Other features that do their bit to add presence to the EcoSport’s design are the roof rails, 16inch wheels and muscular wheel arches. The quarter glass just after C pillar makes the EcoSport longer than it actually is and it’s another smart move by the designers at Ford.

Another smart move is the inclusion of the rear door handle in the angular break lamp cluster. The centrally mounted spare wheel on rear door shows off the EcoSport’s Y spoke alloy wheels and makes the car look big when viewed from from the sides. Well, you’ve got to pay extra for the spare wheel as its not standard, but it’s well worth it just for the sheer looks that it adds to car. The lower part of EcoSport has black cladding all around and this design element means that the EcoSport seems to have a much higher ground clearance than the actual 200 mm. The missing front and rear skid plates though, give away the fact that the EcoSport is meant to be a city slicker than a mud pluger. On the whole, Ford has done a fantastic job with styling of car. Car comes with a drag coefficient of 0.371, a number that makes the EcoSport highly aerodynamic. Other important numbers include the 550mm water wading capacity and 200 mm ground clearance.

How does the EcoSport feel on the inside?

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover Dashboard 2

Walking into the EcoSport, one is greeted with the familiar angular design of the dashboard, a continuum of the new Fiesta’s design elements. In fact, the EcoSport shares many parts of the centre console with the new Fiesta. The plastic quality of interiors are at level below the new Fiesta, pointing to the cost cutting bits that Ford has employed to reduce the price of the EcoSport to levels that are expected to be quite affordable. While the interiors look good visually, one can’t help feeling that they are a little sub-par to touch and feel. Pitted against the interiors of the Renault Duster,  the interiors of the EcoSport are better. Having said that,  Ford has someway to go to match say a Volkswagen or a Hyundai when it comes to the quality and feel of the interiors.

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover Leg Room

Although the EcoSport will be compared with the Duster by many buyers as it’s a compact SUV whose exterior dimensions are about 10cm shorter than the Duster in terms of length, the interior volume of these compact SUVs vary substantially. Simply put, the interiors of the EcoSport lack the space associated with its SUV body style. Headroom and legroom for both driver and passengers is ample and 4 can be accommodated comfortably in the car. Talk about five adults and the rear bench will be found wanting to squeeze in that extra passenger in terms of shoulder and leg room. So, the EcoSport should be compared to the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Swift and the Hyundai i20 when it comes to the space on the rear seat rather than the Duster, which is a lot more spacious.

Ford has managed space well when it comes to the luggage room. The rear seats of the EcoSport come with 60:40 split which endow the crossover with a boot space of 704 liters with the seats folded. Now that’s enough to plonk in a small washing machine.  Boot space without folding down the seats is 362 liters, another figure that puts the EcoSport right in B+ hatchback territory.

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2013 Ford EcoSport Compact Crossover Boot Space with Rear Seat Folded

In terms of seating, the front seats are comfortable and seating position is in between car and suv, where you don’t sit  low like car and not too high like a typical SUV. In other words, the EcoSport is a crossover in the truest sense. The driver seat comes with seat height adjuster and seat recliner. The recliner lever is difficult to find for the first time as it is not ergonomically placed. But then again, you’ll get used to this bit in a couple of days.  The car has plenty of nooks and crannies inside the cabin to store a bunch of small things. For instance, even the rear doors has map pockets and the EcoSport has no less than 9 cup holders.

India’s a tropical country. Why, kids at school when asked about the seasons of India are known to replace summer, monsoon and winter with hot, hotter and hottest. So, it’s imperative that the air conditioning is powerful enough to tackle the fiery Indian sun. Ford is known for outfitting its cars with superb chillers and the same is the case with the EcoSport’s air conditioner as well. The climate control equipped air conditioner of the EcoSport delivers a best-in-class cooling rate with the automatic climate control feature positioned on the center console of the car. One AC duct is directed to glove box too, which can be switched on and off. Coming to the other features on the EcoSport, the crossover features a USB connector that’s placed behind the gear lever. The crossover has two 12V sockets, one for front seats and the other for rear seats. The rear 12V socket is located at the right side of sear seat.

Ford’s factory fitted audio unit outputs through 4 speakers on the 4 doors. Even the base Ambiente variant of the Ford EcoSport is well equipped what with the crossover getting tilt and telescopic steering, audio player with Aux-in and Bluetooth, electric wing mirrors, remote locking, a multi-function display, and 16-inch wheels as standard. The Titanium plus variant gets ABS, ESP, hill assist, steering mounted controls, leather seats, fog lamps, parking sensors, keyless entry, push button start, Ford SYNC and front, side and curtain airbags.

Coming to the engine options, the EcoSport gets 3 engine options: the 1 liter award winning EcoBoost turbo petrol 3 cylinder engine producing 125bhp and 170Nm torque, and two engines from its sibling Fiesta: The 1.5 Ti-VCT petrol 110bhp-140 Nm petrol engine and the 1.5 Liter TDCI turbo diesel outputting 90bhp-204 Nm. The car’s variants will also get the Fiesta’s 6 speed dual clutch transmission with hill assist function with 3 second hold time on the 1.5 Ti-VCT motor. We drove the Ecoboost engine equipped EcoSport and here’s what we could gauge from the short 80 kilometer drive at Goa.

Let’s drive, shall we?

Starting the EcoSport’s EcoBoost engined variant is a pleasant affair. You will not know that there’s a three cylinder motor under the hood as the EcoSport idles so smoothly that the typical thrum of three cylinder motor is simply absent at lower revs.  Even with windows down, the engine is remarkably quiet. To achieve a smooth revving motor, Ford powertrain engineers have relocated the unbalanced masses of the EcoSport’s EcoBoost engine to such locations so as to make efficient use of that mass to get seamless power. The engine is mated to 5 speed manual transmission. Getting a move on, unlike most petrol engines, which gradually build up torque as the engine revs higher, and most diesel engines, which hit peak torque early and then fade away, the 1 lit EcoBoost delivers great  driveability, thanks to its robust torque from low revs to high revs (1400-4500 rpm) without losing steam.

The engine and 5 speed transmission are matched very well, so much so the EcoBoost equipped EcoSport tackles all the conditions from city traffic to highways without the need to constantly change gears. The engine comes into its own when driven spiritedly and the engine gearbox option makes it a wonderful experience to enjoy the 120+ horses lurking under the hood. Suspension package and chassis aid the handling of car precisely and car absorbs road imperfections adequately. Though car is tall, ford managed to have minimum body roll in this car. Occupants of the EcoSport don’t feel body roll in the car at all. We tried putting the EcoSport through high speed curves in ghat sections of Goa  and the resultant ride and handling of the crossover left us very impressed. The brilliant suspension setup backs up your confidence of throwing car around the corners and makes one want to push the crossover hard, something that can’t be said of most SUVs.

The new front strut hydraulic stop works well for ride comfort. The electronic power assisted steering EPAS is very light for city traffic conditions but it falls a bit short in engagement levels at high speeds, especially when compared with a pure hydraulic unit. Even so, the EcoSport’s steering it right up there when it comes to feel, when compared to what the competition offers.  The crossover’s steering comes with Ford’s ‘Pull Drift Compensation’, a feature which corrects the steering when it detects a pull caused by crosswinds or a crowned road surface.  205/60 R16 Goodyear rubber offer superb grip while some testers who had cars equipped with MRF tyres complained about tires squealing while hard cornering. While we did not get chance to test fuel economy of EcoBoost engine, official Ford figures say that the 1.0 liter EcoBoost delivers 18.9kmpl and 1.5 Diesel TDCi delivers 22.7kmpl, both ARAI certified fuel economy figures quite impressive to say the least.

So, that is the Ford EcoSport for you, a compact crossover that offers a lot in a compact package. We hope that Ford manages to price the EcoSport very competitively, for the crossover has enough muster to become a best seller for the American car maker in India.

Meanwhile, here are a few takeaways from the first drive,

* Stunning looks that gets people to stare and gawk

* Specially designed for nuclear family which is meant for someone who is planning to buy an entry level compact sedan or a B+ hatchback but wants the big car feel of the SUV.

* Fantastic ride and handling package

* Powerful and responsive EcoBoost turbo petrol engine

* Mr. Joginder Singh, MD of Ford India has promised us that the EcoSport will deliver a high value for money quotient

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