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Ford’s new compact SUV set to be big player in a growing sector

06:44 07 August 2014

The new EcoSport takes Ford into the growing compact sport utility vehicle market.

The new EcoSport takes Ford into the growing compact sport utility vehicle market.

Ford

Ford’s new EcoSport will make a big impact in the fast-growing compact SUV market, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Ford is expanding its sport utility vehicle range in a big way – but first it is boosting the line-up in a small way with the launch of the new EcoSport.

The EcoSport joins the Ford Kuga and, in the second half of next year, the range will be completed with the large Edge SUV.

Based on Ford’s B platform, which also underpins the Fiesta, the compact EcoSport SUV is the right car at the right time when more people are down-sizing.

It’s a sort of supermini on stilts with which Ford plans to take advantage of a growing market sector – created by the likes of the Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka, Dacia Duster, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 – which has grown from under 10,000 sales six years to just over 30,000 in 2012 and more than 70,000 last year. That makes it the fastest-growing sector and Ford sees lots more potential so wants to be ready.

Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport 1.5 TDCI

Engine: 1,498cc, 90PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 14 seconds; top speed 99mph

MPG: Urban 57.7; extra urban 64.2; combined 61.1

CO2 emissions: 120g/km

Ford EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost

Engine: 999cc, 125PS, three-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 12.7 seconds; top speed 112mph

MPG: Urban 42.8; extra urban 60.1; combined 53.3

CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Price: 1.5 EcoBoost £14,995 (six-speed automatic £16,495); 1.0 EcoBoost £15,995; 1.5 TDCI £16,495 (Titanium X pack adds £1,000)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,273mm; width (with door mirrors) 2,057mm; height 1,665mm

It has been a similar story with the total UK SUV market with sales growing 225% to 340,000 units between 2008 and 2013 and now accounting for a 15% market share.

Ford is pronouncing EcoSport as ‘echo-sport’, curious given that the EcoBoost engine is ‘eeko-boost’ but, whatever you choose to call it, there’s no denying it’s a stylish new arrival and that’s important in a sector where buyers are driven much more by design than pricing.

Built at Ford’s Chennai plant in India, the EcoSport is making its debut in Europe with this second-generation model after the original proved a hit in South America.

Ford is keeping it simple in the UK with a single Titanium trim level although 50% of customers are expected to take up the optional £1,000 X pack upgrade.

There’s three engines to choose from – a new 112PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol, the 125PS version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol (which has just won international engine of the year for the third year running) and a 90PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel. All use five-speed manual gearboxes with a six-speed automatic also available on the 1.5-litre petrol unit.

Both turbo models do a fine job but the diesel gets gruff if you work it hard. The EcoBoost is the complete opposite, pulling willingly from low revs, so boosting fuel economy, but spinning freely under hard acceleration and revealing a throaty engine note.

Based on the Fiesta platform means the EcoSport generally rides well, only becoming fidgety on rough road surfaces although the diesel seemed less affected with the heavier engine.

The handling is competent with good steering feel although there is some body roll if you press on hard through corners. But, despite being available only with front-wheel drive, the EcoSport has plenty of grip and traction.

Although it is a compact SUV, the interior is surprisingly roomy with loads of head and legroom in the back.

Ford has chosen to mount the spare wheel on the side-hinged rear door which not only makes it look the part – fortunately with the wheel mounted low you hardly see it in the rearview mirror – but also frees up space to create a deep, flat-sided 333-litre boot. The 60/40-split rear seat backs drop flat but stand proud of the boot floor until you tumble the whole seat upright – not ideal for maximising space but it does create a 1,238-litre cargo-carrying capacity while a concave panel on the inside of the tailgate means it is all useable space. The slightly raised sill means you have to lift items over it rather than just slide them in and out and you can’t adjust the height of the floor but at least the rear seat backs are covered in carpeting to protect them from being damaged by bulky loose items and clumsy loading.

The driving position has a full range of adjustment for the steering wheel and seat, making it easy to find a comfortable set-up no matter how big or small you are. The fascia has the modern Ford design and clarity but its general feel and appearance in the EcoSport is disappointing. We have come to expect a lot from the cabin quality of modern Fords and the EcoSport does not deliver the ambience you expect of a Titanium model. The whole fascia, even the top section, is made of hard, scratchy plastic while brightwork highlights are limited to the steering wheel, around the gearlever, the handbrake button and door handles and it really needs some eye-catching embellishments on the dashboard, such as round the airvents, to break up the dark slab of hard, dark plastic.

The single Titanium specification includes 16in alloy wheels, front fog lights, silver roof rails, keyless entry and start-stop button, tyre-pressure monitoring, automatic temperature control, four electric windows, trip computer and alarm.

And it’s not hard to see why so many owners will take up the X pack with the £1,000 option adding bigger 17in alloys, full leather trim, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, auto-dimming rear view mirror and cruise control.

It’s hard not to notice the EcoSport with its standout styling, which will be just as off-putting to some as it is attractive to others, but you can’t ignore that this compact SUV will be a big player in growing this market.

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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