As if playing hands in an automotive poker game Ford his folded production of their sedans and gone all-in with SUVs and crossovers. In order to make good on that hefty bet Ford had to fill a glaring hole in its hand, and so they have played the subcompact SUV card. Enter the EcoSport. This baby ute’s been sold in South America since 2004.
It also migrated to Asia and Europe prior to its arrival on American soil.Competition at this level is fierce with Honda’s HRV, the Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3 and the Hyundai Kona all vying for purchasing dollars. Is the EcoSport worthy to sit at the same table? At first glance, well, the EcoSport’s profile is distinctive. Whether it’s aesthetically pleasing to everyone remains to be seen, but there is a resemblance to the rest of Ford’s SUV family, including the Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition. The high roofline might not jive with more modern aesthetics, but at least you’ll stand out and up in the crowd. Remember that this design, while it’s new to the US, originally came out in 2013, which might be why it looks like something designed when the latest iPhone was the 5. Inside, as expected at this price point, there’s abundant hard plastic, but the steering wheel is leather wrapped on the SE trim and above. The arm rests aren’t level and the one on the center console sits a bit far back for vertically challenged people like me who slide the seat far forward. Also, visibility isn’t great. These a-pillars are massive. An effort at visual interest was made with these contrasting interior colors, and I have to admit like the 70s kid in me is kind of digging this retro looking upholstery. It’s sort of groovy. Two USB ports come standard on all trims.
The eight-inch color screen is optional on the SE trim but comes standard on the SES and above. Ford’s very good Sync 3 Connect infotainment system is one of the more intuitive around to use. So the bad news in here is seat comfort in that it’s not, at least not for my body type. There’s very little contour support in the seat cushion, and there’s lumbar but it’s just not enough. I’ve been sitting in this car for a week, and I still have yet to find a comfortable position for my body. And unless you know how to use this sort of unusual headrest mechanism, which nobody in the Kelley Blue Book Office could figure out, then you’re sitting in this sort of C shaped position. This is a relief, but it’s still not good. The rear seats sit fairly upright, though it’s more supportive on the upper part of my body at least. There’s no recline, and because of the camel hump and the center console’s position, the middle seat isn’t suitable for adult legs. When it comes to cargo space the EcoSport is small for the category. The floor is adjustable, though, so you can vary space or make it completely flat, albeit temporarily, for larger things.That’s a great creative problem solve, but the back hatch uses an old-school swing door. Because of its diminutive size the EcoSport is really easy to park in the city, but that also means that there’s probably somebody parked pretty close behind you making this hatch tricky to open.
On the plus side, the EcoSport can pull its weight with a solid towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds. That’s a decent sized great white shark, a Cessna or 130,000 regular size marshmallows. You know the downside to all of that hauling though is how you’re gonna actually get it anywhere. The EcoSport is not the most powerful subcompact SUV you can buy. The base car has a one-liter inline 3-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 123 horsepower incidentally. That is the lowest displacement engine on the vehicle market today. Meanwhile, the optional 2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 166 hp, that’s more than the Honda HRV, but less than the 2.4-liter engine found in the Jeep Renegade, which incidentally can also tow 2,000 pounds. Power in the EcoSport is sent through a 6-speed automatic transmission to the front tires or to all four wheels if you spring for the optional $1500 all-wheel drive. It’s got good brakes, though. Despite its modest acceleration the EcoSport’s fuel economy is 27 in the city and 29 in the highway on the front drive base models and 23 in the city 29 in the highway for the all-wheel-drive version. Both are among the lowest in the segment. You know I will say, though, the SES’s all-wheel drive sport-tuned suspension and the torque vectoring software that Ford’s running on this makes for a driving experience that’s almost spirited, but I’m gonna seriously caveat that though and stay with momentum, because before that, not so much.
There aren’t many standard safety features available across all trims beyond a rear-view camera, but the SES and Titanium come with cross-traffic alerts, blind spot warning, and a reverse assistant system, plus they get a nicer stereo, keyless access with push-button start, a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system, and perforated leather seating surfaces. Pricing on our SES all-wheel drive comes in just under $28,000 but the base is closer to $21,000. Both of those numbers include destination charges.
From some key competitors you can get a lot more for the same or even less, though Ford may be more inclined than some car makers to offer incentives on their subcompact SUV. As we saw with the successful Fiesta, Ford knows how to play the subcompact game, but the EcoSport feels like more of a real gamble. Showing up late and trying to successfully elbow your way into a roomful of already really skilled players gonna take a lot of love from Lady Luck, but if you’re a blue oval loyal person and looking for a tiny SUV this is the only game in town. If it’s my money I’m gonna place it elsewhere.
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