2014 Ford Ecosport Review

This little pup has pretty lofty aspirations for a pretend SUV

By Shahzad Sheikh

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

The all-new Fiesta-based Ford Ecosport is built in India. That’s an important and significant fact. It does not mean that you should dismiss it out of hand, or apply insubstantial wit to come up with crass and obvious references like ‘Indian drive-away,’ ‘people-currier’ or ‘Slumdog SUV’, like I just did.

In fact the saffron sensation you see before you brings to the fore a startling depth of wit, charm and ability of its own. And a lot of that comes from the land of its origin. Consider this carefully as you identify similarities in type of usage and terrain, and you may being to agree that this is a far more relevant car here, than it is say in the UK where it also sold.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

What is it?

The Ecosport (which we’re tempted to pronounce exactly as you’d think, especially as Ford also make ‘Ecoboost’ engines, but is actually spoken more like ‘echosport’) – is a high-riding compact SUV aimed at the affordable segment of new car ownership.

It starts from AED60,000 and is fitted with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine driving only the FRONT wheels through a 6-speed automatic. But why then, you’re wondering, does it have a spare wheel mounted on the side-hinged rear tailgate making it a rather bulky affair to heave open when you come back from Lulu’s shopping in arms.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

It’s NOT four-wheel drive?!

Two reasons – a) because a four-wheel drive version does actually exist and is on sale in South America fitted with a 2.0-litre Duratec engine, and b) due to the amount of interior luggage and rear space they could free up by moving the tyre to the rear and not having to rely on a space-saver.

Just to dwell on that last statement, Ford did not bother with a tyre repair kit. Such a device assumes that you are likely to get a minor puncture and need only some help to get you going to a nearby tyre place. Which of course implies superior service infrastructure and excellent roads.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

Being an Indian car the Ecosport makes no such assumptions. It’s more pragmatic: your tyres could be ripped to shreds due to poor roads, debris and just bad rubber, and you may have a long way to go before getting a new tyre.

Big on the inside

Plus of course the benefits to interior space. Technically it’s a five seater, which means potentially it could accommodate about 10 people in India! Don’t be mislead by the diminutive looks, in terms of dimensions it’s on par with a Nissan Juke. The tall roof provides plenty of room for taller people and making the seats more upright, improves rear spaciousness too. Regular sized adults would have no problem at all travelling in this.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

Whilst we’re in here, let’s have a look around at the front. The trim maybe harder and more brittle than you’d find in other Fords, but the controls are top-notch, easier to use and intuitive, with good kit on our range-topping test car. It’s nicely styled inside with clean, crisp controls and actual buttons, with SYNC infotainment remote controls on the steering wheel.

And of course it’s versatile and clever, with movable rear seats which even recline as well as flip and fold adding even more room to the rather generous luggage compartment for a car of this size. There are also 20 storage spaces in the car, with a cooled glovebox. The climate control is said to cool the car from 65 degrees C to under 30 in less than 10 minutes. It’s also decently serene in here for a small, ruggedy type of vehicle.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

The little big-looking car

It’s a tall and narrow thing on the outside sitting 20cm above the ground – giving it good clearance for a small hatchback (which is kind of what it is really) and even approach and departure angles of 25 and 35 degrees respectively – they even claim a wading depth of 55 cm should be caught in flooded Sharjah this rainy season.

The larger wheels on our top-spec car improve the looks of the Ecosport, and I do rather like its chunky appearance, it sort of reminds of a kind of Scrappy Doo personality or a Dogtanian-type – cute and tough at the same time. I’m not saying it’s the best looking car around, but its bluff front end high waistline and taught composure does it quite a presence.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

Punching above its weight

Being that it looks like a shrunk-wrapped SUV and has a ‘let me at ’em’ spirit as it wantonly tries to take on the likes of Land Cruisers and Jeeps, the question arises – has it got any skills to match its visuals. Well we didn’t do any serious off-roading with it, but wandering around the wadis and quarries of Fujairah on dirt tracks and trails, it seemed happy to scurry along eagerly.

It is light weight (1220kg) and adequate power (109bhp) helps to give it decent momentum, although we wish they would also offer the 1.0 Ecoboost 125bhp three-cylinder engine which is actually faster (0-100kph in 12.7seconds and 180kph) and more economical.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

Where the real magic lies is in the ride. It’s remarkably smooth and pliant with good bump absorption and little transmission into the cabin. In fact it has a big car ride. Which is just as well really because if you were expecting it to handle like a Fiesta – ie very well indeed – you’d be wrong. It’s agile enough around town, and perfectly well planted on the road, but its’ not the gleeful chuckable little thing you might have imagined given its underpinnings.

The higher ride height has clearly brought a compromise as has the emphasis on ride – but once again, put it into context. We don’t have that many narrow and twisty country roads where the understeer is likely to ruin our apex-slicing antics here. But driving around on barely surface terrain, nipping through traffic, squeezing through gaps and sliding into the tightest of parking spaces, all earn extra bonus points for a the practical everyday motorist.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

Verdict

So all round then, it’s a thumbs-up and a ‘highly recommended’ from us then? Well not so fast. There is a fly in the ointment nearly as big as the one that snuck into the car and refused to leave during this shoot. It hitchhiked back to Dubai, and for all I know is raising a family of diptera in one of those cubby holes!

Anyway, it all comes back to paisa – money. And whilst on first acquaintance AED60k (rising to AED80k for this top-spec car) doesn’t seem unreasonable, I must remind you that a brand new Renault Duster – also a SUV-styled two-wheel driver, but slightly longer and lighter and therefore a tad quicker – has a starting price of AED49,000 rising to little over 60k. Then there is something like the Kia Sportage which sits bang in the middle of a Ecosport price range but is more powerful.

Ford Ecosport tested in UAE

So there is plenty of choice in the segment now, and that’s a good thing because there’s more demand for compact city dwelling, high-riding SUVs as they make sense in our part of the world. And this Asian babe is definitely one to keep on your shortlist, because it’s surprisingly good at exactly what it was meant to do and be. If it was about 10,000 cheaper, it would present a serious threat to the dominant Duster.

2014 Ford Ecosport
Specs
Price: AED60,000-80,000
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, 109bhp @ 6300rpm, 103lb ft @ 4400rpm
Performance: 14.1secs 0-100kph, 172kph, 6.3L/100 (est)
Transmission: Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1220kg

What do you think of the miniaturised SUV? Tell us below!

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