2018 Ford EcoSport first drive review
It wouldn't be wrong to say the EcoSport charted new history for Ford in India. Back in 2013, the compact SUV segment was barely in existence and the EcoSport was quick to gain immense popularity. It wasn't the first sub 4-metre SUV in the country but it kickstarted the craze for compact SUVs and made every other manufacturer sit up and take notice of the potential the segment held. Several car makers have attempted to dethrone the Ford EcoSport since, though it's only in the recent past the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and now the Tata Nexon have truly managed to challenge it.
The Ford EcoSport is billed as the one that spawned the sub 4-metre SUV segment
Of course, five years (the Ford EcoSport was launched in 2013) is a long time and the EcoSport was feeling dated. Which is why Ford is back with a thoroughly refreshed version. The good news is that changes aren't limited to a redesigned face or spruced up interiors. The refreshed Ford EcoSport does boast all that but the bigger news is the all-new petrol engine under its hood. We spent the better part of a day driving it around Goa to see what the EcoSport feels like in its refreshed avatar.
The Ford EcoSport's front end has been revised thoroughly as part of the latest update. The grille has been moved up, is a lot bigger and bolder and Ford's iconic blue oval takes its place of pride right in the centre now. The headlamp unit houses projector beams and redesigned LED daytime running lamps. The round fog lamps have made way for bigger units that add more visual mass and on the whole the changes make for a fresh, more SUV-esque stance.
The bigger, bolder grille is the highlight of the EcoSport's design changes
Changes to the sides are limited to new, 17-inch alloy wheels, on offer only on the Titanium and Titanium+ variants. Move to the rear and you'll notice the spare wheel still mounted onto the backside. Ford tells us its research showed that customers prefer having the spare wheel on the rear door as it adds to the SUV-like feel, so the wheel hasn't been moved. That said there's absolutely no changes to the rear end and you could very well confuse the new version with the older one as they look the exactly the same from behind.
The refreshed Ford EcoSport's rear end looks identical to the older version and it is difficult to tell them apart from behind
The biggest highlight inside is the new 8-inch touchscreen. It gets a crisp resolution and bright colours, and touch sensitivity is excellent which makes using it on the go a breeze. The EcoSport now gets Ford's SYNC 3 that brings with it Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The revised centre console houses two USB slots apart from the controls for air-conditioning. As has been the case with Fords, climate control does an excellent job of cooling the cabin quickly. The revised clocks and steering mounted controls look classier and make for a richer feel from behind the wheel. The driver now gets a full-sized, fixed arm rest that also has a really deep cubby hole underneath. The rear seat gets a folding arm rest with cup holders as well.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport gets a revised dashboard and centre console along with a brand-new 8-inch touchscreen
Interiors are all-black like before, and look sporty. Beige interiors would have made for a roomier feel, but their lighter shade tends to look old and dirty very quickly, making the black theme the better bet here. We were hoping Ford would equip the EcoSport with a sunroof this time but it has chosen not to, which is a bit of a disappointment. Exterior dimensions or the wheelbase haven't changed which means interior space is the same. Sitting behind taller drivers thus continues to be a squeeze and boot space is the same at 352 litres too. Flip the second row down and you can liberate over 1100 litres of space though.
Bootspace in the 2018 Ford EcoSport is the same as before and is only good for one large suitcase and one bag
Engines and performance
Headlining the refreshed EcoSport is Ford's new, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine. It replaces the older 1.5-litre petrol engine and offers 123PS and 150Nm and comes mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. We drove the latter, which is a torque converter unit. Its refinement is the new engine's biggest highlight and Ford tells us a lot of hard work has gone into eliminating the typical gruffness associated with three-cylinder engines.
Being naturally aspirated the engine is quick to respond to throttle inputs. The gearbox isn't as quick as a twin clutch unit but feels adept at handling transmission duties. It makes light of city driving and gear changes are effected in a smooth, seamless manner. The EcoSport also gets paddle shifters, a segment first. The paddles work well though there is a slight delay before the gearbox shifts a gear when using the paddles. Claimed efficiency for the new petrol engine stands at 17kmpl.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport gets steering mounted paddle shifters, a segment first, along with cruise control
We also drove the diesel version briefly which is has not received any changes. The engine is the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder unit as before offering 100PS and comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox only. It feels as refined and the gearbox offers precise shifts, though the clutch still feels slightly heavy.
Ride and handling
Ford has tweaked the suspension slightly to improve ride quality and the difference was noticeable. I remember the EcoSport feeling crashy through potholes, but the refreshed version did a better job of soaking them up. The Titanium and Titanium+ petrol versions get bigger, 17-inch wheels now while lower variants use 16-inch wheels just like before, for aesthetics as well as better handling. The steering setup is slightly different and isn't as sharp as before. Ford tells us the response has been dulled slightly basis customer feedback, and the effect is a more linear feel when turning into corners. Feedback from the steering is as good as before though, with lots of communication. On the whole, the EcoSport continues with Ford's tradition of making cars that handle well.
The 2018 Ford EcoSport's suspension has been tweaked to soak up bad roads better and offer a better ride quality
The Ford EcoSport was feeling dated as a package, especially in the company of newer competitors like the Maruti Vitara Brezza and Tata Nexon. Its styling was getting long in the tooth and the feature list wasn't up to date either. The refreshed version takes care of all that and feels a lot more competent and modern. The new 1.5-litre petrol engine feels nice, and the automatic gearbox should make driving in city traffic more convenient. The suspension setup offers a better balance now, making the EcoSport even more likeable as an urban SUV.
Its facelift is a much needed shot in the arm for the EcoSport, and Ford is clearly aiming at winning back its crown in the compact SUV segment. The 2018 EcoSport will get launched in the coming weeks and when launched, we expect it to be priced in the same region as its current version to put up a serious fight to its competitors.
Given the thorough refresh it gets this time, the 2018 Ford EcoSport looks set to take the battle to its established competitors like the Maruti Vitara Brezza and Tata Nexon
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