Ford has unveiled its new EcoSport vehicle that will become the company's most affordable SUV in Australia.
The EcoSport, which will be built in India for the Australian market and is based on the platform of the Fiesta city car, is expected to go on sale here by about mid 2013.
It will sit at the bottom end of what will become a four-strong SUV line-up for Ford Australia, with the other soft-roaders comprising the Kuga (compact SUV that arrives in March), Territory and an upcoming Nissan Pathfinder/Mitsubishi Challenger rival based on the Ranger ute underpinnings.
The EcoSport concept is just over four metres in length, not including the rear-mounted spare wheel, making it smaller than most compact SUVs that are typically based on small cars rather than city cars.
Ford's design boss, J Mays, said the EcoSport preview concept is "95 per cent close" to the production version. Mays says Ford Australia's Melbourne design studio contributed to the EcoSport's styling, notably the Territory-style triple-bar grille.
"If you see a bit of Territory in [the EcoSport], it's no coincidence," said Mays.
Ford Australia wouldn’t confirm whether the EcoSport would be priced below $25,000 as would be expected, but said it expects the model to create its own segment.
“We think it will actually do a little bit of what Territory did for us in the medium SUV segment,” says Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps, referring to the locally built SUV that was offered in two-wheel drive as well as four-wheel drive.
“We think this will have an opportunity to almost create a segment in terms of volume. The Dualis is one [possible rival].
As a Fiesta-based model, the EcoSport will be front-wheel drive only, at least initially, confirming its positioning as an SUV to be used primarily in the city.
“It’s not for someone who lives in the Kimberleys. It’s for customers in Sydney, Melbourne … it’s for young, urban people,” says Phipps.
Ford says the Fiesta architecture can be engineered for all-wheel-drive capability but says this expensive investment would only go ahead if there was sufficient market demand.
Ford Australia confirmed the EcoSport’s engine options will include the company’s smallest ‘Ecoboost’ engine yet – a turbocharged, direct fuel injection 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol.
The 1.0-litre turbo will spread to other Ford products, with the Fiesta one of the most likely recipients. In the EcoSport it produces 88kW of power and 170Nm of torque, with the latter output delivered between 1300 and 4500rpm.
Ford hasn’t revealed a fuel consumption figure for the engine but says emissions will be below 140 grams per kilometre, equating to a fuel consumption somewhere in the mid-4.0 litres per 100km bracket.
A 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine will offer even better fuel consumption and emissions, while a 1.5-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder petrol will power the entry-level EcoSport.
Both engines are already found in the Fiesta in India, where the 1.5-litre petrol produces 80kW/140Nm and uses about 5.9 litres per 100km and the 1.5-litre diesel has 66kW/204Nm and a fuel consumption figure of about 4.3L/100km.
A five-speed manual will be the standard gearbox with a Powershift dual-clutch auto becoming an option on the diesel and possibly the petrols.
Ford Australia wouldn't confirm whether either of these engines would join the 1.0-litre Ecoboost for the local market.
The Ford EcoSport makes its debut at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo that opens this week.
The EcoSport is the second of eight Fiesta-based models Ford will produce for the Asia and Pacific region by the middle of the decade, following the Fiesta itself.
Ford sees B-segment vehicles, as city-sized cars are known in the industry, as crucial to its plans to grow global sales to eight million by 2015.
Ford's Brazilian outpost led the engineering and design for the EcoSport.