David Zalstein spends a week with the Ford EcoSport in the wild west tackling wind, rain and a wedding…
An ever growing number of the population are taking to the SUV. Full- and mid-size to compact and sub-compact, the SUV is increasingly the vehicle of choice for young families, ‘active’ singles and generally anybody wanting to steer while looking down on other non-SUV motorists – ironically becoming fewer and fewer in number.
Marriage, too, seems – at least to me – to be on the rise. And with the promise of another couple of friends tying the knot, the lady and I headed over to her hometown of Perth in Western Australia, where our ride for the week would be the Ford EcoSport.
Starting at $20,790, our five-speed manual Titanium is priced from $25,790. Powered by Ford’s acclaimed turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder, the Indian-built EcoSport sends 92kW of power and 170Nm of torque to its 16-inch Goodyear Assurance-wrapped front wheels.
Sitting $2000 below the flagship 82kW/140Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder six-speed dual-clutch automatic-only version, our trim grade comes standard with climate control, fog lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, roof rails and a cooled glovebox.
The time away would see us mix in a few days in inner Perth, either side of the weekend’s marital happenings planned to take place about 150km south in the quiet beachside town of Binningup.
Sitting marginally higher up in the Titanium’s comfortable but fairly flat and lightly bolstered leather seats, vision is good, boosted by smart A- and C-pillar glass cut-outs.
Inside feels quite spacious too thanks to a long, curved dash and heaps of head and shoulder room up front. And while the dash, door trims, centre console tunnel and handbrake surround are all made of hard, scratchy plastic, this is offset by a gloss black finish around the gear shifter flanks and simply laid out climate controls. Roof-mounted grab handles, though, are an odd omission.
Nice silver accents on the gear lever top and multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel are also joined by similar treatments on the air vent surrounds, doors and door handles.
The same gloss finish is again used for the six-speaker audio system’s 32-button (and one central on/off/volume knob) Fiesta-sourced control panel. Looking complicated at first glance, any apprehension is fast quelled by a quick and simple Bluetooth connection process that makes accessing most features all too easy.
Teamed with a 3.5-inch central display screen, though, the circa-2008 unit does feel dated, particularly when compared with the likes of the touchscreen-based MyLink system in its slightly dearer local rival, the Holden Trax.
Clear and basic speedo and tacho designs sit inside the driver’s instrument binnacle accompanied by a fuel gauge and small trip computer, while the dash-mounted engine start-stop button is also easily spotted behind the wheel rim.
Around Perth streets and shopping centre car parks, light and direct steering, a slick gearbox and solid and surprisingly bitey brakes make the Ford EcoSport easy to drive and get used to. I found the clutch overly light for my liking, and made me wary of stalling, though not all testers have experienced this with this vehicle.
Despite a mild dead spot when the wheels are pointed straight ahead, the car feels nimble and agile. Even the lady saddled up for a stretch in the driver’s seat...
Though she likes the EcoSport’s overall dimensions and rear parking sensors, the whole high-riding car thing – and consequent body roll – isn’t something she’s a fan of.
The 346-litre boot, on the other hand, impresses us both. With a capacity 10L shy of the 268mm-longer Trax – though, 64L off the 149mm longer Peugeot 2008 – the Ford’s rear end proves more than adequate, even with us lugging around two suitcases, a camera bag plus shopping.
A huge help, too, and a really neat feature absent in key rivals, is the EcoSport’s tilt adjustable rear seatbacks. Simply by pulling a tether (one accessed from the rear seat base, one from inside the boot), you can independently adjust the angle of the rear seatbacks to give either a more reclined rear passenger seat or marginally more boot space – a particularly clever idea in a small car. They can also be tumbled forward to provide up to 705L of load space.
An EcoSport-stamped rubber boot mat is another smart addition, as is possibly the world’s smallest removable cargo blind.
Accessing the boot can be a bit tricky to the uninformed, however, with the push-button release for the side-hinged tailgate being pseudo hidden in the right-hand-side tail-light. But while remembering where the release lives fast becomes second nature, the weight of the tailgate itself – and for that matter the doors – repeatedly surprises given the sub-compact’s city run-about persona. The tailgate also swings open to the pavement side.
Once out of the city and onto the 100-110km/h highways headed down south, we are confronted by some of WA’s most severe weather in recent times.
Driven through properly wet and windy conditions – enough rain to make this May WA’s wettest in nine years and recorded wind gusts of up to 102km/h – the Ford EcoSport’s taller stance suffers, with strong crosswinds convincingly shoving it around. This is despite the additional weight on board (the luggage, not the lady).
But while its 1280kg kerb weight doesn’t go far in aiding high-speed stability, it definitely helps the little turbocharged Ford average 7.6L/100km over our total 667km trip – 1.9L/100km off its claimed 5.7L/100km.
Wind and rain or blue skies, the 1.0-litre engine is a smooth unit that does a commendable job given its size. Yes, not a lot happens below 3000rpm and it’s never going to throw you back into your seat, but if you’re content cruising along then it’ll happily hover around 2000-25000rpm. And if you do decide to push nearer its 6500rpm redline, you’ll be aurally treated to the neat off-beat thrum of three cylinders in full flight.
Some quality tunes and nervous moments behind us, we arrive safely and get to work on prepping for the weekend’s main event.
Suitcases out and rear seats comfortably reclined, two young ladies in fabulous frocks enjoy ample legroom and stacks of headroom in the second row, with the EcoSport’s wide rear door apertures making ingress and egress a trouble free affair.
Up front the lady raves to her friends about the Ford’s steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, rubber EcoSport-stamped centre console mat and the 1kg-rated passenger side under seat storage tub (ideal for keeping a spare pair of shoes in).
And so she should. With at least nine cupholders and storage bins plus smart horizontal in-door bottle holders and front seatback pockets, the Ford EcoSport has a plethora of places to put ‘stuff’.
The Ford EcoSport isn't as polished as a Peugeot 2008 but it is an impressive and fun little jigger that's also well specced and sharply priced.