What is it?
Why I would buy it:
Striking looks, Feature-rich cabin, Steering feel and body control
Why I would avoid it:
Narrow cabin, Inconsistent cabin plastics, More expensive than its rivals
The new Ford EcoSport has made a big splash in the compact SUV space, partly thanks to its resilient design but also because of its vastly improved cabin. Even though it’s more of a midlife facelift and not a full-on generation change, this new version is doing well for Ford, outselling the impressive Tata Nexon month-on-month. Having already tested the standard model (you can read about it here), this time we are behind the wheel of the most expensive trim you can buy – the EcoSport S. Why the ‘S’ suffix, you may ask? The reason is simple. Ford has reintroduced the 1-litre EcoBoost petrol motor and made some core upgrades in spec that are fairly conspicuous.
So what are these core upgrades? The design, most notably, has been elevated in keeping with the sporty theme. As a result, the EcoSport S gets smoked headlamps with dark inserts and a more prominent treatment for the fog lamp bezel. The dark theme has been carried all through with a blacked out grille, black painted roof, roof rails and alloy wheels.
Riding on these tastefully designed 17-inch alloys (also black), the S edition appears rather smart and does a good job of standing out from the standard range without looking overdone. To our eyes, the angry looking fascia, now with the blacked out elements, imparts purpose and gives the EcoSport plenty of road presence.
How is it on the inside?
More design flair can be found as we move into the cabin. Compared to the standard car, the EcoSport S looks a little livelier, mainly thanks to the orange accents on the centre console, the passenger side dashboard and the door pads. What’s more, the orange inserts on the seats and the steering wheel stitching add a sporty touch and some contrast to the otherwise all-black cabin.
In the driver's seat, you have before you a cleanly laid out dash and a nice looking steering wheel. However, upon closer scrutiny, you will notice that Ford has upgraded the instrument cluster by adding a fully new MID display and chrome rings around the dials. The all-black colour scheme that Ford uses in most of its model line-up does a good job of masking some mediocre plastics in here – bits like the glove box opening and some materials around the steering column which aren’t well engineered.
As for equipment, the S variants adds a few highly desirable features over the top-spec Titanium+ trim. You get electric sunroof, a bigger 4.2-inch MID, tyre pressure monitoring system and aluminium pedals. As for the rest, there’s Ford’s brilliant SYNC3 infotainment system with a highly responsive 8-inch touch display, part-leather seats, foot-well ambient lighting, six airbags, ABS and stability control as standard. On every other count, the S version is similar to the standard car, meaning the cabin feels adequately comfortable for up to four occupants and the driving position is spot on. That said, outward visibility is bit of a weak link here - despite the less bulky dash which is set lower than before, the EcoSport is still difficult to drive through traffic or park due to the massive A-pillars and a small rear glass.
The 352-litre boot is also the same and like before, it has a wide opening and a fairly low loading lip. More importantly, the boot is also larger than the competition and the floor is adjustable with three height settings so that you can align the floor when the seats are folded flat.
How does it drive?
For our first impressions of the EcoSport S we got to sample the all-new 1-litre EcoBoost engine. However, deeming it ‘all-new’ is hardly accurate given that it’s a carryover from the old version that was introduced back in 2013. This 999cc, three-cylinder motor makes do with 124bhp at 6,000rpm, but it’s the strong pulling power (170Nm) all the way from 1,500rpm that does this compact SUV many favours.
For a turbocharged motor, the EcoBoost pulls well from low revs without knocking and that’s down to the healthy bottom-end. Better still, this forced induction engine delivers power in a surprisingly linear manner with just a hint of spike in pull around the 2,000rpm mark when it’s on boost. Even with three adults and their luggage on board, the EcoSport S never struggled to gain momentum when overtaking or pulling out from a side street and into traffic. It may be a strong performer, but the EcoBoost motor isn’t exactly refined. While its relatively vibe-free at idle (unlike the 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder NA motor which lets out tiny vibrations through the pedals and the door armrest), this 1-litre unit is noisier overall and seems more strained as you work it hard.
The other highlight of the EcoSport S is the new 6-speed manual which has a light shift action but the clutch pedal is surprisingly heavy. Also, it may be lighter to row through the gears but the shift quality isn’t the slickest around. That said, the gears are well spaced out and because it’s a 6-speed unit, the EcoSport petrol’s highway manners have improved considerably, with the engine ticking over at just 2,200rpm at 100kmph.
As always, the EcoSport punches above its weight when it comes to steering feel and body control. The steering weighs up beautifully as you go faster and also, there’s a good amount of depth and resolve in the chassis for a compact SUV. As for the ride quality, we found the EcoSport S to be rock solid over the silky smooth ECR (East Coast Road) test route in Chennai. However, every time we veered onto an unpaved back road, the ride comfort did suffer a bit mainly because of the low profile tyres.
Should I buy one?
The S version represents a new highpoint for the EcoSport range, one that elevates this compact SUV into a segment above. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take away the fact that its stylish, different and now, feature-rich. That’s exactly what buyers in this segment are looking for. Thanks to the new EcoBoost motor and the 6-speed gearbox, the EcoSport S is also more satisfying to drive. Sure, the shift action isn’t terribly slick and the engine could use some more top end zing. On the other hand, rowing through the gears while keeping it between 2,000 and 5,000rpm can be an absolute hoot. As we have already established with the standard model in our three way comparison review (click here to read), it’s a safe bet to recommend the EcoSport S as the segment leader. It has some flaws, namely a narrow cabin and outward visibility, but overall it’s still a solid buy.
Where does it fit in?
The EcoSport S can be had in both petrol and diesel powertrains. It is currently available with introductory prices ranging between Rs 11.37 lakhs for the petrol and Rs 11.89 lakhs for the diesel trim. At these prices, it competes with a range of models including C-segment offerings like the Honda City, Hyundai Verna and the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
Click here for our road test of the new Ford EcoSport
Click here for our comparison test between the new EcoSport, Nexon and the Vitara Brezza