Why would I buy it?
- Handsome and masculine looks
- Steering feel and ride quality
- Spacious and well-built cabin
Why would I avoid it?
- Looks incomplete without the rear-mounted wheel
- Dated interior and features
- Needs a major update
Ford EcoSport with the SE badge at the back loses the tailgate-mounted spare wheel and it takes some time to assent the new look. Especially when the back-mounted wheel has been EcoSport’s trademark for almost a decade now. Based on the Titanium Plus trim, the SE does get all the bells and whistles and should be opted for by those who want the fully-decked up version without the flamboyance of the S trim.
Engine and Performance
There are no changes to the powertrain in the SE trim compared to the standard model. So you can have it either with a 1.5-litre diesel making 99bhp and 215Nm paired with a five-speed manual. Or the one we are driving here – the 1.5-litre three-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol from the ‘Dragon’ family. It puts out 121bhp of power at 6,500rpm and max torque is rated at 149Nm from 4,500rpm. Unlike the standard range, the SE trim can only be had with a five-speed manual as standard. This naturally-aspirated motor outclasses its competition in terms of power output – even those with newfangled turbo petrol.
But on the flip side, the three-cylinder engine makes its nature felt the moment you crank up the motor. Even though there are no vibrations felt on the inside, you can hear the three-cylinder chiming out when idling. On the move, it does have a linear power delivery, but you might find yourself wringing the motor slightly more than necessary to get the best out of it. To keep up with the traffic or manage highway speeds, one has to keep it running between 2,500-3,500rpm. Give it the right amount of beans and it will outrun some of the competition too. But we’ll wait for our test figures to find that out.
Since there’s no turbo, there’s barely any lag, and the motor revs freely all the way to the 6,500rpm redline. However, it does get noisy at this point. Another thing we were left unimpressed by was the notchy gear shift action. It takes effort to slot in the tall gearlever and there’s no fluidity to it like you get in other cars of this segment. On the upside, the clutch action is light and easy to use, thus ironing out the shortcomings of the irksome notchy gear shifts. As for the fuel efficiency, Ford claims 15.9kmpl for this petrol-manual combination.
Ride and handling
One of the strongest traits of the Ford EcoSport has been its ride and handling. The balanced ride quality over any road surface (or the lack of it) combined with direct and well-weighted steering response has made the EcoSport an ideal choice for those who like spending more time behind the wheel. That said, there’s an underlying stiffness but it remains supple and comfortable – even when going over sharp-edged potholes or road joints. Even at high speeds, there’s commendable straight-line stability, something that the newfound lightweight competition can only dream of.
Show it some corners and the EcoSport manages to bring a smile to your face with its direct and rightly weighted steering. It also manages to hold its line commendably despite some amount of body roll. But being an involving car to drive, it comes out of the corner with solid assurance.
Interior Space and Quality
Over the Titanium Plus trim, the SE gets new fabric upholstery that’s slightly different from the rest of the line-up. It’s got a tinge of ivory over grey which is unique and will surely have polarising opinions. Apart from that, the cabin follows a dual-tone black-beige theme but everything remains mostly unchanged from what we are used to seeing in this American sub-four metre SUV. You get the floating touchscreen display that looks nice, but otherwise, this cabin has started to feel dated.
Take the air-con controls below the screen, for instance, look outdated with the simple buttons and monochromatic screen – just like the driver’s display. In today’s age when more and more budget cars are being offered with an all-digital driver’s display, this analogue dial combined with a black-and-white screen looks long in the tooth. In terms of visibility, we found the thick A-pillar hindering the view by a huge margin. Otherwise, the commanding position of the driver’s seat offers ample space with good ergonomics too. It’s a comfortable seat as well, with support in all the right places.
Even though it’s a solidly built cabin, we did expect better quality plastics in some places. There are a good amount of storage spaces here, like on the centre console and door pads – but the exceedingly tall storage bin below the driver’s armrest deserves a special mention. Move to the back seat and there’s ample amount of head and knee room and three can sit with relative ease here. You even get a folding armrest with cupholders but there are no air-vents for the second-row passengers, which is a bit of a letdown.
Lastly, the boot of the EcoSport opens up like a conventional door and not like a hatch like in any other sub-four metre SUV. Open it up and there’s a massive space of 352litres. The door opens wide and far but it might not be the most convenient to open in tight parking spaces. But what’s more impressive about it is that the loading lip is relatively low and the boot itself is fairly tall and usable.
Features and Safety
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. With no provision of a spare wheel in the SE, Ford has provided a puncture repair kit here. It’s got an air pump that can run on a 12V supply and a liquid solution that can curb the damage temporarily without the hassle of removing the tyre – or being stranded without a spare wheel to change. Being a top-spec variant, you get all the goodies like keyless entry and start, sunroof, auto headlamps with HID projectors and DRLs, cruise control, auto AC, auto-dimming mirrors, sunglass holder, auto wipers, ambient lighting, 16-inch silver finished alloy wheels, and an eight-inch touchscreen with Ford’s SYNC3 interface.
The touchscreen has proven to be one of the smoothest and easy to use systems, and now it also comes with Ford Pass connectivity tech along with smartphone integration like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Safety front, there’s a long list here as well. This includes six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control, hill start assist, and TPMS. On the flip side, the SE trim misses out on funky-looking alloy wheels, ISOFIX child seat anchors, puddle lamps, and leatherette upholstery – all of which are available on the S trim.
Ever heard that kindergarten story about a fox whose tail gets chopped off and it returns to the herd trying to convince others to get rid of their tail by calling it the new fashion? In the case of the EcoSport SE, it’s the other way around. Having kick-started the segment, the EcoSport had its unique identity with its rear door and spare wheels.
Now to be more in-line with the herd, the SE drops the spare wheel along with few features in a bid to be more conventional in the flock. Abandoning the tail-gate-mounted spare, the number plate position has moved upward with a redesigned faux bumper making up for its reworked design. But it does feel incomplete, especially since we are accustomed to seeing the wheel at the back. Priced Rs 43,000 less than the (considerably better looking) S trim, the SE makes sense for those who want their EcoSport to look more conventional amongst the new crop of sub-four metre SUVs. Everyone else should just go for the S.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi