New 2017 Ford EcoSport Road Test

17 days ago | Sagar Bhanushali

Introduction

The general consensus around the old Ford EcoSport has long been that it’s a tough looking but sparsely equipped compact SUV that’s expensive to maintain. Nonetheless, that simply isn’t the case anymore. To begin with, in the last few years Ford India has expanded its service and spares network and as a result, the EcoSport indeed is low on maintenance and on par with the local adversaries. 

The old EcoSport was a car that, for Ford, represented a bold move away from what the brand offered back in the day. It came with all the SUV credentials including macho styling, fat tyres and high ground clearance while ducking under the crucial sub-4m mark. It was a winning recipe. Half a decade later, the recipe is still the same but with substantial upgrades to the interior, drivetrain and the design. Say hello to the new Ford EcoSport which couldn’t have come at a better time, particularly given the rising competition in recent times. 

Design and Style

This 2017/18 upgrade for the EcoSport is more than a facelift though it’s not a full-on generation change either. As a result, the dimensions are still the same and there aren’t any drastic sheet metal changes either. That said, the front-end is entirely new and embraces a large trapezoidal grille with the Blue Oval logo, pretty much like the Ford’s global SUV line-up (the car no longer gets a twin grille setup). 

The sculpted hood features a wider central dome and the headlights, too, are larger than before. All in all, the in-your-face stance of the old car has made way for a design that’s arguably more mature and present-day. As for the rest of the updates, the only other design change is apparent as you move onto the sides – here you will find the new 17-inch alloy wheels which, along with the low profile rubber, make the EcoSport look genuinely sporty. However, these 17-inchers are limited to the Titanium+ trim. Additionally, this top-spec trim gets chrome finish for the grille, satin aluminium for the roof rails and LED DRLs with projector headlamps. The lower-spec variants, meanwhile, come with halogen headlamps, silver finish for the grille and black roof rails. 

Interior

Unlike the modest exterior makeover, the interior design and layout has been extensively updated – a fact that is obvious the moment you open the door. Everything from the dashboard and the dials to the steering wheel is completely new – only the top half of the dash is somewhat similar to the old car. Nonetheless, the design now is much cleaner and more simplified as there are fewer buttons and knobs.

Whereas the old car’s cabin featured a black and grey combination, this new model gets an all-black treatment with some silver and piano black trim bits for contrast. While the overall quality is on par with the segment, some of the plastics aren’t exactly well finished – the opening for the cubby hole around the steering column is poorly finished and the glovebox opening isn’t well engineered either. Also, we aren’t fans of the new simple design for the instrument cluster which makes it look like it belongs to a car from the 90s.

In terms of ergonomics, the EcoSport puts up a strong show with well laid out controls, great driving position and most important of all, the tilt and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel. Storage is adequately addressed with two cup holders and decent-sized door pockets, although the glove-box is a touch too small. The EcoSport also gets a centrally located media bin to stow a smartphone while charging. Ford says it’s designed to accommodate a phone as large as an iPhone 7 Plus. Outward visibility was never among the EcoSport’s strong points and things are more or less the same in here. Despite the less bulky dash which is set lower than before, the Ford is still a little difficult to drive through traffic or park due to the massive A-pillars and a small rear glass. 

Take a seat behind the wheel and the EcoSport’s cabin feels comfortable enough without that sense of absolute airiness. This is down to the narrow cabin (compared to the rivals) and the all-black treatment which adds to the helmed in feeling. That said, the driving position is spot on and the front seats are now wider. What’s more, the OEM leather seats are of good quality and make the cabin more premium than the competition. While there’s a great deal of headroom and lateral support, the passenger side knee room isn’t as generous as the driver side – the centre console is angled more on the passenger side and fouls with their knees. At the rear, you will find a better sense of legroom thanks to the scooped out front seats - they do work and liberate more knee room. The headroom, meanwhile, is copious as always and the softer cushioning is great, too. What’s not so great though is the lack of shoulder room (when all the seats are occupied) due to the contoured backrest and the narrow width.

The 352-litre boot is unchanged and like before, it’s got a wide opening and a fairly low loading lip. More crucially, the boot is also larger than the competition and the floor is adjustable with three height settings so that you can align the boot floor when the seats are folded flat.

Safety and Equipment

What catches your attention as soon as you step in is the all-new 8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system. It not only looks smart and premium but is also plenty quick and easy to operate. The UI is crisp and the whole deal works incredibly smoothly – it is easily the most intuitive infotainment system for the price. 

Besides the infotainment system which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Titanium+ trim also comes with climate control, height adjustable driver’s seat, electric mirrors, alloy wheels, projector headlamps, daytime running LEDs, 6 airbags and ABS. The EcoSport also gets segment-first features like leather seats, tire pressure monitoring system and ambient foot well lighting. Oddly enough, you can’t have the petrol manual model in the top-spec Titanium+ trim as the range tops out at Titanium. It misses out on features such as cruise control, side airbags, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and rear view camera.

Engine, Performance and Braking

Ford has revised the engine range for the EcoSport and for this new model, introduced an entirely new 3-cylinder petrol engine. The new motor can be had with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter. The diesel, meanwhile, is the tried and tested 1.5-litre TDCI 4-cylinder motor. 

The new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine is dubbed ‘Dragon’. Replacing the old EcoBoost turbocharged motor, this naturally aspirated unit (putting out 123bhp and 150Nm of torque) is fairly advanced, featuring an aluminium block and cylinder head. To address the inherent imbalanced nature of the 3-cylinder configuration, Ford has integrated a balancer shaft to reduce the vibrations. At idle, there is a tiny bit of vibration coming through the pedals and the door armrest though once you get the car up to speed, it all smoothens out. In fact, on the move, this three-cylinder motor is incredibly smooth as long as you don’t floor it. The power output looks good on paper but you have to bear in mind that the EcoSport is a heavy car (1250kg for petrol MT, 1320kg for petrol AT and 1300kg for diesel MT, as tested) and this puts demand on each and every horsepower. Around town, the three-cylinder motor/auto box combo is impressive, with good low-end response from the motor and smooth shifts from the torque converter. Speaking of which, this engine pulls surprisingly well from low revs without knocking thanks to the healthy bottom-end. Being naturally aspirated, it delivers power in a linear manner right until 6,500rpm as it revs freely to the redline. 

The 6-speed torque converter is also new and for puttering around town in traffic, it works just fine. On part throttle, the gearshifts are smooth if not quick. It will upshift at around 2,000rpm with a light foot and as you press on the throttle, the shift points get higher (between 3,500 and 5,000rpm). Thankfully, it allows the car to crawl till 5kmph from standstill as you go off the brakes which is handy in rush hour traffic. All in all, it’s a decent, no-nonsense transmission that does a good job of adding convenience to your daily drives. In our acceleration and roll-on tests, the EcoSport petrol auto recorded a 0-100kmph sprint time of 12.08 seconds and took 9.52 seconds to accelerate from 40 to 100kmph. The manual gearbox equipped model, on the other hand, took 11.76 seconds to hit 100kmph from standstill. The 5-speed manual has a light shift action and clutch pedal; however, it’s not as slick as we would like.

The diesel powered EcoSport retains the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder motor from its predecessor. On the face of it, this engine still makes 99bhp and a healthy 205Nm of torque but we found it to be noticeably smoother and a bit more responsive than before. It’s a strong performer around town, one that remains quiet and refined – something you will appreciate the more time you spend driving the car. The refinement extends to the 5-speed manual gearbox which is light and smooth and makes good use of the engine’s torque to keep things ticking along strongly. While there is still some turbo lag below 2,000rpm, the engine pulls hard in the midrange and once rolling, the EcoSport simply rides that solid torque delivery up to highway speeds. Unsurprisingly, the diesel model turned out to be a whole second quicker to the ton compared to the old car, dispatching 0-100kmph in 12.50 seconds. It’s also slightly quicker in-gear, hitting 20-80kmph in third in 12.70 seconds and 40-100kmph in fourth in 15.09 seconds. 

Ride and Handling

The old EcoSport was brilliant around corners, where it was praised for its planted feel and good composure. The suspension was firmly set-up after all and while it dealt with bad roads comfortably, the ride was compromised a bit. As for this new model, Ford has worked on optimizing the suspension bushes and softened the shocks and the revisions haven’t been in vain since it’s fair to say that the EcoSport rides better than it used to. There is an extra layer of suppleness to the ride (especially the heavier diesel model) over sharp-edged potholes and road joints and we noticed that the lower-spec petrol variant with the higher profile rubber seemed to ride better overall. The suspension is still a little noisy over bumps, but it remains relatively composed. Also, there is still a hint of firmness to the way this thing rides over bad roads (especially with the 17-inch rims and the super low profile tyres), but the upshot is that you get a car that holds its line brilliantly through the corners and remains composed at high speeds. Similarly, the steering feels just as direct and quick at initial turn-in despite being worked on for a softer bite. You will encounter more body roll compared to something like a Vitara Brezza, however, you can safely lean on it and be assured that the car will hold its line seamlessly. 

Price and Fuel Economy

Over the years, Ford has bumped up the prices of the EcoSport though the new model is still decent value given the host of additional new features. The petrol range is priced between Rs 7.67 lakh and Rs 11.20 lakhs whereas the diesel range comes in between Rs 8.27 lakh and Rs 10.89 lakhs. All prices ex-showroom. 

As for the all-important fuel economy, the EcoSport petrol automatic returned 9.89kmpl in the city and 13.07kmpl on the highway under our testing cycle. The manual, meanwhile, delivered 10.02kmpl and 12.96kmpl respectively. As expected, the diesel powered EcoSport topped the list, delivering 13.8kmpl in the city and 18.8kmpl on the highway.

Verdict

All in all, the hugely improved Ford EcoSport has plenty going for it, particularly with buyers looking for a well-built crossover that packs in new tech and is great to drive. More importantly, both diesel manual and petrol auto models are more than up to the part when it comes to daily driving and for those seeking driving fun with full control, the petrol manual should prove fulfilling and good fun. 

Despite all the improvements, there are still some areas where the EcoSport could improve upon. The cabin is short on space and if we are honest, we would like the manual gearbox (for both fuel options) to be more engaging. Nonetheless, the EcoSport has been a strong seller for Ford and this extensive update should see it maintain its place at the top end of the crossover pyramid. 

 
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi 
 
Click here for our comparison test between Ford EcoSport, Tata Nexon and Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza
 
Click here to read our road test review of the Tata Nexon

Specification

CAR NAME Ford EcoSport
Variant Titanium+ Diesel MT Titanium+ Petrol AT Titanium Petrol MT
ENGINE  
Fuel Diesel Petrol Petrol 
Installation Front, transverse
Displacement 4 cyls, 1498cc 3 cyls, 1497cc 3 cyls, 1497cc 
Bore/stroke 73.5/88.3mm 84/90mm 84/90mm
Valve gear 2 valves per cylinder 4 valves per cylinder 4 valves per cylinder
Power 99bhp at 3750rpm 121bhp at 6500rpm 121bhp at 6500rpm 
Torque 205nm at 1750rpm 150nm at 4500rpm 150nm at 4500rpm 
Power to weight 75.74bhp per tonne 91.66bhp per tonne 96.80bhp per tonne 
Torque to weight 154.91Nm per tonne 113.63Nm per tonne 120Nm per tonne 
Gearbox 5-speed manual 6-speed torque converter 5-speed manual 
CHASSIS & BODY  
Construction Five-door, monocoque
Kerb weight(measured) 1300kg 1320kg 1250kg 
Tyres                        205/50 R17                                            205/60 R16
   
STEERING  
Type Rack and pinion, Electronic power steering
Turning circle 10.6m
BRAKES  
Front Discs
Rear Drums
Anti-lock Yes

Test Data

PERFORMANCE & BRAKING  
0-20kph 1.04s 1.27s   1.23s 
0-40kph 2.66s 2.97s  2.58s
0-60kph 5.01s 5.13s  4.90s
0-80kph 8.12s 8.30s  7.56s
0-100kph 12.50s 12.08s  11.76s
0-120kph 19.01s 17.70s  16.77s
0-140kph NA 26.95s  24.22s
0-160kph NA NA  36.36s
0-180kph NA NA  NA
0-200kph NA NA  NA
       
20-80kph in kickdown*/3rd gear 12.70s 7.18s*  12.84s
40-100kph in kickdown*/4th gear 15.09s 9.52s*  18.25s
       
80-0kph 25.52m
FUEL ECONOMY  
City 13.8kmpl 9.89kmpl  10.02kmpl
Highway 18.8kmpl 13.07kmpl  12.96kmpl
Tank size 52 litres 52 litres  52 litres
Range(75% City and 25% highway) 720km 586km  570km
INTERIOR MEASUREMENTS  
Front  
Legroom(Max/min) 850/620mm
Headroom(Max/min) 980mm
Shoulder room 1400mm
Seat base length 485mm
Backrest height 590mm
Rear   
Legroom(Max/min) 870/630mm
Ideal legroom 710mm
Headroom 950mm
Shoulder room 1310mm
Seat base length 490mm
Backrest height 570mm
Boot 420 litres
Length/width/height 700/1000/600mm