|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
UPDATE 2: Here is our Full Review of the EcoSport 1.5 Titanium.
HUA HIN, THAILAND – One after the other, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber blared through the six-speaker system as the sixteen car convoy reached its first stop: a hole-in-the-wall mango and sticky rice shop. Then, everyone whipped out their smartphones and took a snapshot, sharing this newfound discovery with friends and followers through Instagram. This certainly doesn’t seem like your everyday test drive, then again, the Ford EcoSport is not your everyday car. It’s a pioneer in a segment all to its own; a vehicle crafted specifically for the urban warrior.
With the increasing demand to maximize available space in a highly urbanized setting, Ford sees the EcoSport as their answer. It’s the Beyoncé of SUVs by being bold and contemporary. There’s almost little overhangs front or back, creating a large interior in a compact frame. The EcoSport is undeniably a Ford upfront with its trapezoidal grille and slim headlights; while at the back the large rear window and oblique tail lamps create the same visual drama. And to keep the rear profile sleek, the tailgate handle’s built into the tail lamp cluster itself. The spare tire is mounted at the back as a nod to classic SUVs, but more importantly, it increases the EcoSport’s cargo capacity while lowering the lift height. Of course, the EcoSport’s beauty is more than just skin deep. The strategic use of creases and flowing lines contribute to a 0.371 co-efficient of drag translating to better fuel economy and improved cabin quietness.
Opening the driver’s door, the EcoSport reveals a sporty yet practical driving environment. The dashboard itself is as familiar as a cover song, given it’s been lifted off the Fiesta (on which the EcoSport is based). As a result, expect seats that are spot on comfy with excellent back and thigh support. Plus, the ergonomics are absolutely right with all the controls located within easy reach. However, the EcoSport does remix things a bit. First, the raised sitting position creates a more commanding view of traffic. Second, it offers tilt and telescopic adjustment to the steering wheel, something not offered in the Fiesta. Lastly, the EcoSport has finer detailing such as in the type of dash graining used: Squareflec. Though the dash surfaces are generally hard to the touch, everything is executed in an exemplary manner with solid controls, tactile buttons, and crisp stalks all giving a sense of quality. In addition, the Titanium trim offers the added luxury of Torino leather seats with Cabernet Red stitching.
Thankfully, the EcoSport’s sculpted dash isn’t a case of form over function as the high-tech feel comes without robbing valuable space. There’s good room for average-sized boy bands with the rear seats offering reclining adjustment for better comfort. The 60/40 split folding and tumbling feature grows the luggage space from a pedestrian 362 liters to a whopping 705 liters, enough to fit a washing machine or drum set (maximum dimensions: 1,027 mm width x 880 mm height x 1,099 mm deep). Plus, the EcoSport offers 20 different storage spaces including door pockets that can fit one 1.5-liter and one 600-ml bottle, a glove box that can chill 6 cans of drinks, and an under seat drawer that can fit a laptop.
With a sole engine configuration, there’s understandably some hesitation when it comes to the EcoSport’s performance; after all, it’s got the word, “Sport” in its name. Rest assured though it’s got enough spunk to keep up with Justin Timberlake. The 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine offers 110 horsepower and 142 Nm of torque—pretty ordinary numbers, but in reality, it’s more than enough to ensure a lively experience. Driving first through downtown Hua Hin, the broad torque curve allows the EcoSport to zip through traffic with considerable ease. The quick steering (5.4-meter turning radius), excellent visibility, and compact proportions allow it to squeeze through tight roads that normally would make an SUV squeamish. The suspension is also compliant through ruts. Fitted with a special damper with a hydraulic rebound stop, the EcoSport’s suspension dissipates road shock when the damper is fully extended resulting in a smoother ride while preventing damage to the suspension. And at a stopover in Maharaj Beach, the EcoSport literally climbed down onto the road from the curb, a testament to the 200 mm ground clearance (water wading depth is equally spectacular too at 550 mm).
As the EcoSport leaves urban Hua Hin behind and heads to the highways near the city, the engine does start to lose steam past 4,000 rpm. Though there’s still some good speed left, it just takes some time for the EcoSport to unlock it. 100 km/h is achieved at exactly 2,500 rpm, indicating that this drivetrain combination is designed for better acceleration, yet it can reach speeds past 130 km/h while remaining quiet, smooth, and planted. And though the slightest overtaking maneuver requires the EcoSport to downshift, it doesn’t seem to faze the economy that much achieving 11.76 km/L in a mixed city/highway environment (Ford quotes 15.4 km/L). What’s more, the electric power steering, typically a bane for high-speed driving, has been re-tuned with Pull-Drift Compensation and Active Nibble Control to eliminate the need to overly compensate. The suspension system is also beautifully tuned, balancing handling and ride perfectly. And thanks to a highly-rigid body, the EcoSport feels solid and rattle-free as it goes over broken asphalt.
With the new breed of car owner’s insatiable appetite for technology, Ford has kitted the EcoSport with all the smart features that brings up the value-for-money equation. First, the EcoSport comes with Ford SYNC, the company’s advanced voice-activated infotainment system. Second, it has Smart Keyless entry with a push-button start/stop. Third, it comes with automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. Fourth, it has Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with hill hold assist for improved safety. Lastly, the automatic climate control is has a sun load sensor that effectively cools the cabin from 65 degrees Celsius—the interior temperature of a car sitting in the afternoon sun—to under 30 degrees Celsius in just 10 minutes.
In the end, the Ford EcoSport is a vehicle that’s always ready to go where the road leads, be it through narrow city streets, rough roads, or even highways. It is truly a segment-defining SUV that’s designed and built for the new breed of urban warriors. It’s perfectly suited for discovering new places whether that’s in the city or in the countryside. Whether you’re driving to work, to a much needed vacation or to simply get lost, it’s a vehicle that’ll take you places. Now all you need is a sense of adventure.