|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
As the Lunar Sky-colored EcoSport (in range-topping Titanium trim) drove up, the Missus immediately commented that she doesn’t dig the grille. After some debate, she’s right in this case. The EcoSport, most especially the front-end, is a love-it-or-hate-it design. The Whale Shark-like gaping mouth has its uses, but the execution is much less convincing here than say, in the Fiesta. After some more minutes of examining the EcoSport though, you find out that there’s more to it than just the polarizing front-end. With just a length of 4,245 millimeters (including the spare tire), there’s not much metal to play with, but designers have certainly gotten the lines and proportions right. The EcoSport looks macho, capable, utilitarian, sophisticated, and classy all at the same time.
There are a lot of nifty details in the EcoSport’s design from the aero detailing not just to improve airflow (the kicker panel on the rear quarter window) but one that even creates a more efficient bow wave when traversing a flood (the extended front quarter bumper trim). Of course, there are the more obvious ones like the integrated rear door handle with push-button actuation. As cool as these details are, there are some tremendous design misses on the EcoSport’s design (two of them, actually)—which can potentially hurt you. First is the rear door that swings sideways. Although this is largely commonplace, the door edge is right smack at head level and is extremely sharp. This can actually cause a head wound. Second is the hood itself which doesn’t open high enough. This can cause your head to hit the latch when you’re checking the fluids or even trying to get a decent shot of the engine bay.
Inside, the EcoSport is a familiar sight to Fiesta owners. It gets the sub-compact hatchback’s interior almost lock stock and barrel especially on the subject of buttons, stalks, and controls. Of course, there are unique cues like the Squareflec dash pattern, but for the most part, it’s a Fiesta. That’s not to say Ford hasn’t used this chance to improve on the Fiesta’s shortcomings though. For instance, the EcoSport has the added convenience of a tilt/telescopic steering wheel making this crossover an extremely ergonomic ride. And then there’s the driver’s seat which offers adjustable lumbar support and even an armrest. Unfortunately, packaging restraints meant some interior features had to go. The addition of the moon roof meant the grab handles (front and back) have disappeared making ingress/egress much more difficult for the elderly.
That single packaging issue aside, the EcoSport does offer a lot of useful storage spaces scattered throughout its compact footprint. The center console just aft of the shifter doesn’t just offer space for three cup holders but also enough room for your iPod (the aux and USB inputs are located here) and two smartphones. There’s also an under seat storage tray beneath the front passenger seat, a cavernous glove box, and front door pockets that can fit 1.5-liter soft drink bottles. The most important cubby hole though, the luggage compartment, is merely adequate. It’s not particularly deep or wide, but it is tall. Thus, fitting items like two or three gym bag lengthwise won’t be a problem, but managing two 26-inch suitcases will pose a challenge (unless you don’t mind stacking them on top of each other). Of course, the EcoSport does come with a 60/40 split-folding rear seat that grows the available cargo area past 700 liters, but the load area isn’t flat which can limit its usefulness.
While not exactly the perfect airport shuttle, the EcoSport is an extremely comfortable city car, especially if you travel with just a few friends at a time. The front seats are superb with excellent support, trouncing some higher-priced crossovers in terms of comfort. Those at the back won’t be as lucky though. It seems Ford has already set expectations with the EcoSport’s small rear accommodations by providing just two headrests and two three-point seatbelts (the center one is just a lap belt). Indeed, rear legroom is a precious commodity which must be bartered with the front passengers. That said, the rear seatbacks themselves are comfy, offering two levels of adjustment. The cushion length is just right for good hip support as well.
Sitting atop of the Fiesta platform, there’s an expectation that the EcoSport will drive like one. And for the most part, that’s an affirmative although if you would be overly critical about it, there are some aspects where the EcoSport actually loses against the Fiesta. Sharing the same 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the EcoSport’s straight line performance is best described as so-so. There’s some good pull, but because of the extra weight (an additional 164 kilograms), the engine has to work a bit harder to get it. And by having to apply more throttle, the engine comes out sounding gruff and taxed especially after sampling this drivetrain’s application on the Fiesta. Indeed, if there’s a good case for EcoBoost power, it would be here. Like the Fiesta, the EcoSport uses a 6-speed dual clutch automatic which is smooth for as long as you know how to use it. Being too aggressive with throttle inputs (aka treating it like a conventional automatic), will result in a jolting and rough experience (like riding a wild bronco). Nonetheless, the Power Shift (as the transmission is officially called) does respond quickly and makes great use of the engine’s narrow power band. This powertrain also means the EcoSport 1.5 can return fuel economy figures almost in-line with the Fiesta’s: 8.47 km/L in the city and 15.38 km/L on the highway.
Given that the EcoSport has a higher center of gravity than its Fiesta sibling, it’s amazing how confident and tossable this crossover feels in the twisties. The electric power steering is quick and responsive to inputs imbuing the EcoSport with go-kart like nimbleness. In addition, front anti-roll bars and rear twin shock absorbers keep body roll in check. And through the tightest of turns, the Goodyear tires provide confident grip with just hints of tire chirping. When the going does get tough, the EcoSport is loaded not just with anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution, but with vehicle stability control as well. The nimbleness of the EcoSport does have one trade-off and that’s in the way it absorbs bumps. The ride itself is quite alright, but the EcoSport can be quickly unsettled by large obstacles like humps, curbs, and potholes. The suspension re-bound rates have been clearly increased giving the EcoSport a tighter feel through smooth roads but at the expense of a poorer experience on rough terrain. And despite the small proportions, the EcoSport isn’t as easy to maneuver around in traffic as you think. All-around visibility is mixed at best. The biggest problem is the front three-quarters and the rear three-quarters where huge blind spots are present. Thankfully, rear parking sensors are standard.
With a price tag that caps off at P 975,000, the Ford EcoSport still has a lot going for it. Going beyond the mere perception that an SUV gives more ‘bang for the buck’, the EcoSport comes fully loaded with almost everything you can imagine from a moon roof to leather seats to Microsoft SYNC voice-activated sound system (which sounds awesome by the way). After driving it for quite some time on Manila streets, it’s clear that some magic is beginning to rub off the EcoSport. For the most part though, it’s more than enough car, especially for the price. In fact, it still manages to live up to its expectations but this time, you might have to bring it down a notch.
2014 Ford EcoSport 1.5 Titanium
|Ownership||2014 Ford EcoSport 1.5 Titanium|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||110 @ 6,300|
|Nm @ rpm||142 @ 4,500|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,289|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather/Urethane|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|