Ford literally created the sub-compact SUV segment with the EcoSport and the vehicle soon turned out to be a runaway success to the point that some variants had 9 months of waiting period. Other companies soon realised the potential of the segment and quickly launched new products. Soon, the Ford EcoSport lost its bite as competitors came up with new and improved features. The EcoSport itself got some minor updates but they weren't enough to arrest its declining market share. Although a bit late, the new Ford EcoSport is here and while it is based on the same platform as the older model, it does have design and critical mechanical changes too. We got a chance this week to drive the new Ford EcoSport in Goa and found out if it is strong enough to cause worry for competitors in the segment it created.
2017 Ford EcoSport Facelift Design
The 2017 Ford EcoSport features an all-new front where the highlight is the new grille with chrome slats that give it a more sporty stance and is a bit similar to the Mustang too. The new headlamps with LED DRLs and projector headlamps along with the sharp fog lamps give the EcoSport a chiseled look that goes along well with its sporty positioning. The new bonnet and bumper too add to the dynamic stance of the new EcoSport and give it a more premium look than the older model.
As one moves to the side and eventually the rear, it becomes clear that not much has changed here. The new 17-inch alloy wheels do look impressive and are in sync with the EcoSport's positioning but the silhouette remains unchanged. At the rear too, it's the spare alloy wheel with the new design that's different but almost everything else is the same as seen on the older model.
Overall, the new Ford EcoSport has grown in terms of design appeal and looks much better and sporty than its predecessor. It retains the SUV feel without wearing a boxy body and that has to be the main appeal of its design. However, designers could have given it a bit more differentiation at the side and rear considering the new EcoSport is already late to the market and is going up against the extremely tough competition.
2017 Ford EcoSport Facelift Interiors & Safety
The cabin is where one can instantly make out that most things have changed and the party piece is the 8-inch floating touchscreen. I'll discuss the screen first as it is a brilliant unit! The touch response is fluid and better than the competition and visibility under sunlight too is good. The unit comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay but doesn't have in-built satellite navigation but can display your phone's navigation. Other connectivity options include two USB port, two 12V sockets, and AUX-in.
Based on feedback from Indian consumers, the seats in the new Ford EcoSport have been redesigned and are now wider and have better cushioning. The dashboard itself is new and looks more modern than the older model's and is well-built too. All controls are placed within easy reach of the driver and the screen itself is quite close to the steering, making it easy to use all controls.
There are enough storage compartments inside the cabin to store objects such as smartphones, wallet, coins and other small items. Like the front seats, the rear seat too has improved cushioning and offers good under thigh and back support. The backrest incline angle too is nice and will keep occupants comfortable provided there are limited to a count of two. The fact that the legroom too is less than the key competitors makes it hard for a third passenger to squeeze in. The front centre armrest too east into rear legroom for the middle passenger and hence taller occupants might have issues with legroom but headroom being better should be less of an issue.
The boot volume has now been increased by 30 litres and with the foldable rear seats, total volume can be increased to 1,178 litres. There's also a smart removable base lid, which can be slightly raised to create a cavity that can be used to store precious belongings such as laptops or tablets away from unwanted eyes.
Safety has been given its due importance in the new Ford EcoSport as front dual airbags with ABS and EBD are standard across the range. Top variants come with six airbags, traction control and Hill Assist Control in addition.
Overall, the interior has been given an impressive upgrade as not only have the surroundings become more comfortable but the tech too has got smarter. Storage spaces too have been well-designed and the only thing that does fall behind the competition is rear space, which will be bothersome only to tall occupants. I'm 172 cm tall for reference and did not run out of legroom despite having the driver's seat adjusted to my height.
2017 Ford EcoSport Engine & Gearbox
Now one of the strong points of the EcoSport has been its performance, both in terms of powertrain as well as handling. The new model keeps that spirit going, fortunately. The highlight here is the all-new 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol engine that develops about 120 hp and 150 Nm of torque. Unlike the EcoBoost engine, this unit is naturally-aspirated so there is no lag now and driving in stop-go traffic is much easier.
Out on the highway, the engine performs in an impressive manner with a generous amount of torque that kicks in from as low as 1500 rpm and one can ride the wave till about 5,500 rpm, after which power starts to taper. The sound from the engine is a bit odd, maybe because it's a three-cylinder unit but after some time I started to like it and wanted more of it to hit my eardrums. The engine has enough power to keep cruising at triple digits all day and overtaking is always quick. The only weak link in the package is the six-speed automatic transmission, which is tuned more for fuel-efficiency. Coupled with paddle-shifters the gearbox shifts at a decent pace but doesn't extract the full performance of the brilliant petrol motor. Sports Mode calibration is done nicely and one can instantly feel the eagerness in the throttle but even when shifting manually in Sports mode, the gearbox doesn't let you hold on to a gear at high rpm and upshifts automatically. For a vehicle of the EcoSport's capabilities, this is a bit of a letdown.
There's also a 1.5 litre diesel engine on offer that develops 100 hp and 205 Nm of torque and is the same unit that powered the older EcoSport too. The only transmission option available here is a five-speed manual transmission. Performance is similar to the previous EcoSport and there's plenty torque available in each gear right from 1,500 rpm to about 4,000 rpm. For those looking at clocking higher distances, this engine offers a good balance between power and fuel-efficiency.
2017 Ford EcoSport Facelift Ride & handling
Ford is known to make cars that are fun to drive and the new EcoSport lives up to that expectation. Once you drive the new Ford EcoSport for a while, it is noticeable that the suspension has been softened up a bit and that's actually a good thing. While the olde EcoSport did feel a bit harsh while going over big potholes the new one is more comfortable. Bumps are now soaked in much better, keeping the occupants comfortable. Best thing is there's hardly any compromise with the handling due to the softer setup. High-speed corners and switchbacks are still a breeze to go through and the EcoSport exhibits little body-roll. Grip from the 215/50 – 17 tyres was impressive, aiding driver confidence.
The steering wheel too has been given some play in the centre and hence is not as sharp as earlier. For a hardcore enthusiast, this might be a downer for most this won't even be noticeable as feedback is still good. Overall, the new Ford EcoSport handles similar to the older model but offers more comfort now yet is the best handling compact SUV in the country right now and by a fair margin.
The new Ford EcoSport is a good example of how consumer feedback can help engineers address many practical issues, especially those related to India. While design changes are only limited to the front primarily, the changes inside the cabin and under the hood (petrol version) are impressive. Ford has also ensured a rich list of convenience and safety features across the variant range, which should add to its competitiveness. In a nutshell, the new Ford EcoSport delivers well on most parameters that Indian buyers are looking for presently. So while it is a technically-sound vehicle, it's ability to succeed again will depend a lot on the pricing, which will be announced on 9th November.
If Ford prices the 2017 EcoSport well, there's a good chance of it becoming one of the top-sellers in the segment quickly. At the same time, Ford India should also not get carried away and price it high as the competition is strong. At the time of the launch of the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Ford reduced prices of the old EcoSport by more than Rs 1 lakh on some variants. From 60 % localisation in 2014, the new EcoSport now features over 85 % localisation so expectations are naturally high for a competitive price-tag.