Ford EcoSport (2014) Review

ford-ecosport-sideview

Ford EcoSport sideview

Exterior

  • Length: 3999 mm (not including the rear-mounted wheel)
  • Width: 1765 mm
  • Height: 1708 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2520 mm
  • Ground Clearance: 200 mm
  • Kerb Weight: 1200 kg – 1258 kg (depending on model and options)

When it comes to the styling of different car models, judgements will always be subjective. What can be said from the start, however, is that the EcoSport is not the most attractive car that money can buy. But on the plus side, it’s not the ugliest either. And realistically, if you are looking to buy a mini SUV, then you are probably already resigned to the fact that your car will be pretty average-looking.

There can be some exceptions to this rule, such as the Mini Countryman. That is a very striking looking car – though not in a good way. If that particular model proves anything is that average looking might not be such a bad idea after all. One thing that can be stressed, however, is that the pictures in the Ford brochures and on the website do not in fact do justice to the car. It does look quite a bit better in real life.
The overall shape and styling of the body is really just what you would expect from a car in this segment. Or maybe it is the fact that the model has been around (in other markets) for a couple of years now that plays into that perception. Having been already established (read “a little old”), it is placed firmly within the established standard design language for this segment, and there aren’t any “wow” features. While driving it around, we did get some looks, but mostly of curiosity for a previously unseen model rather than of wonder.
Yet there are a handful of features that attract your attention to the looks of the car. The headlights are reassuringly consistent with Ford design in other models, with a touch of sparkle provided by the LED “Signature” Lights. This design feature, first introduced by Audi a few years ago, is becoming more and more prevalent in the marketplace. May be a nice touch, if you are attracted by this aesthetic, but it has little utility otherwise, and can only be seen in very low lighting conditions.

The silver roof rails are quite conspicuous and self-consciously contrast with the rest of the bodywork. You may find the strong colour contrast a bit jarring, but the effect does go some way towards projecting a “sporty” look. The rails themselves don’t look particularly heavy-duty, but then again, the most you will ever want to carry on them is probably just a pair of skis. This is not, after all, an off-road beast with which you can conquer the wilds.

The 16” alloy wheels on the model we tested looked reasonably attractive, and fitted in well with the rest of the car, and the 17” wheels seem very good-looking indeed. The wheels seem neither too wide for the purposes of the car, nor too narrow, and their traction on the road seemed perfectly adequate – though it has to be said that we only got to test the car in dry conditions, in an urban environment, so we couldn’t push the car too close to its technical limits.

Ford EcoSport rear quarter view

Ford EcoSport rear quarter view

The external, rear-mounted spare wheel case, which houses a full size wheel, looks oversized, and somewhat out of place. The rest of the car simply does not look large enough, or indeed that rugged for it to fit in with the rest of the design. But you will be very happy that Ford chose to put the spare wheel where they did for practical reasons. The way in which Ford have raised the stance of the car, mostly by simply lifting the entire floor up, means that there is no space for anything under the carpet in the boot, except a very small tool box. Another consequence of the rear-mounted spare wheel is that the tailgate does not open upwards, as it would in a hatchback, but rather sideways. This is quite interesting at first, but once the novelty wears off, you notice that this will prevent you from backing into parking spaces if you wish to retain access to the boot. You will also need to always bear in mind that the hinges of the tailgate are on the left-hand side, which in Britain means that the door opens into the road and towards the pavement when parked. And parallel parking will be an interesting feat as well, given that you will have no idea of where exactly your rear-mounter spare ends, and when you are about to bump into the car behind you. Bumping into things, incidentally, is strongly discouraged also on account of EuroNCAP’s assessment of the Ecosport’s safety towards pedestrians: score of 58%. But Ford’s customers are much better looked after, with a 93% safety score for passengers.

Front view of the Ford EcoSport

Front view of the Ford EcoSport

Lastly, the “bold” front grill is quite difficult to describe, but it feels unsatisfactory. It is prominent from the front in a way that feels unbalanced in relation to all the other details around it, and it is not particularly remarkable or attractive in any way. It looks less out of place in real life than it does in promotional pictures, but, for such a prominent feature, it’s still not the best design effort.

Could Ford have done better? Given the difference in price and segment, it would be unfair to expect that Ford could meet the design level of something like the Range Rover Evoque. But if it really is the case that the EcoSport is an oversized Fiesta, then scaling up the design language of the Fiesta might have been a better idea. Sure, that kind of strategy could also go wrong, and the Mini Countryman is a good example of how that could happen. But the Mini design language is different in that the whole aesthetic is driven by the appeal of the “small, charming and full of character”. The Fiesta design, on the other hand, is not constrained in the same way. And at the very least, a Fiesta style front grill would have worked a lot better than the current proposition.

At the time of launch in the UK, the EcoSport will also be in direct competition with the likes of the Renault Captur in the same segment, for example. And when it comes down to design and styling alone, the Captur is in an entirely different league. So unfortunately, the EcoSport already feels out of date in this area, next to some of its direct competitors.

The saving grace of the EcoSport, however, is that when all is said and done, it looks and feels solid and properly put together. All the panels seem sturdy and well assembled, all the doors and joints (e.g. for the bonnet) work properly and have no wiggle or give, and they all close with a reassuring thud, which hints at a properly sealed cabin. This is more than just subjective impression, as there is a rubber band going around the edges of every door, where they make contact with the rest of the body, effectively insulating the interior. Panel gaps are consistent and narrow, the paintjob seems very good, and overall there are no obvious details that would suggest that this is car is anything less than mechanically solid.

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