Ford EcoSport (2014) Review

Competition

When choosing to buy a compact crossover / mini SUV such as the EcoSport, you will need look both left and right to see what other manufacturers are doing in the same segment, and up and down to see how other models in the Ford range compare, in order to make an informed purchasing decision. Below is quick overview of what else is on the market at the moment.

ford-fiestaFord Fiesta (£9,995 – £18,245)

The Fiesta is the smaller, older brother of the EcoSport, as we noted above. It is Whatcar?’s supermini of the Year 2014, and for good reason. It has similar engines and powertrains to the EcoBoost (thought it has quite a few more options on offer), but it is lighter, has much better poise on the road and less body roll in turning (as you would expect from a car with a much lower centre of gravity). And it is better outfitted within comparable price brackets. Naturally, it also has better acceleration and a higher top speed. It lacks certain utility features of the EcoSport, such as the roof rails, the external spare wheel and the raised profile. It also has a smaller boot, and the back seats do not roll over all the way to the front as they do in the EcoSport. It also lacks some of the nice add-ons in the EcoSport such as the latest SYNC with AppLink system and the drinks cooler in the glove compartment. The Fiesta looks much more attractive on the outside, and of a much more natural size. Otherwise the cabins of the two cars look and feel broadly similar, but the Fiesta comes with far more options and trim varieties, and can be customised to give a much better sense of comfort and luxury, if you are so inclined (and can afford it). Against the Fiesta, the EcoSport has only a couple of arguments, and they are all to do with the (slight) extra utility and the higher driving position. If those are absolute musts for you, then the EcoSport is the better choice. Otherwise, the Fiesta will likely win most contests.

ford-kugaFord Kuga SUV (£20,995 – £32,500)

The Kuga is still considered a compact SUV but it is about half a metre longer than the EcoSport, and it has much more of an SUV aura and feel to it. In a way, the Kuga is a size increment on the EcoSport in a similar way to how the EcoSport is a size increment on the Fiesta. It has one size more space inside, one size extra utility and so on. But it also has a much more quality feel to it, as is perhaps fairly indicated by the price. This should signal straight away that the comparison between the two cars is somewhat inappropriate, but a good look at the Kuga is necessary in order to understand the EcoSport in context, and to understand exactly what needs the baby SUV is aiming to satisfy. If it is full SUV utility you are looking for, and can afford the extra cost, the Kuga should be what you are aiming for. If, on the other hand, you are set on a mini SUV as the perfect compromise between performance, utility and cost (and this seems to be the thinking of many consumers nowadays), then go for the EcoSport.

renault-capturRenault Captur (£12,495 to £18,695)

The Captur offers a wider range of engine and transmission, and trims options than the EcoSport, which comes with a wider range of price points. But otherwise, the two cars sit in broadly the same price segment. And in terms of utility and approach they are also very similar. Much like the EcoSport is based on the Fiesta, the Captur is based on the Clio. Which implies that much of the same sort of hatchback / town car feel carries over from the smaller Renault, just as is the case with the Fords. The first obvious difference between the two cars is in their appearance. The Renault is not trying to look sporty, aggressive and rugged, in a segment where these attributes will never really apply. The result is that the design feels much more attuned to the purpose of the car (i.e. and urban crawler), and in consequence it is a much, much better looking car and much more elegant on the road too. At least in our subjective opinion. The cabin interior and front console layout are also very much in line with Renault’s reputation for progressive design. And though this is not always well received, in this case, the interior of the Captur just looks a lot nicer, better organised and elegant than that of the Ford. Though worries about quality and the flimsiness of the plastics used persist here as well.

Performance-wise, the Captur looks pretty good as well, at least on paper. Some engines are smaller and more economical than even the EcoSport’s EcoBoost, and others are bigger and faster, with slightly better acceleration and higher top speed. What you don’t get however, is the brilliant compromise in the middle that the EcoBoost offers, with much more performance bang per unit of fuel buck. The Captur also looks pretty good on costs, with the equivalent models usually marginally cheaper than the Ford offering and with lower running costs (including fuel consumption, tax and insurance). Though this will largely be due to the equivalent models being underpowered next to the EcoSport varieties. The main obstacle to the Captur is, however, Renault’s other reputation: the reputation it has when it comes to reliability. The Captur will be new in 2014, and, of course we cannot know from the start how reliable it will prove to be. All the while, it is standing next to a car from a manufacturer with a long-standing reputation for reliability, a car based on the extraordinary and proven Fiesta. Are the good looks and elegance of the Renault enough to warrant taking that kind of risk?
In conclusion, the choice between the Captur and the EcoSport comes down to: design and costs on the side of the Renault; and performance and reliability on the side of the Ford. Which one you will choose will depend entirely on how much you value each of those considerations relative to the others, and your attitude towards potential reliability risks.

nissan-jukeNissan Juke (£13,195 – £22,700)

The Nissan Juke has been best described as a love-it-or-hate-it issue. In that regard, it is strongly reminiscent of the Nissan Micra.

And just like the Nissan Micra, the very striking exterior appearance, combined with a rather well-designed cabin will earn Nissan many fans. This fact will probably mean that, along with the Captur, this car will be one of the EcoSport’s strongest competitors. But, this also means that direct comparison of relative performance, relative utility, relative reliability and so on, will be largely academic. If you love the Juke, you will buy the Juke. Otherwise, the EcoSport will be one of your most likely choices.

Overall, reviewers are not very well disposed towards the Juke on account of its polarising design, small boot, and more limited utility. The EcoSport is considered a better proposition, at least on paper, and is expected to satisfy a broader church of potential consumers. But we will see in about a years’ time how consumers will vote with their hard-earned cash.

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