The new Ford EcoSport model (2013) is a mini SUV which is promoted by Ford primarily in terms of its affordability, fuel economy, and all-round utility, but can also sport a few genuinely useful technological flourishes which you would normally only expect from higher end models.
It is built on the 2011 Ford Fiesta B2E platform, and its headline engine is the 1.0-litre, 3 cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost 125PS (123bhp), also featured in the new Fiesta models. This engine is extremely well regarded, having won praises across the board for its extremely favourable ratio of performance vs fuel economy. It has been awarded International Engine of the Year for the past two years, and, curiously for an engine at this end of the market, even the recognition of the BBC’s Top Gear crew.
So perhaps the best way to think about the EcoSport is as a larger version of an excellent small hatchback, stretched up for extra utility. And despite Ford’s claims that the model is “made for city streets and built to escape them”, there seems to be a consensus among reviewers that probably best if you don’t try to escape them too much.
The much advertised ground clearance of 200mm should not be taken as an invitation to drive it up too many muddy hills in the countryside. After all, you will only ever get front-wheel drive with the EcoSport. But rather, it is to be welcomed for the elevated view of the road, and the help it provides in negotiating potholes and speed bumps. Similarly, the rather impressive wading depth of 550mm might be seen as more useful in the eventuality of floods (and floods seem increasingly likely to become a permanent feature of the British winter), rather than an invitation to off-road through rivers.
The comparison with the smaller Fiesta remains pertinent throughout, as there are many ways in which both the technical aspects and the driving experience relate closer to the hatchback than to what you might expect from a typical, larger SUV. In some regards this is a very good thing, but in others less so.
Nonetheless, the model has generated a great deal of interest in the all of the markets for which it was announced, as the mini SUV market is expected to boom this year. Originally aimed at the developing economies market, and launched in Brazil, India and China through 2012 and 2013, it is being launched in Britain and Europe more broadly in 2014. Dealerships in Britain are reporting a very large number of inquiries about the model, and expect that demand will greatly outstrip the limited supply for the car all through 2014.