Ride And Handling
- Ground Clearance: 200 mm
- Wading Depth: 550 mm
- “Approach” Angle: 22 degrees
- “Departure” Angle: 35 degrees
So far, the first impression of the car is pretty mixed, and that ambivalence persists even when the car has been examined in detail. Many individual features of the car are really good, and right next to them there are just as many features that immediately dampen one’s enthusiasm. But does the car deliver where it really matters: ride, handling, performance, and safety?
In short: Yes. To start with, the ride and handling are really, really good. You walk around the car and the design leaves quite a few things to be desired, you step into the car and feel around and that disappointment continues, but as soon as you press the keyless start button and set off, all those things are instantly forgotten.
Everything that you tell the car to do it does it with such sharpness and responsiveness that it takes you by surprise. Especially if you step into the car expecting to be driving an SUV. The acceleration is the first thing that grips you. Here you are inside a car that from the outside looks pretty big and that should feel heavy, with a tiny 1.0l engine. You set off in 1st gear, and before you have had time to lift your foot off the clutch from starting it, you are already at 25-30mph and need to shift up a gear. The next thing is the steering. Being a long car, it looks like the steering should be wide and heavy, but with just the slightest flick of the wrist you can jump from one lane to the other and go around the car in front of you. And the turning circle if you are trying to do a three-point turn in the middle of the street is equally good for a car this size, at an estimated 10.6m. Then, there’s the gear changes. Smooth, light, and uneventful until you lift the clutch and the next gear engages, at which point the car just drags you forwards with force.
We were trying to drive the EcoSport in as civilised a fashion as possible, but until you have driven the car for a number of days and have gotten used to its sweet spots, you will inevitably be too heavy with the sensitive controls. This will make the drive feel like you are in an excessively sporty hatchback driven by a yobbish teenage boy, pulling off unnecessary accelerations, violent swerves and intimidating engine revving.
On the other hand, and in a very welcome contrast, the EcoSport will do a very good job of shielding you away from all of the environmental shocks that the urban jungle might want to throw at you. Speed bumps or potholes? You will get enough of an impression through the seats and steering wheel to know that they were there. You will hear the sounds of having driven over an obstacle. But even as we drove deliberately through a series of potholes, the drive was nothing but comfortable.
Loud traffic around you? You will hear enough to know that there are cars around you, and to be able to locate where exactly they would be, but very little else. Most of your cabin noise will come from the sound of your wheels on the road, or the wind. This can get a little loud, but it also gives you all the feedback you need to know what is happening under you. And against that background, you will hear the engine swiftly revving up and down in perfect sync with your right foot.
And, of course, you should be alright wading through even the deepest and most ill-advised puddles on the road with very little worry, when the weather gets ugly. Add to all this that high vantage point you get from the elevated driving position, and you will feel in control of the situation at all times.
In short, the ride is a very satisfying combination of comfortable and responsive, and soon your driving will be impulsive and instinctive. In less than 10 minutes of starting to drive it, you will feel like the car automatically reacts to your desires and you no longer need to think about your driving: you simply drive. And any quibbles you may have had before turning on the engine will be long forgotten.
Furthermore, despite the length and elevation, when driven, the EcoSport really feels like a small, fast, nimble city car with which it is easy and straightforward to wiggle through rush-hour traffic. Indeed, the car is in fact surprisingly narrow on the road and should not make driving through the narrow roads of Britain’s market towns any more difficult than it needs to be. In the urban environment at which the car is aimed (Ford’s marketing efforts aside), the car feels at home and performs impressively.