Last week I tested the biggest, most expensive SUV in the Ford lineup the Expedition Max and this week I’m taking it all the way to the opposite end with their smallest, most affordable utility vehicle. It’s been on sale now for a number of years overseas but it’s finally arrived on our shores. This is the 1-liter-powered EcoSport EcoBoost.
We’ve seen this story unfold a number of times; automaker sells a small vehicle overseas not intended for the U.S. market. Then the segment catches fire here triggering a mad scramble to import it stateside. Case in point, the EcoSport. Not pronounced EcoSport, it’s been sold globally for 15 years and after its North American introduction at the 2016 L.A. Auto Show, has finally arrived at dealerships as a 2018 model.
Assembled in India, the EcoSport plays in that subcompact crossover segment which continues to see sales double digit sales growth. This is the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade group where the pricing starts at around $20,000. The combination of low price, big gas mileage and high versatility is making these little guys popular while sedan sales continue to founder.
The EcoSport checks all of those boxes, making the most of its interior space with generous rear seat room and enough cargo room to handle everyday tasks. This 4 position cargo floor is just one example as to how that’s accomplished. The cargo door swings out as well with a clever release tucked into the right taillight. The seats can be easily folded from the side or rear of the vehicle by first tipping up the seat bottoms. They don’t create a flat floor but the overall cargo area is quite generous for this class; offering more room than the Trax. Looking a little like a mutant Escape, it’s not the most attractive but this high-end Titanium trim in this upcharge Blue Candy paint, riding on these fancy 17” wheels certainly makes a splash. It can be customized in 10 different colors, 6 interior choices and cool ambient lighting.
This here is a front-drive model but all-wheel drive is also available. Like this, it’s fitted with a 1.0-liter turbo making 123 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque.
I know, it’s hard to believe, but this little 3-cylinder turbo really does feel amply powered for this front-wheel drive EcoSport, with a quick step-off, ability to climb hills and excellent fuel economy. 4-wheel drive models upgrade to a bigger 2.0-liter engine.
The fact that it uses a real 6-speed automatic transmission and not a dual clutch or CVT is a breath of fresh air. You’re not going to go drag racing or anything but its real world throttle response serves up enough go power to prevent it from feeling lethargic. There’s also a sport mode for the gears to get a little more out of it. Its powertrain with Start-Stop technology favors city driving where it’s most efficient rated at 27mpg whereas the Trax for example delivers 33mpg highway where the EcoSport only nets 29mpg. But for my week…I averaged a stellar 30mpg.
Its tiny footprint is its advantage in close quarters driving with ease of parking and maneuverability. The higher seating position with excellent visibility is also a plus. But the way it steers is aloof; sharp yet disconnected with little bouts of torque steer, it really doesn’t like to track straight. If you want more from the driving experience, the sportier SES trim is something to consider for an added dose of fun to its otherwise middling drivability.
It’s a little rough and a little loud in here on bumpy roads but nothing too off-putting for the class. These Bridgestone Ecopia tires though continue to stand in the way of engaging handling by rolling over on their soft sidewalls. Just crank up the B&O PLAY audio system to drown out the road noise – a very impressive sounding system. The leather upholstered front seats are really comfortable and I love how close the touchscreen is for safe and easy operation. SYNC 3 with Wi-Fi, CarPlay and Android Auto gives owners a touch of modern luxury. It’s an easy-to-use system offering 2 USB ports in the front but none in the rear. A wireless charging pad would also be a nice touch as would a larger center console.
Safety features like side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, a backup cam and front knee airbags are welcome additions plus the FordPass smartphone app allows drivers to start, unlock and locate their vehicle from anywhere.
MSRP of this Titanium model is $27,720 though a base EcoSport S starts at $20,990. Because it arrived here midway through its lifecycle, expect a quick redesign within a few years. The EcoSport is a pretty compelling little choice and fills in nicely at the bottom of Ford’s SUV lineup.