The Ford EcoSport is pretty much responsible for shaping the compact SUV segment as we know it. It wasn't technically the first to arrive, though. That race was won by the Premier Rio, but let's discount that considering it wasn't exactly from a mainstream brand and that the number of Rios on Indian roads can be counted on fingers. When launched in June 2013, the sub-4m SUV generated so much interest that at one point, dealers had to stop accepting bookings.
5 years down the line, the advent of new rivals from Maruti Suzuki, Tata, and Honda has Ford feeling the heat. Enter the 2017 Ford EcoSport. A new face, revamped interior, and a new petrol drivetrain are the highlights of the facelift. So, is the new EcoSport as likeable as the original? Is it better than the original? Or has it fallen behind new entrants? We spent some time behind the wheel of a Ford EcoSport Petrol AT in the fully loaded Titanium+ spec to determine just that.
Appearance wise, the bulk of the changes are restricted to the nose of the EcoSport. The update brings with ut a new face with a single piece hexagonal grille, broader headlamps with projector units and LED DRLs, and a new bumper with fog lamps and turn indicators placed in a wedge-shaped housing. The side profile sees the addition of new 17-inch wheels and towards the rear, there's a mildly updated bumper and a new spare wheel cover (our test car did not come with the latter). Sticking to the exterior, Ford is also offering the EcoSport in new paint shades including Lightning Blue, Canyon Ridge, Race Red, and Absolute Black.
Step into the cabin, and you'll be greeted by an all-new dashboard. Ford has upgraded the features list to include an 8-inch touchscreen that acts as the interface for the SYNC3 infotainment setup. Aside from that, there is a new steering wheel as well and a new, rather dull looking, instrument console.
The highlight here is the SYNC3 infotainment setup. It offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mirror Link connectivity options. The system can even be hooked up to your phone's hotspot for added functionality. There are even multiple ambient lighting options to choose from. And all this supported by a slick 8-inch touchscreen.
What's new under the hood?
Diesel variants carry over the same 1.5 L TDCi 4-cylinder mill good for 100 PS and 205 Nm. A 5-speed manual gearbox is the sole transmission option on offer. The Ford EcoSport petrol swaps the 1.5 L 4-cylinder Ti-VCT unit for a brand new 3-pot 1.5 L unit and that's the one we drove. Despite being a three-cylinder unit, the engine feels super refined with barely any vibrations filtering into the cabin. Ford has managed to acheive this by using balancer shafts and engine mounts that are arranged in one plane. Aside from a 5-speed manual gearbox, Ford is offering the petrol variant with a 6-speed torque converter as well (the pre-facelift version had a 6-speed DCT). The engine produces 123 PS and 150 Nm sending power strictly to the front wheels.
The new engine is fairly lively off the line, which ensures there is enough grunt while pottering about the city. The mid-range, too, felt strong enough, which means the EcoSport is able to get past legal speed limits fairly quickly. The new 6-speed torque converter isn't the brightest, especially when you require the car to drop a gear or two to pull off a quick overtake. However, that can be dealt with, to a certain extent, by taking control via the paddle shifters. Fords tend to appeal to enthusiasts and the manufacturer has kept them in mind adding a 'sport' mode. In this mode, a gear is held on to high up in the rev band and progress is fairly brisk.
What's it like to drive?
Compared to the model it replaces, the new one feels a tad softer dynamically. At lower speeds, the steering feels lighter. However, it still has ample weight and the lighter nature will definitely appeal more the Indian car buying lot. Besides, it weighs up quite nicely as speeds rise so, no complaints here.
The ride quality seems to have taken a bit of a hit. We suspect much of it is down to the 17-inch rims and the 205/50 R17 section tires it comes shod with. They look great, no doubt, but such a low profile is still not very well suited to Indian roads. As a result, certain bumps can get quite jarring and imperfections aren't ironed out very well. That said, the Ford EcoSport remains a sweet handler and has successfully retained the fun to drive factor. It remains the most engaging vehicle in its class for sure. And that is essential since, as we mentioned before, a sizeable chunk of Ford buyers place that factor fairly high on their checklist.
Should you buy one?
Ford is offering the Petrol AT in two grades - Trend and Titanium+ priced at INR 9,55,300 (ex-showroom Delhi) and INR 11,20,100 (ex-showroom Delhi) respectively. The only other option currently available is the Hyundai Creta, but at INR 1,303,704 (ex-showroom Delhi) , it is significantly more expensive. Other variants of the EcoSport on offer include Petrol manual priced in the INR 7,66,700-9.39,900 (ex-showroom Delhi) range and Diesel manual that retails for INR 8,26,700-10,89,300 (ex-showroom Delhi).
The petrol drivetrain's Performance is adequate and it still meets the demands of keen drivers. The updates to the exterior have added a dash of aggressiveness to its appearance and the inclusion of new features, primarily the touchscreen-infotainment setup, have made it more desirable. What disappoints us, though, is the fuel efficiency. With an average return of around 9-10 kmpl overall, fuel station visits will be more frequent compared to it's manual or diesel counterparts. Also, rear seat space, especially legroom, is still just about enough. We would also prefer the 16-inch alloys offered on the Titanium variant to the 17-inch ones the Titanium+ trim gets to improve the ride quality.
As it stands, the Ford EcoSport is the only petrol automatic on offer. And with diesel-powered cars slowly losing steam and an increase in buyers opting for automatic transmissions, there is a sizeable potential customer base to be tapped. And the Ford EcoSport Petrol AT fits the bill perfectly.
Ford EcoSport Petrol AT Specifications
|Engine||1.5 L Dragon Petrol|
|Power||123 PS @ 6,500 rpm|
|Torque||150 Nm @ 4,500 rpm|
|Transmission||6 speed Automatic|
|Claimed Mileage||14.5 kmpl|
|Length x Width x Height||3,998 x 1,765 x 1,647 mm|
|Kerb Weight||1,320 kg|
|Wheel Type and Size||17-inch alloys|
|Boot Space||352 L|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||52 litres|