What is it?
The first-generation Ford EcoSport small SUV was designed and engineered in Brazil, for Brazil. This new crossover, however, will be exported all over the world as part of the ‘One Ford’ global strategy.
Based on the Fiesta platform, the dramatic styling of the EcoSport remains faithful to the concept car shown at Asian motor shows earlier this year. It’s a loud, extrovert design that looks stunning in the metal. A massive, open-mouthed grille gives it a very different feel from the Fiesta, and the high bonnet line, machine gun-like foglights and heavily raked windscreen enhance the radical image. Narrow headlights add further aggression, while the flared wheel arches and rising beltline give the car a well planted look.
Ford has done a good job with the rear, too. The C-pillars and wraparound rear screen mesh together well, and the rear door- mounted spare wheel is well integrated, keeping the EcoSport under four metres in length.
What is it like?
Stepping into the high cabin is quite easy and there’s plenty of legroom for tall drivers due to the higher seating position. Much of the car’s interior is familiar from the latest Fiesta, although it does feel slightly more airy in the front.
The rear doors are a little on the small side, so ingress isn’t quite as easy as it is into the front, but rear-seat passengers have sufficient legroom to be comfortable. There’s plenty of space for your feet under the front seats and while the seating position is a bit upright, comfort is pretty good. But this is still a compact SUV, so don’t expect acres of legroom or a particularly airy cabin.
You sit higher than in the front seat, so visibility out isn’t too bad, and you can adjust the backrest, but some rivals have more space in the rear.
Boot space is just 346 litres with the rear seats in position (they fold to offer 560 litres), which isn’t much more than some large hatches.
Our Brazilian-spec car was a petrol-powered 1.6-litre variant producing 113bhp and 115lb ft of torque. On motorways, there’s enough twist in the mid-range to get the 1243kg EcoSport moving quite effortlessly, and the motor pulls hard if you keep your foot down. Wind noise is well contained, tyre roar is pretty subdued and the miles just fly by.
On the dips and rises of flowing country roads, the EcoSport just doesn’t roll like something with its belly floating 200mm above the asphalt should. As with the Fiesta, the steering is both light and feelsome and this, together with good body control and beautifully weighted brakes, makes this car a joy to drive, even at a slightly relaxed pace. The light but accurate gearbox is super-slick, and it doesn’t mind being hurried too much, either.
Push the EcoSport much harder and there’s no loss of composure, not much body roll and not too much dive from the suspension. The steering wheel communicates the fact that there’s plenty of grip to spare and encourages you to push on. It just feels a bit special.
Should I buy one?
On the way back to Sao Paulo, we get to experience the EcoSport in less extreme traffic over some back roads with plenty of potholes and ridges, and the EcoSport’s sporty set-up felt too stiff here. While smaller bumps are absorbed with just a shimmy, larger craters register as thuds and upset the composure of the car.
Ford needs to find a compromise between comfort and grip to suit local conditions; the company usually does a stellar job so we assume it will get it right on the EcoSport, too.
It’s no surprise that Ford is turning the EcoSport into a global car. It’s attractive, fantastic to drive, comfortable, sufficiently spacious, well equipped and just the right size for city streets. The appeal is massive.
Price £14,000 (est); 0-62mph 11.9sec; Top speed 112mph; Economy na; CO2 na; Kerb weight 1243kg; Engine type 4 cyls, petrol, 1596cc; Power 113bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 115lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual