From £23,4757
Sharper handling, more refined and better-looking. Still a bit rough around the edges, mind, but now good enough to be a class contender

What is it?

An updated version of the Ford Ecosport: more fresh metal for the supermini SUV market, which has gone from conception to remarkably complex maturity in just five years.

This is the segment that sprang into life with the Nissan Juke in 2010 and, before the end of that year, was joined by the Mini Countryman and Dacia Duster. Two years later came the Vauxhall Mokka, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur.

Last year the Citroen Cactus bobbed endearingly up, and in 2015 there are new runners expected from Honda, Mazda, Fiat, Jeep and Ssangyong. Oh, and the VW Taigun is being readied for 2016.

But don’t worry. If everyone reading this gets together on the Isle of Wight and shouts “when” in the general direction of Calais, perhaps the stampede will abate.

If nothing else, it’s unquestionable proof that little crossovers are suddenly big business, and longtime UK car-market leader Ford can ill-afford to be without a good, strong horse in the race.

Last year’s Ecosport, you may remember, was neither good nor strong. Our two-and-a-half star road test verdict caused a bit of a stir within the Blue Oval’s corridors of power, and Ford was quick to announce a thorough re-engineering program for European-market cars. We’ve driven the result.

What's it like?

Most obviously, the Ecosport’s ugly, archane-looking tailgate-mounted spare wheel has been junked, making the car instantly more appealing. The addition of privacy glass is the only other exterior styling update – but if the car seems a bit less precarious on its wheels, it may be because Ford’s chassis update started with a 10mm drop in ride height.

That suspension overhaul also included better tyres, firmer springs and spring aids, new dampers and a new torsion beam for the rear axle. A more direct steering gear has been fitted, and both the power steering and ESP software has been retuned. Twenty individual steps were taken to improve suspension and engine refinement, and friction has been taken out of the transmission.

There’s been a wide-ranging effort to improve cabin quality and equipment, among them a colour SYNC multimedia setup, new fascia plastics, a new headlining, new seats and better-looking trim and switchgear. The changes are being phased into production in groups over the coming months, but by September all of them should be present and correct in UK cars.

While they don’t make for a miraculous transformation, they do make the Ecosport more competitive next to some fairly sophisticated European-built rivals. Most importantly, they make it ride and handle more like a Ford.

Where the old Ecosport had a conspicuous lack of grip, a noisy ride, limp and fragile handling and fairly crude mechanical refinement, the updated one feels firmly suspended, quite closely controlled over bumps, more directionally responsive and much more secure in its adhesion to the road.

There’s enough grip here now that the ESP light only flicks on in response to real provocation; enough accuracy to the steering and body control to make the car feel quite spry and willing to be spirited along.

The handling isn’t as fluent as that of a Fiesta, and the suspension can still feel a bit clunky occasionally – but it’s better, now, than many of its baby crossover rivals.

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The updates to the interior are less convincing – although our test car was a prototype, and not quite representative of production cars. The new seat fabrics and fascia plastics add some richness, but still leave the car a relatively ordinary place on perceived quality.

Cabin space is decent, and noise isolation is improved – although you still hear plenty of wind rustle around the seals of that big back door at motorway speeds.

Otherwise, refinement will depend greatly on which engine you chose. Smooth at low speeds, gutsy and keen to rev, the 1.0-litre turbo triple in our test car remains a brilliant advert for petrol power, but the manners of the car’s new Euro-VI 1.5-litre turbodiesel will need to show a big improvement in order to hit the class standard.

Should I buy one?

We certainly wouldn’t warn you off with quite the same urgency as once we did. The Ecosport’s handling is now a reasonably good reason for buying one, and the rest of the package is a lot more respectable. We suspect it’ll be continue to be well-priced against its competition, and if you buy an Ecoboost version, performance is pretty strong too.

Expect to read a more thorough examination of the Ecosport in its finished form, and a proper back-to-back comparison once the car’s befuddling competitor set is complete – if only so you can be sure which of these new-groove super-superminis deserves your money most. This Ford won’t start as favourite, granted – but its odds are now much shorter than they were.

Ford Ecosport 1.0T Titanium

Price circa £16,500; Engine 3cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 123bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 126lb ft at 1400rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1350kg; Top speed 112mph; 0-62mph 12.7sec; Economy 53.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 125g/km, 20%

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
AddyT 4 March 2015


Lipstick on a pig? Right! Go and buy a rival then pal gees!
androo 4 March 2015

Lipstick on a pig

No, it's still horrible. Much rather have almost any of its competitors.
catnip 3 March 2015

It sounds like they've made

It sounds like they've made some worthwhile improvements, but they're things that should have been done in the first place. Its still an incredibly lazy effort from Ford, and suggests they don't particularly value their UK customers to only offer them this. If nothing else, this is a lucrative market segment (more so than the B-Max?), so you'd think it would be worthwhile them putting in the effort to develop a proper model for the European market.
Gerhard 4 March 2015

You do realise that this was

You do realise that this was not originally a car designed with Europe in mind, don't you? To claim it a 'lazy effort' displays an ignorance of Ford's global lineup. This car has been an huge success in South America and other emerging markets, so introducing it to Europe was a reaction to unexpected demand. People like value cars, and Ford is a value brand. Some hard plastics and a tail-mounted spare wheel hardly warrant such criticism, neither should suv-handling on an suv, but Autocar is obsessed with everything handling like a BMW... The pre-refined Ecosport was still far better than the Dacia Duster, so it can't have been worth of 2.5 stars. The one I tried in Asia wasn't that bad either, at least a 3-star car. Have you tried one yet?
AddyT 4 March 2015

Couldn't agree more Gerhard....

....Catnip's comments are unreasonable and unnecessary really. OK it might not have done so well first time round but it was a never a "bad" car and looks to certainly be improved this time around on few fronts. I think it's a good car in its own right and like you say, it has done well in other markets and why shouldn't it deserve to do well here.
erly5 6 March 2015

Yes Gerhard... wasn't designed with Europe in mind which is exactly why it is a lazy effort on Ford's part. Other manufacturers responded to the demand for such vehicles by designing new models. Ford, as is often the case, was late to the party, and had the audacity to launch a sub-standard product, as is proven by these hasty updates. It's still by far the worst looking car in it's class and deserves to fail.