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.
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.