What is it?
We tend to like Ford products here at Autocar; generally speaking, when you get behind the wheel of something with a blue oval mounted on the airbag, it's likely to be a decent thing to drive.
So you can imagine our shock-horror when we drove the original Ecosport and sensed immediately that it was a bit of a woofer.
To Ford’s credit it read, it ruminated and it responded, instructing its engineers to make good all that was wrong – which, from our point of view, was mainly the ride, handling and refinement.
As a result the new Ecosport comes with retuned steering, suspension that’s been lowered by 10mm and new damper and spring rates. More sound insulation has been added, too.
Then Ford really got the bit between its teeth and started developing an even sportier version, called Titanium S, which we've driven in prototype form. This model gets firmer suspension and meatier steering, plus revisions to the stability control to make it less intrusive.
What's it like?
The engine is a cracker – raspy, revvy and, while not flat-out fast, rapid enough for general use. But UK-spec cars will be quicker still – by about one second to 62mph. This is because instead of the 123bhp Ecoboost fitted to this European-spec car (the same as the one used on standard Ecosport models), UK-bound Titanium S models will get the gutsier 138bhp version found in the Fiesta Red/Black Edition.
At sedate town speeds the ride seems disappointing. Hit a sharp ridge and you’ll be greeted by a hefty shudder through the cabin, and as you potter about over patchy roads the Ecosport performs a constant dance.
However, get some speed up along a country road and it starts to settle. Here you can feel the difference between old and new, with tighter lean angles as the cornering loads build and less vertical hop off crests.
In fact, if you add in the marginally quicker steering that’s got more effective weighting, you find yourself quite enjoying the drive – certainly more so than would be the case in a Nissan Juke.
But the Ecosport is still far away from the true genius of a Fiesta, and there are still some issues.
The extra sound deadening may have hidden some of the old car’s road noise, but at around 60mph you can still hear plenty of wind swirling around the door mirrors. A big sideways gust will have you hanging onto the wheel if you want to keep to your lane, too.
Ford did tell us they’ve improved the interior quality as part of the upgrade, but apart from some fetching half-leather seats, it’s still a sea of black plastic – and all of it likely to break a finger nail if you prod it too hard.
It’s relatively roomy, though. You can fit four tall adults in with reasonable ease, and those in the back even get reclining seats. The boot isn’t huge but will take a few large grocery bags and can be extended courtesy of the spilt/folding rear seats.