It’s not all bad news here, but Ford of Europe’s usual high dynamic standards have been missed, ignored or simply not applied during the specification and tuning of the running chassis and steering.
After its engine, the car’s rough, thumping, underdamped ride is the most disappointing part of its driving experience. Crossover buyers can be imposed upon to accept a slight compromise on body control and wheel control in return for driving a larger and more capable car than a normal hatchback. But the segment has moved on with the Seat Arona proving that crossovers can handle almost as well as a hatchback.
But the best exponents of the art make the compromise so small that it’s hardly noticeable. The Ecosport’s tendency to fidget and jostle its way down a B-road is more than noticeable. It’s inexcusable, really, when the likes of the Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka are deftly tuned.
When the road flattens enough to finally let the Ecosport’s body settle and a corner presents, the car tackles it in a fairly stout, level fashion and with acceptable steering authority and a reasonable balance of grip. But roadholding at its upper limit is quite poor.
Even with such little performance to use, you can soon take the car up to a commitment level that its ESP system won’t permit on the road. An averagely fast sweep through a bend has the electronics interfering before the apex and, in the wet particularly, the car’s adhesion to the road feels quite tenuous.
The Ecosport is perfectly secure at the speeds at which most owners will drive it, but it doesn’t hold much lateral grip in reserve. The steering has decent directional response and the car doesn’t suffer with extremes of body roll or understeer. But the stability control wakes up far earlier than expected and it isn’t switchable.
So you’re stuck with handling that’s okay at a sedate pace and, although contained, unconvincing as you begin to hurry it. Not much fun as a result, either.
The Ecosport’s hold on loose, muddy or grassy surfaces isn’t something that we had cause to explore, and it’s safe to assume that most European buyers won’t explore it, either. Ironically, even though there’s no 4x4 option, the car feels like one endowed with the robustness to survive broken, unsealed roads rather than the subtlety to ease itself over European ones.
The Ecosport’s ground clearance is more generous than that of many full-sized 4x4s. though. It’ll even wade through deeper water than a Land Rover Defender. Some compact crossovers beat it on approach angle, but not by much. In light of which, the decision to exclude a 4x4 version seems regrettable.