Ford’s new B-segment SUV, the EcoSport, has recently been taking quite a kicking from us road testing types (not to mention from those inside the Blue Oval’s mighty portals who know a good car).
Why? Not because it’s a thoroughly bad car — which it isn’t — but because it’s the poorest Ford we’ve seen in ages. We’re used to great looking, great driving, well-made cars wearing Ford badges, and the EcoSport misses that description on a couple of counts.
Yet for all these caveats, I thoroughly enjoyed the 500 miles I did in an EcoSport across last weekend, which probably sound to you a lot like a critic having his cake and eating it.
It did to me, too. Or at least it did until I realised that all the positive properties that apply generally to B-SUVs generally (high H-point, great headroom, low road noise, small car agility with big-car feel) and not to the Ford in particular.
The front I can live with, as far back as the B-pillars anyway, but further back than that it’s pretty terrible — made the more so by that excrescence of an exterior spare wheel. Reminds me of the old days of the outside loo.
And continuing the organic allusions, that incongruously swoopy plane across the top of the EcoSport dash reminds me — both in texture and colour — of a view across some pretty daunting mudflats where I used to work in Australia.
The plain truth about EcoSport, and the surprisingly large number of indifferently executed B-SUVs currently on the market (only the Dacia Duster rates as many as four Autocar stars) is that excellence hardly matters. They’re selling out of their skins anyway.
Ford’s figures show a 40 per cent growth in demand last year, and it’s still accelerating. Land Rover says by 2020 a remarkable 20 million of the world’s car buyers will want SUVs. People love the concept: big-car substance and strength with small-car agility and parkability.
However, we’re now well overdue a really good B-SUV — and I’m looking to two manufacturers currently not in the game to pull it off: Volvo and Land Rover.
The Germans could probably do it, too, but they have this curious habit of producing cars without much in the way of a soul, which I happen to believe a B-SUV needs.
Land Rover’s recent offerings, and Volvo’s terrific new XC90 show they’re the manufacturers who are on the pace with new-breed SUVs. Come on chaps — we’re waiting.