2018 Ford EcoSport SE

Definitely more Eco than Sport.

Words by: Adam Allen

Oh dear! It looks like someone put their Ford Escape in the dryer instead of allowing it to air dry…

The first time we saw the EcoSport we did a double take- is that a shrunken Ford Escape we’re looking at? Alas, while the two share a strong resemblance, park them next to each other and the Escape feels like a giant beside its diminutive sibling. The EcoSport competes in the subcompact crossover segment with the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and the new Hyundai Kona, but it resides in the small end of that spectrum amongst a litter of trucklets. To give you an idea of the EcoSport’s size, it’s a full 178mm from stem to stern than the Mazda. Compared to its largest stable mate, the Expedition Max, it’s a whopping 1,524mm shorter.

Basically, it’s what would happen if a Ford Fiesta became a crossover.

That’s exactly right considering the EcoSport is built on the bones of the recently departed Fiesta, one of the first casualties of the Ford lineup since they announced that sedans weren’t part of their plans moving forward. While this is clearly a crossover, it isn’t one you would task with a rugged excursion off the grid- it’s most at home plying its trade in an urban setting. That is precisely the environment where the EcoSport’s small size is an asset. It’s a cinch to park and picks its way through narrow streets with ease. In this context, the EcoSport’s tiny 1.0 litre inline three begins to make sense. It’s tuned so that most of the low end torque the little engine can muster is accessible at low rpm and allows it to keep up with traffic without much effort. Our tester wasn’t available with all-wheel drive- for that, you need to step up to the bigger engine- but with a good set of snows driving on streets that get diligently plowed, you might not miss it.

With its tiny dimensions and perky powerplant, it must be a hoot to drive.

Remember how we said this little guy is more Eco than Sport? The EcoSport lacks the driving dynamics to provide the kind of friskiness you’d get with a Fiesta. For example, the first time we asked it to merge on a busy highway, we became aware of the three banger’s limitations. While fine in the cut and thrust of city traffic, trying to stay safely ahead of what’s approaching quickly in your mirrors will have you holding the gas pedal against the floorboards while holding your breath a little. It struggles with moving the EcoSport’s 1,370 kilos, so much so that the little Ford is among the slowest cars we’ve tested recently. Having a blazing 0-100km/h time isn’t a priority in a city runabout, but a little over 10 seconds to do the deed is downright glacial. At least it returns stellar fuel economy; we saw 6.9L/100km on a highway trip and that figure actually beats NRCan’s estimates. Yet this engine isn’t lacking in character, making a quirky noise as it goes about its business smoothly- an achievement considering that inline three engines usually produce more vibration than a paint shaker. It’s paired with a 6-speed automatic that compliments the engine’s power delivery, and we’re thankful Ford chose not to employ a CVT; just don’t expect snappy gearchanges, even in manual mode. The steering wheel offers the vaguest approximation of what’s happening at the front contact patches, and despite the wheels being pushed out to all four corners handling remains uninspired. The trade-off for that is a ride that is perfectly tuned for the city, nicely taking the edge off the nastiest tarmac you’re likely to encounter.

 

Is it a penalty box inside?

At first blush, the EcoSport’s interior seems underwhelming. Hard plastics abound, and it imparts a rather austere feeling. After getting acquainted with the interior, we came around to its minimalist vibe and truth be told, it isn’t a penalty box – it’s vastly better that what you would have gotten from an economy minded crossover from just a few years ago. It’s no stripper either, boasting features like navigation, blind spot monitoring, 6-way power drivers seat and a sunroof. The seats are comfy and provide an upright driving position allowing you to make good use of your spatial awareness in utilizing the EcoSport’s tidy footprint to the fullest to zip in and out of traffic. The switchgear is straightforward and exactly where you’d expect to find it. It’s a bit tight on space, including the rear cargo area; but when you fold the seats down there is useable volume to be had and Ford carefully sculpted the area, so you can make the most of packing in whatever gear you happen to be hauling around. The brightest spot of the EcoSport interior is the excellent SYNC3 infotainment system. The screen’s interface rests atop the dash like a tablet, and it behaves like one- excellent graphics, quick response times and an intuitiveness that is lacking in some of it’s competitors.

What might go wrong?

As thrifty and refined as the little 1.0 engine is, more than a few will bemoan the lack of urge. We got used to the horsepower deficit and it certainly is not an issue in the city, it’s just that some of the EcoSport’s competitors are quicker. They’re also bigger- we longed for more space when putting our tester through its paces. That included a (thankfully) short trip with three adults sharing the rear seat- this, on a day when temperatures were positively stifling. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the most comfortable those occupants have been in a car, maybe ever. We’d also like to see Ford go back to the drawing board where pricing is concerned- our tester commanded a sum of $26,849 and even with a lengthy features list it seems a bit of a stretch to justify plunking down that kind of scratch for the EcoSport. Oh, and the rocker switch for manual shifting on the gear lever? It neither works particularly well and seems like kind of an afterthought.

Should I buy a Ford EcoSport?

While the foibles we just finished talking about certainly have validity, that doesn’t mean you should strike the EcoSport from your shopping list. While lacking muscle, its engine is a peach and if you don’t work it too hard it will allow you to maximize every drop of fuel to get you where you need to go. We met some people who live in laneway housing- an option that’s becoming popular in a city as densely packed as Toronto- and they declared the EcoSport would be the perfect vehicle for them, taking account its size and features. If you don’t mind trading a little Sport for Eco, you should take an EcoSport out for a drive and see if it’s the perfect crossover for you.

 

2018 Ford EcoSport SE- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $26,849
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger compact CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Engine:  1.0-litre inline-three, DOHC, 12 valves
  • Horsepower:  123 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 125 @ 3,500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,370 kg (3,020 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.1L/100km (26 mpg)