Premier and Mahindra may have been the first manufacturers to bring in a sub-4 metre SUV, but it wasn’t before the launch of the Ford EcoSport that the body style gained popularity. Ford commenced bookings of the EcoSport in June 2013 and in less than a month, had already received more than 30,000 bookings – such was the demand for an affordable SUV in India. Four years have passed since then and the segment now has products from Maruti Suzuki and more recently from Honda and Tata. Introduction of these new models and the absence of substantial updates meant that the EcoSport was starting to feel dated in comparison to the competition. The EcoSport’s sales numbers are respectable still - at around 4,000 units a month over the last one year. But for Ford enough is not enough. They have now returned with a refreshed EcoSport that promises to add more zeal in the compact SUV segment. We took it for a spin in Goa to find out if it lives up to the promise.
When you look at this 2017 EcoSport from the back, you will have to play a game of spot the difference. The EcoSport facelift launched globally has done away with the tailgate-mounted rear wheel. In India, however, Ford has decided to retain it. Ford says customers liked it as one of the signature EcoSport design features – we have to admit, we do too. That being said, this updated version doesn’t get that hard-plastic spare wheel cover anymore. In profile, there is not much that is different from the previous model except for the larger 17-inch alloy wheels. The front is where the differences start to appear more easily. Like all the current generation Ford models, this one too gets a bold and wide chrome grille. While it gives the 2017 EcoSport a good stance, the honeycomb mesh behind the twin-slat grille does look a bit strange from certain angles. The headlamps have been redesigned and now come with Daytime Running Lights, while the fog lamps are newly crafted as well.
Ford has also reworked the interior of the EcoSport. Gone are the sharp cuts on the dashboard and in comes a more conventional design. Taking the centre stage is now an all-new 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Ford’s Sync 3 system. The infotainment is easy to use thanks to its large icons but the screen itself does feel a bit too in-your-face. The front seats are as comfortable and well bolstered as we have always known them to be. At the back, knee and legroom isn’t in abundance but is just enough for comfort. The rear seat isn’t wide enough to seat three abreast with ease. Passengers at the back now get a central armrest though.
One of the primary reasons why the outgoing EcoSport was starting to show its age was due to the limited equipment on offer. Ford has addressed that with the addition of a few first-in-class features like paddle shifters on the petrol AT, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring system, tilt and telescopically adjustable steering wheel, and seven colour ambient lighting. Other features include a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps. Ford will offer ABS and two airbags as standard across all variants with the top-spec trim fitted with as many as six airbags.
Aside from the new design and additional features, the biggest change in the 2017 EcoSport is the debut of the new 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol motor. Substituting the old 1.5, this new motor churns out 121bhp, which is enough power for a car of its size. Power comes in low into the rev range and climbs to its peak as the tacho needle goes closer to the red line. The 121bhp that it makes is enough power for a car of its size but it isn’t a motor that likes to be revved hard. While for the most part the engine superbly refined – especially for a three-cylinder motor – climb up the revs and it starts to get grumpy.
The petrol-powered EcoSport comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. We first got our hands on the automatic transmission. Being a torque converter unit, the 6-speed automatic isn’t as quick or smooth as the DCT (Dual Clutch transmission). That being said, the transmission should be just right for your city runabouts. Out on the highway though, the difference was noticeable enough for us to feel that the gearbox undermines the capability of the engine. Drive the manual transmission version and you will immediately find it to be more in sync with the new motor. Yes, the gear shifts are a bit rubbery but it doesn’t quite feel very intrusive.
The firm suspension of the old EcoSport compromised its ride quality in favour of better handling. Ford says they have tinkered with the suspension to ensure that the 2017 EcoSport doesn’t feel as harsh on rough roads as before. While the difference in ride quality is surely evident, there hasn’t been a negative effect on its handling prowess. There isn’t too much body roll and the way the steering has been calibrated really adds to the confidence. It doesn’t feel overly light and artificial but at the same time, it isn’t too heavy to make U-turns and parking a difficult affair.
At the time of its launch, the EcoSport was one of the most feature-rich cars in its price range, but over the years it gradually lost its edge. But this 2017 iteration brings it right back in the game with a lot of first-in-class features. The new face of the EcoSport does lift the overall appeal too. But the highlight, of course, is the new 1.5-litre motor that not only packs enough poke but is also impressively refined for a three-cylinder unit. And Ford is also offering the option of an automatic transmission – something that no other manufacturer has in the segment as yet. With the 2017 EcoSport, Ford has surely put its best foot forward. Now all that remains to be seen is the price, which we shall get to know in a few weeks’ time in November.
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Explore Ford EcoSport technical specifications including dimensions, engines, gearbox, mileage, seating capacity, boot space, etc.
Find out all features available on the Ford EcoSport – including safety features, interior equipment, creature comforts, trim versions, etc.