On the face of it, this Ford EcoSport might look like a minor cosmetic update, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Premier and Mahindra may have been the first manufacturers to bring a sub-4 metre SUV to market, but it wasn’t until 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 (something that continues unabated until today). 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. Still, the love for the EcoSport continues – as an average sale of more than 3,500 units a month over the past year justifies. But, for Ford, that wasn’t enough. So they’ve now brought in an updated version of the model – and it wears a bit of a poker face.
Same, but different
When you look at this 2017 EcoSport from the back, you’ll 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 considered it one of the EcoSport’s signature design features – and, 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, meanwhile, there’s not much difference – except for the larger 17-inch alloy wheels. The front is where the differences start to get more evident. Like all the current generation Ford models, this one too gets a bold chrome grille. And while this does give 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 creases on the dashboard, which now carries a far more conventional design. Taking 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. Meanwhile, the front seats are as comfortable and well bolstered as they’ve always been. At the back, knee and legroom isn’t exactly in abundance, but it is just enough for comfort. And while the rear seat isn’t wide enough to sit three abreast, passengers at the back do get a central armrest now.
One of the primary concerns with the outgoing EcoSport was the limited equipment on offer. Ford has addressed this with the addition of a few first-in-class features, like paddle shifters on the petrol AT, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and seven colour ambient lighting. Other features include a reversing camera, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlamps. Ford will also offer ABS and two airbags as standard across all variants, with the top-spec trim being fitted with as many as six airbags.
Change of heart
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 engine churns out 121bhp – which is adequate for a car of its size. Crank the engine, and you’ll find it to be surprisingly noiseless for a three-cylinder motor. Getting off the line, the engine has good punch in the low revs, but it flattens out in the mid-range. But, as the tacho continues to climb, it starts to feel in its element once again – if you ignore the noisy cabin that is. It isn’t the most free-revving motor out there, but the linearity with which it delivers power is what makes it surprisingly tractable. The petrol-powered EcoSport comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic.
Being a torque converter unit, the 6-speed automatic isn’t as quick or smooth as the DCT it replaces. That being said, the transmission is just right for your city commute. But it’s when pushing the Ecosport that you get a sense of just how lethargic the transmission really is. Drive the manual transmission version however, and you immediately find the gearbox to be far more in sync with the new motor.
Ford says they they’ve tinkered with the suspension to ensure that the 2017 EcoSport doesn’t feel as harsh on rough roads as before. There is a plushness in the ride now, as a result of its capability to absorb bad road surfaces. Despite the change, the EcoSport attacks the twisties with a reasonable assuredness and is arguably the best handling car in its class. There isn’t too much body roll and the way the steering has been calibrated really adds to that feeling of confidence. It doesn’t feel overly light and artificial, but, at the same time, it isn’t too heavy at low speeds either.
Back in the game
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 its overall appeal too. The highlight, of course, is the new 1.5-litre motor that not only packs enough poke but is also very refined for a three-cylinder unit. 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 put its best foot forward and backed it up by pricing it exactly the same as the outgoing model – which gives it a very strong case in a segment that it virtually pioneered. The competition has been put on notice, once again!