Subcompact SUVs are the new small hatchbacks. At least according to Ford who discontinued production of the Fiesta and Focus in North America. So now the Ford EcoSport is the smallest vehicle that they will be producing going forward. But is it just a high riding Fiesta or is it something more?
Engine – The Ford EcoSport is available with 2 engines. A 1.0L turbocharged 3-cylinder producing 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque and a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder as equipped. The 2.0L engine as equipped in this demo vehicle, produces 166 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpms. That’s more power than in the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Chevrolet Trax. However the problem is that although on paper it has a lot of power, it doesn’t feel that fast when accelerating. Most of the power and torque are at higher rpms which means that the engine has to work hard to get the almost 1,500 kg (3,306 lbs) EcoSPort moving. The CX-3 and Trax have peak torque figures of around 2,000 rpms but in the Ford, well, don’t be surprised if you see the tachometer needle reach 4,000 rpms when accelerating onto a highway or overtaking.
As a result, the 2019 Ford EcoSport doesn’t get quite as good fuel economy figures as some of the competition. This 2.0L engine with 4WD is rated for 10.2 L/100km (23 mpg) in a city and 8.0 L/100km (29.4 mpg) on a highway (9.3 (25.3 mpg) L/100km combined). During my time with it I managed approximately 10.4 L/100km (22.6 mpg) on average.
Transmission – A traditional 6-speed automatic is the only available transmission with the EcoSport. A manual option is not available. The automatic is smooth between gear shifts but it is slow both on upshifts and downshifts. Using the manual mode is not much faster bust still smooth between shifts.
Braking – While it may look like the EcoSport has unusually tiny wheels for its size, the brakes behind them are quite strong. Stopping the crossover takes little brake effort with an average brake pedal feel.
Handling – Normally I like small crossovers and cars because they feel peppy and you can dart them through traffic. The Ford EcoSport can be fun but it has some letdowns. Steering is agile and light with decent turn-in. But make sure you carry the momentum through the corners because the engine and transmission take the fun out of any sort of spirited driving. Lose any momentum that you’ve built up, and you think to yourself “oh no, why did I slow down so much?”.
Ride Comfort – The short wheelbase of the Ford EcoSport gives it a bouncy ride. It’s not going to jiggle the fillings out of your teeth but it lacks the refinement of the Mazda CX-3 suspension. Over smaller road imperfections, the suspension does a good enough job of absorbing the bumps.
Interior Space – There’s no beating around the bush, the Ford EcoSport is small. There’s just enough room in the front seats for occupants up to 6’4” but rear leg and head room are very tight. The trunk is decently sized with a side opening tailgate. That is both a benefit and a hindrance depending on the situation. It’s a benefit if you’re taller because there’s no chance of you hitting your head while loading or unloading. It’s a hindrance however if you’re parallel parked and there’s a vehicle parked behind the EcoSport. You cannot fully open that tailgate if the parked vehicle behind you is close to your car.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Noise from outside the EcoSport finds its way easily to the inside. Wind and road noise are very apparent at speeds above 70 km/h. Engine noise is also intrusive once the rpms climb above 2,500 which is quite often. On the plus though, there were not annoying rattles or squeaks in this this test vehicle so build quality seems to be pretty good for this class of vehicle. Also, the start/stop system is one of the most unobtrusive of any 4-cylinder engines that have it.
Interior Design – The EcoSport shares a lot of the buttons and controls with other Ford vehicles which adds a sense of familiarity. The touchscreen juts out from the dashboard like a small tablet but it is easy to reach. At just over $21,000 CAD for the base Ford EcoSport, the interior materials are on the cheap side with mostly hard plastics on the lower half of the cabin. But higher quality that are softer to the touch plastics are used where you can actually see and touch.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – At over $31,000 for this SES trim, the EcoSport can get very expensive for what it is. Granted you do get a lot of features like Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment which works well, Navigation, heated seats, push button start, sunroof, and heated steering wheel among others. But certain safety features are missing and are not available at all. Lane departure warning, and automatic braking are nowhere on the options list. Blind spot sensors are available.
Exterior Design – The Ford EcoSport looks like a shrunken down version of the Escape. At least from the side and back it resembles it a lot. The front has its own styling cues that make it stand out a bit from the rest of its SUV siblings. It’s a good looking design but with the raised ride height and even with the 17” wheels, the wheels look a bit undersized for the car.
In all the 2019 Ford EcoSport is a practical city runabout. It has more cargo space than most of its rivals making it able to take more groceries, furniture, or outdoors equipment. However if you want something that’s more engaging to drive and has all the bells and whistles, the 2019 Mazda CX-3 is the better option.
Thank you to Ford Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Ford.ca