The Ford EcoSport is the result of the growing demand for SUVs (sport utility vehicles), due to perceived higher levels of safety, wet-weather driving demands and a preference for a higher ride height.
Global demand for SUVs is up 88% since 2008, making utility vehicles the fastest-growing segment around the world, according to IHS Automotive which forecasts market information on the automotive industry.
Based on Ford’s global B-segment platform that underpins the popular Ford Fiesta, the EcoSport (pronounced as “echo sport”) is billed as a five-seater urban vehicle that combines the agility, affordability and fuel efficiency of a compact car with the flexibility and spaciousness of a SUV.
We definitely found its higher ride height to be more enjoyable, when compared with the family sedans or hatchbacks that are priced in the EcoSport’s range.
In rainy weather, we did not worry too much about big puddles of water on the road.
Our test drive unit was the higher-priced EcoSport Titanium variant, which came with nice, dark leather-clad seats.
Although it is a compact SUV, the cabin feels spacious and has a cosy ambience.
It also has smart features such as Ford SYNC, the voice-activated in-car connectivity system which is available in both Mandarin and English for the first time in Malaysia.
Ford SYNC is a nifty hands-free system for drivers to control phone calls or messages and music playback.
As for storing and transporting stuff, the EcoSport is well-designed with useful storage spaces, like a drawer under the front passenger seat, cup holders and door bins.
The rear seats can be split 60:40 to put long objects.
Those who prefer more sunlight in the cabin will like the powered sunroof.
Now, some might not like the large swinging rear door as accessing the rear storage area can be troublesome in tight spaces.
But we found the EcoSport rear design, which has a spare tyre mounted on the tailgate, to be a charming and classic SUV cue.
Also, Ford designers had ingenuously built the tailgate handle into the tail lamp, in order to keep the rear profile sleek.
It is also worthwhile to note that the EcoSport was developed entirely in South America.
This showcases Ford’s capabilities in leveraging on its global design resources to develop compact vehicles.
Built at Ford’s new state-of-the-art Thailand Manufacturing facility in Rayong, the EcoSport was launched in Malaysia in August last year.
The EcoSport can be quite fuel efficient, as Ford says it can go 15.4km per litre of petrol.
It is powered by Ford’s global 1.5-litre twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) four-cylinder petrol engine, which is mated to a six-speed Ford PowerShift automatic transmission with Select Shift.
There is no turbocharged fun here as this EcoSport does not have one of the renowned Ford EcoBoost engines.
If you want an SUV with blink-of-an-eye acceleration, this EcoSport is not your cup of tea.
It does need some prodding of the accelerator to get into higher speeds, at a quicker pace.
When we drove at 80kph on smooth roads, the tachometer needle was at 2,100rpm to 2,200rpm.
At 110kph, the tachometer needle hovered around 2,800rpm.
For city driving or those who don’t mind moving around in a relaxed manner, the EcoSport is a nice SUV that feels very well put together, and represent good value for money.
Our test drive unit came with Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tyres sized 205/60 R16, and the EcoSport has decent, but not outstanding qualities in terms of handling and driving dynamics.
The EcoSport comes with Ford’s Extended Service Plan (ESP) which is a free three-year or 60,000km maintenance programme that covers parts and labour free of charge.
In addition to routine inspection and maintenance services, Ford’s ESP covers free replacement for selected wear-and-tear items, including spark plugs, shock absorbers, engine belts, brake pads and wiper blades.
There is a more affordable EcoSport Trend variant priced at RM92,888 on-the-road with insurance, for those who don’t mind driving with less bells and whistles, fewer airbags and fabric seats.
Paying about RM11,000 more for the Titanium variant gets you extras such as more airbags, Smart Keyless Entry with engine Push-Start Button, as well as rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and a power slide sunroof.