Well-equipped urban fashion accessory
Globally, the EcoSport has not reached the heights Ford’s marketing gurus might have hoped for. A facelift presented in 2016 helped round off some off the square edges but it’s the third makeover effected in 2018 in the face of increasing competition that’s wrought the biggest improvements such that on completion of my week’s association, I was a lot more impressed than I thought might be the case. What those observers will see is detailing that brings this latest iteration more in line with typical Ford styling cues and in the most fetching Silk hue (a pale metallic gold colour) of the test unit, I thought this latest EcoSport looked rather dandy. So too did casual observers encountered down at the mall car park who, without any prompting, commented on the pleasing colour.
In terms of detail, overall finishing detail is good as evidenced by close panel gaps around all apertures. The smart external appearance is enhanced by very attractive grey and polished alloy wheels that are home to 205/50R17 tyres as well as by body-colour auto-folding wing mirrors, fancy headlamp assemblies and discretely employed chrome embellisher strips, some of which are utilised to pick-out the typical Ford grille design. By contrast, the rear bumper assembly, complete with park sensors, features a practical black rubber covering.
Access to the completely rattle and squeak-free interior is achieved via a keyless system through easy-opening/closing doors that sport double seals. The front seats, with partial leather covering, are generously-proportioned but lack lateral support. Decent quality carpeting covers the luggage and passenger floor areas while other good detailing includes a smart roof lining, beautifully clear white on black instrumentation in the modern Ford idiom, airbags all round, a soft-touch dashboard and simple-to-use air con controls, a sensible rotary light switch, well-sited electric window switches and more.
While hard plastics abound in the cabin, that large dashboard excepted, Ford’s designers have done well to disguise the less appealing bits such that the interior ambience is perfectly appealing for the class of vehicle. Occupants will also enjoy the functionality of the free-standing 8-inch touch screen that will be familiar to Fiesta owners. Operated from a leather-bound wheel that also sends signals to the on-board cruise control, this Sync3 unit includes Bluetooth and full sat nav along with iPod and multiple USB connectivity.
Certainly, this version lacks for nothing in this price range and happily, it’s powered by one of the industry’s great powerplants – Henry’s award-wining 1,0 turbo triple that feels more like a 1,6. This little giant-slayer produces a healthy 92kW at 6 000rpm but more importantly, the generous torque peak of 170Nm is on tap all the way from 1 400 to 4 500rpm. This ensures that the EcoSport never feels overwhelmed and provides decent shove and almost lag-free responses even at very low revs. Expect the 0-100 dash to be over in around 11.8s.
At higher altitudes, these positive characteristics will be even more obvious too. If pressed, little more than a pleasant off-beat thrum is evident from inside and there’s sufficient grunt in reserve to sustain lively acceleration right up to illegal velocities.
Town dwellers in particular will appreciate the 6-speed Durashift auto that shifts with acceptable alacrity and smoothness and which offers a Sport mode that in turn activates paddle shifters to give the driver more control. Quite why this feature should only operate in Sport mode is a mystery.
The EcoSport rides on MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam axle down the back. The ride at low speed feels on the firm side and sharper undulations can cause sharp reactions but as speed rises, so the ride smooths out. Directional stability is excellent but enthusiastic cornering telegraphs that the elevated ride height does little to mitigate body roll. It’s the steering feel though, that rankles, rather than the ride.
I gather Ford has stuffed more sound proofing into this latest iteration which repels wind and road noise well enough to earn a good rating for refinement, especially as that brilliant engine contrives to hide its presence on the cruise with unqualified success.
So, let it be known that all the massaging lavished on the latest EcoSport has turned something of a rough diamond into a diamond with a measure of polish. The EcoSport is now worth a closer look for those who like a more lofty ride height and who find such a configuration easier to get in and out of than low-slung cars. And in Titanium trim, the equipment levels are really very, very good and should be allowed for when price comparisons are considered.
Ford EcoSport 1.0 Titanium 6AT
Pricing: From R346 900
Warranty: 4yr/120 000km
Service plan: 4yr/60 000km
Article & Photos: Richard Wiley