Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There’s a choice of five engines available: three petrols, and two diesels. We’d suggest you look to the 124bhp 1.0-litre turbo petrol (badged as the Ecoboost 125). It's free-revving, flexible and provides good performance. And, while there is a 138bhp version of the same engine, it's only available with the range-topping ST-Line trim so is too expensive to recommend.
As for diesels, there’s a 99bhp diesel or a higher-output 124bhp unit that is the only Ecosport engine to be offered with four-wheel drive. Both are worth considering if you do a lot of miles, due to their superior economy and good mid-range urgency. However, for most people, the petrols will make more sense.
All Ecosport models have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard – something that you’ll find yourself operating regularly, especially in the diesel, due to its relatively short gearing. Only the Ecoboost 125 petrol is offered with an automatic gearbox, but this is best avoided anyway, being decidedly sluggish by modern standards.
Sadly, the Ecosport’s handling doesn’t inspire much confidence. Its steering is far too vague, leaving you sawing at the wheel on anything but poker-straight motorways, and there’s considerable body lean in corners. This is even more noticeable in the four-wheel-drive version; the extra 100kg of weight it carries because of additional mechanical parts makes it sway even more.
The biggest problem, though, is the way the Ecosport rides. It rarely settles down and tends to jostle occupants around in town – and things don't improve much with speed. Things are especially bumpy in ST-Line models, which have stiffer suspension and larger 17in wheels (18in ones are available as an option). Four-wheel-drive models get a more sophisticated rear suspension and ride better, but still not well enough to be truly comfortable.
Refinement is acceptable in a class where there are no really quiet contenders. The Ecosport’s engines are noisier than they are in the Fiesta but are especially wheezy when getting up to speed. There’s vibration through the pedals, and the door mirrors whip up quite a bit of wind noise, plus the clutch pedal is very heavy. Still, at least the gearshift is solid and slots into gear positively.