2014 Ford Ecosport review
Ford's Fiesta-based small SUV looks the part, but will it offer enough to tempt buyers away from the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur? We drive the Ecosport on UK roads to find out...
Ford's latest addition to its expanding SUV line-up is the Fiesta-based Ecosport, designed to take on the big-selling Nissan Juke, plus the likes of the Dacia Duster, Renault Captur and Citroen Cactus.
Add to that the slew of new rivals from Kia and Suzuki that will arrive later this year and early into the next, and it's obvious that the Ecosport will have its work cut out in the competitive small SUV sector.
To make things easy for prospective buyers, Ford has offered a pared-down Ecosport line-up for 2014. There are three engines to choose from; the entry-level version is powered by a 111bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine, while the other petrol option is Ford's 123bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder.
A 1.5-litre diesel that averages 64.2mpg and emits 120g/km of CO2 is the range-topper.
All of these engines are mated with a five-speed manual gearbox, although there will be a six-speed auto 'box available on the more powerful petrol variant from early 2015. Like most of its rivals, the Ecosport is front-wheel drive only.
This second-generation baby SUV has been available in Brazil since 2012, before being imported to Europe. This is because Ford has been busy re-engineering the car to accommodate European tastes.
Engineers have beefed up crash protection and made substantial changes to the chassis in an effort to improve everything from ride comfort, to handling and overall refinement.
However, there are still clues as to the Ecosport's origins. It retains the boot door-mounted spare wheel popular in South American markets, along with the side-opening door.
What's the 2014 Ford Ecosport like to drive?
Essentially a high-riding Fiesta, the Ecosport has a lofty driving position and offers an excellent view of the road ahead. We've driven both the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol and the 1.5-litre diesel, and both engines let more noise into the cabin than they do in the Fiesta. The Ecosport's door mirrors generate a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, too.
Of the two, it's the perkier petrol that will be make the most sense for buyers. It feels even punchier than the diesel at lower speeds and is smoother all the way through the rev range. Running costs should be on a par, too, unless you do lots of miles every year.
The diesel isn't a bad performer, though, with reasonable lowdown shove. It's quiet enough in town, but gets more vocal as the revs rise at higher speed. It needs some revving to get the most from the 90bhp motor, and takes a fairly modest 14 seconds to go from 0-62mph.
Unfortunately, the steering provides little feedback and is rather inconsistent, so it can be difficult to judge exactly where the front wheels are pointing. It also suffers quite an aggressive self-centering action, but at least it's light when driving at low speed, which makes manoeuvring in town easier.
The five-speeder manual 'box is smooth enough, but gearchanges feel disconcertingly vague.
Body control is impressive for an SUV, with little roll evident on twisty A-roads, and the Ecosport feels pleasingly stable at higher speeds. The 180mm ground clearance also helps takes the sting out of most bumps.
The ride, although composed, can jostle occupants around more than expected at lower speeds over patched-up town roads - and sadly this is exactly where the Ecosport is likely to be driven most.
What's the 2014 Ford Ecosport like inside?
Like its rivals, a lot of the instant appeal of the Ford Ecosport comes from its commanding driving position. You slide into the height- and lumbar-adjustable driver’s seat, rather than having to stoop.
The steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, which means it's not too difficult to find a comfortable driving position, whatever shape and size you are.
The dashboard has virtually the same control layout as the Fiesta's, which means that while some of the major controls are easy to use while driving, the radio has too many confusing small buttons. In addition, the tiny screen that sits above the centre console is heavily recessed and quite hard to read.
The cabin materials are also less apealing than those in rival small SUVs. There are plastic trim accents on the doors and central console, and chromed-plastic details dotted about that look the part, but the rest of the dashboard is built from shiny plastics that cover virtually everything you see and touch. Unfortunately, the overall feeling is that you're sat in a downmarket version of the Fiesta.
It's not all doom and gloom, though; there's plenty of head- and legroom available both front and rear, although the narrow-feeling cabin means you sit quite close to the passenger up front, while fitting three adults across the back seat is going to be a squeeze.
There are plenty of storage cubbyholes dotted around the cabin, which include a cooled glovebox. The slide-out drawer under the front passenger seat is handy for keeping valuables out of sight, too.
Boot space is on a par with rivals', with up to 375 litres available, depending on the rake of the seats, adjusted via a fabric hook located either side of the rear seats.
This capacity expands to 1238 litres when the 60/40 split reat seats are folded. However, they don't lie anywhere near flat, resulting in a noticeably stepped load bay.
The quirky side-opening boot door is heavy, and opening it in tight spaces will be a nuisance; forget about backing into car parking bays at the supermarket or in a multi-storey car park.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, Ford is offering just one - albeit generous - Titanium trim level, which includes 16-inch alloy wheels, seven airbags, LED lights, tyre pressure monitoring system, multi-function leather steering wheel, electric windows all-round and keyless entry and start.
If you want even more, an extra £1000 gets you the Titanium X pack, which brings 17-inch alloys, full leather upholstery, cruise control, and auto features.
Options-wise you can spec rear parking sensors, along with Ford's Sync with Applink technology, which lets you control smartphone apps such as Spotify via voice commands. Both cost £250 each.
Should I buy one?
The Ford Ecosport is competitively priced and equipped as standard, and its 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is a good choice, even if its not as clean as those in rivals such as the lighter Citroen Cactus or Renault Captur.
However, buying an Ecosport means you'll have to live with a cabin that looks and feels cheap, as well as that awkward side-opening boot and long tailgate. It's also not as refined or fun to drive as the Fiesta on which it's based.
As a result, there are far too many rivals out there at the moment that are a better bet.
What Car? says…
Engine size 1.5-litre petrol
Price from £14,995
Torque 103lb ft
0-62mph 13.3 seconds
Top speed 107mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
Engine size 1.0-litre turbocharged
Price from £15,995
Torque 125lb ft
0-62mph 12.7 seconds
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg
Engine size 1.5-litre diesel
Price from £16,495
Torque 150lb ft
0-62mph 14.0 seconds
Top speed 99mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg
Chas Hallett / Melanie Falconer