Good Things Come In Small Packages
Over the years, we’ve seen Ford Group Philippines announce month after month a new sales record. Considered as one of the fastest growing car brands in our market, Ford, it seems, doesn’t want that streak to end by releasing this, the Ford EcoSport. The Ford EcoSport is the first mini crossover SUV in the Philippine market. A first generation model was released in 2003 exclusively for the South American market, and proved to be very popular, but it seems Nissan started the global trend for the mini SUV with their Juke. This changed the public’s interests in car ownership and has pushed car manufacturers to create a car that fits in a congested urban environment, yet has the ground clearance, tall ride height, water wading capability, and flexibility of an SUV. This rendered other manufacturers to come up with a mini SUV to satisfy that growing demand, and ultimately, eat out the sales of each other. Being the first mini crossover SUV in the Philippines, does the Ford EcoSport have the guts to be a trendsetter and a benchmark in our market?
The Ford EcoSport, like all mini crossover SUVs, is based on a subcompact platform. In this case, it uses the Ford Fiesta’s platform. It has a 200mm. ground clearance and a water wading depth of 550mm. As a result, it has a body that can be easily described as tall and short. Dimensions that a Japanese domestic market kei car would normally posses. Styling elements include a character line that sweeps from the front wheel arch, up to the rear, discrete LED Daytime Running Lights in the headlamps, plastic cladding to further strengthen its rugged character, and an in-your-face grille that begs to be seen by passer-bys. Its front fascia will certainly split opinions, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I am one with the crowd that thinks this is a good-looking front fascia. Go through the rear, and you will immediately notice its exterior spare tire. I am not a fan of rear spare tires, as this will render the trunk almost useless when a car or wall is behind you, since the doors on cars with door-mounted spare tires are hinged at the sides. It reminds me of the first generation Toyota RAV4, back when it used to be really small. Go figure.
People who are familiar with the Fiesta will adapt easily to its interior. Even the mobile phone inspired center console seems to be lifted from the said subcompact. It is a cabin that is stylish to look at, with creases and lines that keep the environment lively. Blue accent lighting in the LCD between the gauges, climate control, some of the buttons, and the central display for the multimedia controls create a modern feel in the cockpit of the EcoSport. The sunroof is a welcome feature in this category, and this feature, I certainly dig, as I am a fan of sunroofs.
Space and Practicality
There are plenty of adjustments in the seat and the steering wheel to suit almost any body style. Thankfully, full-size adults will fit comfortably in the rear, because unlike the Ford Fiesta, where the EcoSport is based, legroom and headroom are both good. The ceiling height is a bit low in the forward end of the second row because this top spec Titanium model has a sunroof, so do take note of that. When designing the EcoSport, Ford has thoughtfully placed a lot of cubby spaces in the cabin, with a generous glove box, cupholders in the doors, a place to put your glasses, and a cleverly designed underseat storage bin. Be sure not to forget where you last placed your items alright?
If there is one thing we can all immediately agree on every vehicle that Ford is selling here in the Philippines, it is their generous equipment levels. All models come with ISOFIX Child Seat Fixings, Courtesy Lights, Multi-Function Display, Heated Rear Windows, Welcome Home/Leaving Home Lights, Halogen Headlamps with LED Daytime Accent Lights, and Dual Airbags. This top-spec Titanium variant gets more sophisticated kit, including a Smart Key Access System with Push Button Start, Sunrooof, Auto Dimming Rear View Mirror, Rain Sensing Wipers, Automatic Headlamps, ABS with EDB and Hill Launch Assist, Lumbar Support for the seats, Automatic Climate Control, and Ford’s SYNC with Bluetooth and Voice Command. It also comes with leather seats, giving it a more upmarket and luxurious feel.
Powering the Ford EcoSport is the same 1.5 liter Ti-VCT engine from the 2013 Ford Fiesta, producing 108 hp at 6,300 rpm, and 142 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. Power is delivered exclusively through the front wheels via Ford’s Powershift 6-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission.
How It Drives
The Alabang landscape is congested today, supposedly the perfect place to test the EcoSport since the city is its intended environment. I’m assuming the traffic is really bad because the EcoSport, upon handing over the car to me by the previous driver, registered a fuel consumption of only *4.5 km/l. Thankfully, in order to escape from the horrible traffic, I was permitted to drive at locations in Alabang where there were less to no vehicles at all, and as I searched for an open road, fuel consumption improved significantly at 7-8.5 km/l in mixed stop and go traffic and short open road driving.
Being based from the Ford Fiesta would mean that the EcoSport is fun to drive, and it is. Don’t let its dimensions fool you. Despite the tall body, the EcoSport is very agile and has a plenty of grip. It stays planted in the corners, even if there is more body roll compared to the Fiesta, but that is a given, since the chassis now carries a bigger body. Steering is really precise, and you really notice the nose of the car following each of the driver’s commands. The Ford EcoSport then, can be considered a driver’s car. It begs to be driven hard on winding country roads. Too bad I can’t take this to Tagaytay, because this car is really a hoot to drive. The engine is responsive, but the 1.5 liter engine does run out a bit of steam at higher speeds and at higher rpms. With many international reviews citing a 0-100 km/h acceleration of 12-13 seconds for this 1.5 liter EcoSport, drag racing isn’t the EcoSport’s strong point, but it shouldn’t be, as this car is designed for the urban environment.
Calm your foot down, and the car, despite the sporty credentials, cruises really well. The whole car is very refined, with a compliant ride, and a cabin that is well insulated from road and wind noise. The cabin is so quiet and refined, it almost feels like driving a car from a class above. Passengers will easily fall asleep on long journeys. The EcoSport then, is a fun to drive car, that can easily eat up the miles of highway driving in relative comfort and serenity. Also, because of the tall ride height, the EcoSport does have an advantage when it comes to visibility and how it handles rougher terrain and speed bumps. Perfect for our city streets that are ridden with potholes, and the occasional flooding brought by rains.
On The Downside
My amount of enjoyment when driving the EcoSport in an open road is inversely proportional with my amount of enjoyment when driving the EcoSport in the city. I just can’t help but think if the Ford EcoSport would be better off with a conventional torque-converter automatic transmission. While driving in the city, it keeps on changing from 1st to 2nd at random times, and don’t get me started with the amount of jerks I experienced while it was doing that in the city. The transmission is so dimwittedly confused, it even jerks when you simply want to make the car crawl like how a conventional torque-converter automatic would do in situations like, looking for a parking spot. To be fair though, dual-clutch transmissions, especially the ones in supercars almost have a similar feel while in the city, and Ford’s Powershift could be easily forgiven if it also does what a dual-clutch transmission is good at. Lightning-fast shifts, but then, it doesn’t shift that fast. The dual-clutch Transmissions from Volkswagen are a bit smoother, if not as jerky, yet upshifts and downshifts are really quick.
There are also a few points to talk about the EcoSport’s interior. It is similar from the Fiesta, so whatever downsides I had with the Fiesta’s interior remained in the EcoSport. The quality of the plastics are fine, but at some places, there are plastics that feel really cheap. Build quality isn’t consistent either, with some switchgear that feels flimsy and may easily break off. There are also areas that have really noticeable and inconsistent panel gaps too.
Interior space is another aspect of the EcoSport to talk about. Though I did say that even tall people will be comfortable in the rear, having a third person sit in the middle may be a bit of a squeeze. Trunk space is also small at 346 liters, easily dwarfed by the even smaller Honda Jazz. Fold the rear seats down, and that increases to 705 liters, which is still smaller than what the Honda Jazz can offer.
Get onto the driver’s seat, and all these negatives are immediately thrown out of the window. The EcoSport will beg you to drive the car. It is very fun to drive and has the refinement to match larger vehicles. Combine it with the generous loads of equipment for the price, and the small EcoSport will definitely be the next big Ford. Oh! I did forget to mention the price. Starting at P775,000 for the base 1.5 Ambiente MT, the Ford EcoSport, like all other Fords, is excellent value for money. This top-of-the-range Titanium tops out at P975,000, and when I conducted a survey to some of my friends, they actually thought it costs more than what the actual price suggests, with most of them guessing that it costs around P1,000,000. Ford Group Philippines then, I think you accomplished your mission. Creating a car that is perfect for the modern day urban dweller. A small car that leaves a huge footprint. It is a car in a class of its own, for now.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★☆☆☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 3.88 / 5