The popularity of small SUVs in the Philippines could be credited for two cars that pioneered the segment. If you remember correctly, this would be the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. However, times have changed. What used to be really small is now somewhat bigger than it used to be. Take for instance, the two aforementioned SUVs. The RAV4 and CR-V have become a lot bigger than they used to be, the latter even sprouting a pair of extra chairs, effectively making it a left-field alternative to bigger pick-up based SUVs like the Fortuner, Montero Sport, and Everest. This is where Ford has seen the potential for success. What used to be the RAV4 is now where the Ford EcoSport sits. Now on its mid cycle refresh, Ford Philippines has done more than just a nip and tuck of its highly popular small SUV. The engineers made it more refined, more comfortable, better to drive, and with its 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, a much more powerful drive.
Ford Philippines has invited select members of the media community to try the new Ford EcoSport. Six were provided to all the media groups, four of which where the Titanium variant fitted with the new EcoBoost motor, while the other two are the mid-spec Trend variant which features a bigger 1.5-liter non-turbo petrol engine. The most important change, however, is its transmission. Gone is the much derided PowerShift dual clutch tranny, now replaced by a conventional 6-speed automatic. After being able to drive both cars, all I could say is that, Ford should have stuck to this tried and tested torque converter automatic.
On the first day of our trip, me and a few media friends of mine were assigned to car number two, which was painted in a color called Canyon Ridge, which in layman’s term, is a special name for brown. We then head off Ford Global City, and then head on to C5 in order to travel to SLEX, and right off the bat, the EcoBoost engine and 6-speed automatic transmission made the EcoSport a much better car to drive. Despite packing a tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder petrol engine, the engine provided plenty of punch. On paper, the 1.0-liter mill produces 125 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 170 Nm of torque @ 1,400-4,500 rpm. While the figures on paper don’t sound spectacular, the most important thing to note is how the torque is delivered. With peak torque being available at just 1,400 rpm, the EcoBoost engine does not need to be pushed to the high rev range in order to carry its own weight. It makes the EcoSport a much more pleasant and responsive car to drive in the city.
As we head on to SLEX, our car was able to keep up with the rest of the pack, even with the Ford Everest 3.2 Titanium Premium 4WD. Not that the EcoSport suddenly turned into a Ford Focus RS, but still, the EcoBoost engine seems to be the most adequate engine for the EcoSport. Upon arriving at Shell SLEX South Bound, we then were asked to switch drivers, which gave me the opportunity to test out the car’s other features and ergonomics. The Titanium EcoSport was fitted with Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system, which is a system I love using, thanks to its responsive UI, large icons, and nice graphics. It comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which was right at the same time when Apple CarPlay now supports Waze when you update to iOS 12. Other noteworthy features I liked in the Titanium variant include its new 7-speaker sound system. I, myself, am an audiophile, which means I am very picky when it comes to sound systems, but I happen to appreciate the Titanium’s, which was very good and provided excellent sound quality.
I also appreciated this Titanium variant’s excellent seats. I am not quite sure what changed, but I felt less sore going to Batangas compared to its predecessor. More importantly, for the driver’s seat, this Titanium variant features lumbar support adjustment, which proved to be useful at a later point through the drive.
Unfortunately, some of the criticisms I had with its predecessor still remained. I am still not quite a fan of the hatch mounted spare tire, which means that it is difficult to open the trunk when reverse parked to a wall, or when parallel parked. The trunk space is also not as big, still being comparatively smaller than even a Honda Jazz.
Our first destination was a Bali-inspired restaurant and resort called Cintai Corritos Garden, located at Balete, Batangas. The food was good, if not spectacular, which was just appropriate for the next drive to Laiya, a journey that would take us an hour and a half from Cintai Corritos Garden.
As we head on to our journey to Laiya, I started to poke around the interior. Interior quality is definitely a huge step up compared to its predecessor. The panel gaps are much more consistent, and all of the interior panels had a robust and much more solid feel compared to its predecessor. The dashboard now features plush soft touch materials, which definitely helped improve the interior ambience. The leather seats also felt nice to the touch, as well as the leather door panels that definitely has uplifted the interior. If there was one gripe I had about the EcoSport, it would be its door armrests for the driver and front passenger. I’m quite tall for a Filipino, which means the driver’s seat is pushed back somewhat, but the door armrest does not extend as far back as I wished, making the back half of my left or right arm (depending whether I am the driver or front passenger) unable to lean on the armrest. What I thank Ford for is the addition of an adjustable center armrest, which also enabled the engineers to create additional storage inside the vehicle.
We now arrive at our second destination called Laiya Adventure Park, which I initially found surprising because it is a team building venue. Filled with activities that range from rappelling, zip-line, free fall, rock climbing, to name a few, the venue became an opportunity for Ford to creatively explain the new EcoSport’s “Street Smart” features through team building activities.
Right after the adventurous, fun, yet tiring team building activities, we then headed on to our final destination, which is Acuatico Beach Resort. This is our accommodation for the two-day media drive, and became the perfect venue for us to relax and unwind after a tiring day.
This also gave us the opportunity to give the Ford EcoSport a photoshoot around the area, which proved to be easy, since Laiya is located on a picturesque coastline with a mountainous view on the other side.
As we headed back to Manila on the afternoon of the following day, together with a sumptuous Italian lunch at Casa Marikit, we were then asked to switch cars. It was our turn to be in car number six, which is a Moondust Silver Trend variant with the bigger 1.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine without any turbos. From the outside, little aspects separate the Titanium and Trend variant. These differences are limited to a blacked-out fog light surround, the deletion of the automatic HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, as well as the passive entry system with push button start. Everything else remains the same, including the snazzy 17-inch alloy wheels. On the inside, there is no leather to be found anywhere, and while the touch screen infotainment system is an inch bigger than SYNC3’s, the system is one that is made by a third-party OEM manufacturer that utilizes an imitation of Ford’s SYNC3 user interface. As a whole, the system was less pleasant to use compared to SYNC3, but at least it’s still user friendly.
Immediately, the power and torque deficit is felt in this ironically bigger engine. This is even more felt when it comes to overtaking. While this new one performs much better compared to its predecessor, mainly thanks to the 6-speed torque converter automatic being more responsive and more refined than the PowerShift unit it replaces, the deficit in power and torque is definitely there. The convoy was somewhat fast paced, and this 1.5-liter EcoSport Trend variant had a harder time keeping up with the rest of the EcoBoost pack. Overtakes need careful planning in this variant, especially since its 123 hp comes in at 6,500 rpm and 150 Nm of torque at a much higher 4,500 rpm. With this in mind, the bigger engine needed more revving in order to carry its weight. It is an improvement from the bigger 1.6-liter mill that it replaces, but the way the EcoBoost engine is able to deliver its torque in such a low rev range proves to be useful in many driving situations.
Overall, the new Ford EcoSport is a much improved car compared to its predecessor. The country’s best-selling small SUV makes an excellent case for itself for being a much more refined and polished product than before. The two new engines fitted to this car makes the EcoSport a much better car to drive, but based on our first impressions, the EcoBoost engine is definitely the one to go for. While we were unable to officially tally a fuel economy figure, especially with the fast paced convoy that meant a lot of overtaking. We’ll get our hands on a new EcoSport soon to find out how it fares in the daily grind.