Ford — like many of its opponents — has, because of its global reach, the resources to react to swiftly changing consumer demands and that is how it has been able to come up with something like a mini-SUV in fairly short order.
Thus, the company came up with a mini-SUV it was already building and selling in Brazil and, having done a quick exercise !it came up with the all new Ford EcoSport for Europe.
The EcoSport was originally designed by Ford’s American Truck Vehicle Centre in 2003, but based on the Fiesta platform built in Cologne. It was targeted South and Central American markets. And remarkably successful it was too, selling as many as 700,000 units across Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico, among other markets.
Fast forwarding to 2012, Ford had become aware of a seismic shift in customer preferences whereby the SUV was now becoming mainstream across a variety of market segments and it found itself in need of a SUV variant. Hey presto — the EcoSport for Europe was born.
Tarted up with a pretty face which makes it unequivocally a Fiesta derivative, the EcoSport is a very easy car on the eye and one which will immediately appeal to European tastes.
Ford has also pulled off a neat trick by making available its latest communications technologies and thus making the EcoSport very appealing indeed for European consumers.
And something else which will have concentrated corporate minds chez Ford will have been the Europe-wide success of the Dacia Duster, the Roumanian-built Renault-owned bargain-basement SUV which has been a massive hit in every market it has come in contact with. While Ford would probably blanche at suggestions their mini-SUV has anything in common with the Dacia, it does — although it is not quite as cheap.
The EcoSport is built in Chennai, India and — with all due respect — you’d have to conclude that means manufacturing costs are rock-bottom, allowing Ford plenty of wiggle room when it came to the pricing of the car on European markets.
And, although the company is promising that future models will be a bit more sophisticated in terms of interior decor and the materials used therein, the evidence here is pretty grim.
When you look at stuff like the carpets (which look like they’ve been recycled from old socks) and the primary dashboard plastics (which look like they’ve been recycled from old Fiat bumpers), you get a definite feeling that Ford could have done a little more here to make their potential customers feel a bit more special. Sure, the dash is immediately recognisable as similar to that in the Fiesta, but the plastics used in its construction could not in any way be described as ‘soft touch.’
One other criticism is that the EcoSport, for all its supposed ‘off-road’ cred, will not be available here with a 4x4 system and thus has no off-road credibility whatsoever, so don’t kid yourself to the contrary.
Having said that, though, the EcoSport is not a bad little driver at all, and I found it to be quite an appealing companion. The ride and handling are particularly impressive and the solidity of the car on the road was as surprising as it was welcome.
The familiar 1.5 litre turbodiesel was also up to muster, although a lot more of a presence vocally than in its passenger car siblings. Even so, it performs with gusto and is a decent economic prospect as well.
Inside, the EcoSport is roomy and relatively comfortable — once again the ride characteristics help greatly here — and for many drivers the tall driving position and ease of access will be appealing characteristics.
A very decent car then, even if it was arrived at in pretty short order and with unseemly haste.
It’s certainly not perfect, but the positives by far outweigh the negatives.
The Cost: from €23,995.
The Engine: the 1.5 TDCi is already a well-known prospect and has decent enough consumption and emission figures (4.9 l/100 km and 120 g/km), although it’s not the quickest, as the 14 second 0-100 kph time illustrates.
The Specification: pretty good all round — the tester features SYNC with AppLink (including emergency assistance, Bluetooth, 3.5” colour screen, USB and six speakers), rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and dimming rear view mirror.
The Overall Verdict: Ford’s first ‘global SUV’ (i.e. something they cobbled together very quickly from bits made for a variety of markets) is not bad at all, although severely let down by the interior decor.
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