Let’s start with the name. It’s pronounced as ‘Echo-sport’ instead of ‘Eeeeco-sport’. And no, Ford’s finest EcoBoost engine will not be available for the ASEAN market EcoSport although there’s the award-winning 1.0L EcoBoost version in other countries. That’s odd because we also get the Fiesta with that excellent small engine. Hopefully we get the EcoBoost EcoSport in the near future. And that’s enough “Eco” for this paragraph.
Ford markets the EcoSport as an urban SUV (it is also Ford’s first time entering the local mini-SUV market), which always reminds me of the locally successful Perodua Kembara (based on Daihatsu Terios) that many Malaysians still have fond memories of. After the Kembara got discontinued, it felt as though the mini-SUV segment was abandoned despite the fact it had the forgettable Perodua Nautica (a re-badged Toyota Rush) as the replacement model. Only very recently did this segment slowly crept its way back into the Malaysian market with premium brands such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and the recently launched Mercedes GLA. On the other end of the price range, we have the Peugeot 2008, Suzuki SX4, Toyota Rush and even some cheaper Chinese offerings. We use the term SUV very loosely here since many of these are more crossover than a genuine SUV.
The 110PS 1.5L Ti-VCT petrol unit we have here is a similar one which debuted in the Fiesta last year. Besides the engine, the EcoSport also shares the same platform with the Fiesta, so one can be forgiven for claiming the EcoSport as a taller, wider and slightly longer version of the Fiesta (259mm longer, 43mm wider and 169mm taller to be exact). The Ford EcoSport is part of One Ford philosophy: designed and developed by Ford Brazil for the South American market yet caters for the global market as well, with the EcoSport being built in Brazil, Russia, India and Thailand.
The Ford EcoSport we got from Sime Darby Auto Connexion was the highest-spec Titanium model in a very stunning Winning Blue paint that won our hearts, but will the car do the same?
While most of our road test were done in an urban setting, we decided to push the EcoSport out of its comfort zone to somewhere, not so urban. We drove 200km away to the sleepy town of Tanjung Tualang in Perak famous for its freshwater tiger prawns. Along the way, we have some good mix of B-roads, highways and light off-road tracks.
The 1.5L naturally aspirated power plant generates 142Nm of torque at 4400 RPM which is enough for urban use but once it got onto highways, it started to reveal its limit. Overtaking became an issue due to the lack of torque and you’ll only get adequate power once the needle shows 4500 RPM, which seems like a long way to go from a cruising revolution of 2200 RPM with an average speed of 90km/h. The lack of torque was also noticeable on B-roads after we got off the North South Expressway into Bidor. While Ford didn’t provide us official figure for the 0-100 km/h time, I decided to have my own test, which took me 15 seconds* to reach the 100 km/h mark. Not impressive, but then again it’s a front-wheel-drive 1.5L engine hauling a 1.2 ton car. (*other road tests showed that it’s possible to reach the 100 km/h mark in 14 seconds for the 1.5L and 12.5 seconds for the 1.0L Ecoboost)
Eventually, one would get used to the slow throttle response, and I also began to enjoy its very revvy engine that is capable of hitting 6,500RPM easily (not recommended for fuel efficiency). Paired with the excellent handling, driving on B-roads was very enjoyable. One thing I would miss on the EcoSport would be the handling (I really had to mention it again), as you could not go wrong with the Fiesta platform. The steering was well balanced with accurate turning point and little correction was required. However, due to its higher ride height, there’s a little more body roll compared to lower cars which will discourage you from pushing the car harder around the corners.
Another thing worth mentioning is the EcoSport’s dual clutch transmission, which is pretty rare for this segment. While it provides a quick upshift, one would still feel a slight judder when it down-shifts in slow, crawling traffic especially in lower gears.
In terms of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), road noise in the cabin remained low at speeds up to 140 km/h and there’s minimal wind noise, but once you push the pedal a bit harder, loud engine noises penetrates the cabin. Good news for the 1% who enjoys the mechanical sound of a 1.5L engine, but bad news for the 99% who just wants a quiet cabin. The car is well built overall but there’s some rattling noises of hard plastics here and there at certain engine speeds which can be a bit annoying sometimes. The ride tends to be harsh at roads filled with potholes and road humps but other than that, it’s quite comfortable.
One of the most frequently asked question that most buyers will ask when buying a new car nowadays.
~ Official figure says 6.5L/100 km, on-board computer says 8.1L/ 100 km (achieved on highways with average speed of 90 kph and 2400 rpm).
~ From Kampar to Bangsar LRT (171.9 km), we used approximately 13 litres of fuel, our calculation shows 7.56 litre/100 km.
As I mentioned earlier, the handling was impressive but the trade off would be a firmer ride, yet it is a good sacrifice given that it still able to absorb potholes and bumps quite well. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom at the rear and both of my passengers didn’t complain throughout our 2 hours drive. The seats could be better though, as it felt a bit too flat and couldn’t hold one’s body in place when I decided to push the car a bit harder into the apex. Same can be said for the front driver seat. There wasn’t a slight fatigue for me throughout the long drive and the lumbar support for the driver seat helped a lot during my long journey.
The 200mm ground clearance prevents the lower bumper from scraping the kerbs which happens a lot in urban areas, and one of the reason why I prefer driving my Ford Ranger over sedans most of the time. The best in class 550mm wading depth can get you through most of the flash floods in KL especially during the monsoon season (To put things into perspective, 550mm is one third of the height of the EcoSport!). Do note that the EcoSport have a leftward swinging rear trunk door which also have the spare tyre hanging on it. Great if you change your tires everyday, not so much for the rest of us as I find this particular feature not very urban friendly especially when one park in tight spaces. One misjudgement will easily put a dent on the spare-tyre cover.
On the inside, I love the deep front pockets that can easily swallow a 1.5L water bottle. It also comes with two 12V sockets with one being strategically placed at the outer side of the rear seat. With the seats up, you have 362 litres of space that can easily fit a couple of large luggages. Seats down and you will have a massive 705 litres to make use of. Impressive for a mini SUV.
The infotainment system on the Ecosport comes with Ford Sync that allows you to give the car some simple commands but the feature I frequently used is calling someone. Simply say the name of the person you want to call and it will automatically dial the number. Of course, you will have to sync your smartphone with the system before you can use this feature.
One would definitely think talking to a car is absurd but trust me, you’ll get addicted to this feature after some time. However I only tend to use it when I’m alone because it can be awkward when your passengers are
laughing looking at you when you couldn’t get it right. The Sync on the EcoSport also comes with Mandarin Chinese and it can too, listen to commands in Mandarin! The centre console design looks great but using pretty much the identical centre console with the Fiesta (which was launched back in 2009), it is starting to show its age. The glossy, silver surrounds on the head unit can be irritating sometimes especially in the afternoon when it reflects the sunlight into your eyes. Having it in matte finish should solve the problem.
Back to my first question, did it won my heart? Yes I would say. After spending 4 pleasant day with this urban warrior, the EcoSport is starting to grow on me. I won’t comment much on the controversial looks but I find the ruggedly adorable looks of it quite appealing. The EcoSport turned people’s head too so it definitely stood out among the mini SUV crowd. Plus, if you are looking for a car with higher ride height yet impressive handling at the same time (a combination seldom seen on SUVs) and exceptional safety features (7 airbags, Electronic Stability Program, Hill launch assist, Emergency brake assist, Traction Control etc), then the Ecosport is really worth considering.