Ford’s Ecosport is a return to old-school SUV styling but with a fresh approach to downsizing, writes Matt Kimberley, Press Association Motoring Writer.
The Ecosport is essentially a Fiesta-sized chassis with taller ride height, old-school off-roader styling and a serious emphasis on practicality. It was initially designed for South American markets, but as part of Ford’s efforts to sell the same models in every market, here it is.
The ‘small SUV’ corner of the market is becoming ever-more crowded, with just about everyone getting in on the action. Ford is hoping that a little bit of retro charm and space-maximising features will win the day.
Looks and image
You’ll probably notice how much bigger the Ecosport looks than it actually is. It’s partly down to clever penmanship from the designers and partly because of that chunky spare wheel housing on the back. It feels slightly out of its time; a notion enhanced by the horizontally-opening boot.
It looks bigger than it is. It’s a good-looking, chunky and mildly imposing piece of work that shares much of its make-up with the UK’s best-selling supermini. That can hardly do its image any harm, now, can it?
Space and practicality
If the Ecosport was playing Practicality Poker it would be holding a royal flush. Ford has downsized without sacrificing usefulness, which is brilliant to see. The boot is tall and great for piling plenty of stuff in behind the rear seats, the cabin is spacious enough for five at a pinch and there’s more headroom than in the Albert Hall.
But it’s the little things that make the difference, like being able to fit large drinks bottles into special recesses in the front doors, and like a huge air conditioned glove box. The sliding tray beneath the front passenger seat is just one of 20 clever storage solutions employed by the Ecosport.
Behind the wheel
For the first time Ford is offering an SUV-type vehicle with its popular 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbocharged petrol engine, and it’s the pick of the range. Beneath its thrummy character there’s enough muscle to push the Ecosport along at a modest rate, and while it’s not as nippy as the Fiesta it has plenty of pace around town.
Some of the plastic trim panels are perhaps a bit below par on the doors and dashboard, betraying the car’s origins outside of notoriously fussy Europe, and there are a couple of creaks and rattles to note on this 3,000-mile-old test car.
What’s particularly nice, though, is how undemanding it is where it matters most; in an urban setting. The controls are nicely weighted, the light steering helps with parking in tight spaces, and despite appearances it’s as wieldy as a supermini.
Value for money
At £15,995 for the 1.0 Ecoboost Titanium model without the added extras of the X Pack, which is nothing to do with Wolverine and more about larger alloy wheels, leather upholstery and automated gadgets, the Ecosport is competitively priced. It’s reasonably cheap for road tax, too, and shouldn’t be too expensive to service, either.
Who would buy one?
Ford is looking at two ends of the spectrum. Firstly there’s the older buyer who fondly remembers the older style of SUVs and will embrace a renewed familiarity.
On the other hand there is the younger buyer, who appreciates the retro style and the practical family-biased touches that make it feel a lot bigger and more spacious than it really is.
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