Ford EcoSport SUV
"It has the outline of an SUV, but the Ford EcoSport isn’t big enough for a family, suffers from poor economy and is underwhelming to drive"
- Eager EcoBoost petrol engine
- Good standard equipment
- Spacious cabin
- Poor fuel economy
- Impractical boot door
- Disappointing to drive
The arrival of the Ford EcoSport – Ford's first compact SUV – demonstrated the increasing popularity of this kind of car. Ford recognised that its best-selling Ford Fiesta was losing sales to cars like the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Nissan Juke, so it created an SUV-looking model that used the underpinnings of its popular supermini. It received a much-needed update in 2018 to take on more modern rivals like the SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross.
The redesigned nose gives the EcoSport a similar look to the much larger Ford Kuga and Ford Edge SUVs. The interior has been overhauled too, and now more closely resembles that of the Fiesta – few will think of that as anything but a good thing. It now also has a rival from within, as the Ford Puma is similarly priced but more spacious, better to drive and better equipped.
The EcoSport isn't a car that was designed for speed, but the 123bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is strong enough and the 138bhp version is nippier still. The 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine was upgraded to 99bhp during the update, but still takes a rather sluggish 13.6 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill. Diesel devotees will be better off with the 123bhp version of this engine that takes a slightly better 11.3 seconds to cover 0-62mph. The more powerful diesel is solely available in ST-Line trim and is the only EcoSport available with four-wheel-drive.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is available in 99, 123 and 138bhp versions and returns a best economy figure of 48.7mpg, but even the most powerful model can manage 47.1mpg. Emissions range from 133g/km of CO2 to 149g/km if fitted with the manual gearbox. An automatic is no longer offered. Ford claims up to 57.6mpg for the 99bhp diesel and up to 53.3mpg for the 123bhp version.
Given the EcoSport's Ford Fiesta underpinnings, the way it acquits itself on challenging roads is a bit of a disappointment. The steering is quite direct if rather light and lacking in feel, but the car leans noticeably in fast corners and tardy acceleration further dulls the experience. Its wallowing behaviour comes despite relatively firm suspension, which transmits bumps into the passenger compartment and can make life uncomfortable on pockmarked surfaces.
On the plus side, the EcoSport is very easy to drive around town, where the lifeless and heavily assisted steering becomes a virtue and reduces the amount of wheel-twirling necessary when parking. There's a good view from the driver's seat, too, while passengers sit high and comfortably upright and can enjoy big windows that let plenty of light in. The boot is nicely proportioned, if smaller than those of rivals, but access isn't as convenient as it could be – the luggage compartment door is hinged at the left, which makes it tricky to use when you're parallel parked on a busy high street.
A raised roofline and upright seating provide decent space for occupants, lifting the EcoSport somewhat, while its dashboard is easy to use, even though it looks a little dated compared to the latest Fiesta and the materials it's made from are nothing special, either. Unlike some Ford models, choosing an EcoSport is very straightforward, as there are only three trim levels to go with the aforementioned engines. Zetec now has more standard equipment than before; it gets the ball rolling with 16-inch alloys, air-con, front foglights, a heated windscreen, cruise control and Ford’s eight-inch SYNC 3 infotainment. While you don’t get sat nav, you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can use your phone’s mapping software on the car’s screen.
Titanium adds silver roof rails, a reversing camera and parking sensors, part-leather seats, sat nav, climate control and automatic headlights and wipers, plus 17-inch alloy wheels and more. ST-Line trim makes the more powerful 138bhp petrol engine available as a choice, and gives the interior extra style inside and out thanks to privacy glass, plus black wheels to match its black roof and mirror housings.
When crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the Ford EcoSport was awarded four out of five stars. This is disappointing compared to rivals like the Renault Captur, which got top marks, but the EcoSport scored well for occupant protection and was mainly let down by a lack of the latest active safety technology. The EcoSport failed to feature in the top 75 cars in our 2020 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Ford came a lacklustre 24th out of 30 manufacturers overall.
Despite improvements, the EcoSport remains a less convincing package than any other car in the Ford line-up. Its engines are excellent, but you can tell it was designed for markets where simplicity and robustness are more of a priority than tactile pleasure and driver appeal, and it doesn't have an especially enticing price tag, either. The introduction of the Ford Puma SUV shows what a Ford crossover should be like, so we’d recommend test-driving the Puma before buying the EcoSport.