Models like the Toyota RAV4 and Suzuki Vitara pioneered the compact SUV segment. Then morphed into bigger and more practical offerings. Lately there has been a resurgence in this category with products like the Ford EcoSport joining the fray. Buyers can also look forward to releases such as the Volkswagen Taigun.
City-dwellers will undoubtedly see the appeal in machines like the EcoSport. The new Ford has received a rather warm reception since being introduced locally last year. It offers the commanding position of a conventional SUV albeit without the cumbersome size issues. And with that peppy but frugal EcoBoost engine, you can almost have your cake and eat it.
Those chunky exterior looks are aggressive in a cute sort of way. Like a growling Jack Russell. Our test unit wore the signature orange hue and in Titanium guise had the smarter accoutrements like alloy wheels with a web-like design. The rear-mounted spare wheel completes that (faux) off-roader look but also means more luggage space.
Ford garnered plenty of praise for its one-litre turbocharged engine. And the plaudits are not without good reason. It propels the Fiesta hatchback with enthusiasm. And even though this EcoSport is heftier; the force-fed mill doesn’t struggle to keep the momentum up. One needs to be careful in traffic though: there’s a tendency to stall, before the turbocharger spools up and spits its boost.
On the freeway its additional height can be sensed. You’ll feel stiff crosswinds. We liked the clear view through all corners however. Just resign to the fact that this is more of a straight-line cruiser than a machine for the slalom circuit. Shifts through its manual transmission are wonderfully direct; as they are in other Ford models. The ride is firmer than we expected.
Climb inside and if you’re a current Fiesta owner you’ll find the layout and switchgear quite familiar. But there were disappointments. Some interior trim was loose-fitting. And those seats – while upholstered in leather – could do with better rump and lumbar support. Our Titanium test model had all the niceties one expects in 2014. Cruise control, climate control, electric windows for all and the impressive Ford SYNC interface. Despite our best efforts, we could not trick the lady inside the voice recognition system. She sussed us out every time.
Keen pricing certainly counts in the EcoSport’s favour. Local buyers perceive that cars with the SUV and Crossover titles offer better value. The argument is strong here: because for R199 000 (a bit more than the average B-segment hatchback) you can have something roomier and better suited to the concrete jungle.
The Technical Stuff
Model: 2014 Ford EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium
Price: R244 000
Engine: 1-litre turbocharged
Power and Torque: 92kW and 170Nm
Fuel Consumption: 5.5l/100km (Achieved)
Test Mileage: 600 kilometres
Praises: Punchy and frugal, funky looks, keen price
Gripes: Build quality could be better