With its small dimensions, sub-1 million peso price tag and high ground clearance, the Ford EcoSport has been flying off dealerships since its launch three years ago. It's no surprise then that it has been a consistent top seller for Ford, only being surpassed this year by the hot-selling Everest.
Since then, a slew of subcompact crossovers have entered the market. While some indirectly compete with the high-riding small Ford, the inevitable comparisons have put more pressure on the EcoSport. To fight back the wave of new competitors, the automaker gave the EcoSport a new variant, the Black Edition. I have been seeing several examples of them on the road. Now I've been handed the key fob to an EcoSport Black Edition to see if Ford's mini-crossover still delivers.
As you may have noticed, this Black Edition came in what Ford calls "Mars Red". The new variant is essentially a Titanium grade though with black trim pieces all over the exterior such as the lower air intake, grill, side mirror caps and wheels. Ford also added additional accessories such as roof bar, a rear spoiler and a sunroof. While it does its best to give the EcoSport a tougher look, the overall result makes it look smaller than it already is, in my opinion at least. Still, it's a good looking car and it's hard to believe it's been in the market for quite some time now. Curiously in Europe, the EcoSport is available without the rear-mounted spare tire. Replacing it is a tire mobility kit.
Inside, it does get new illuminated kickplates and sport pedals. Other than that, it's the familiar layout we've been seeing in EcoSports for a few years now. The Ford Fiesta-like center stack is awash with buttons; odd in an era of touchscreens. The layout shows just how fast the industry moves with touch screen practically being de rigueur in this segment, but there are still those who are averse to touchscreens, preferring physical buttons that give feedback and can be controlled with good ol' muscle memory. Soak in all the buttons in the center stack (I counted over 30) and you'll eventually get used to it. It does hit the right buttons with the availability of mobile apps such as Spotify as well as various connectivity options.
From behind the wheel, the EcoSport felt like a Fiesta, albeit with a higher point of view. Its seats are on the firm side but stay supportive on longer trips. Controls are within reach, never further than an arm's length from you. I am glad to report that the EcoSport has an adjustable steering column which helps in finding a comfortable (and proper) driving position. While space in front is good, it is a little lacking at the back, particularly for those over 5'7”. The sunroof — while a nice treat for those in front — slightly cuts in on headroom. With its small dimensions, I was expecting a tiny cargo area but, for its size, it was decent, taking in a couple of portable seats and three large bags. Perhaps the folks at Ford trimmed down some second row space to make the EcoSport a viable family car.
Another familiar sight in the EcoSport is from under the hood. Powered by a 1.5 liter Ti-VCT engine, it produces 110 PS and 142 Nm of torque. Yes, it is the same engine as the car it's based on, the Fiesta, but ever so slightly retuned to carry the EcoSport's extra weight. It is then paired to a dual clutch transmission Ford calls Powershift. It has six gears and can be manually controlled through a button on the side of the gear selector knob.
Having handled Fiestas in the past, the EcoSport felt familiar, like literally driving a Fiesta on stilts. It makes quick work of the tight streets and narrow alleyways of the metro. It is perhaps expected that its steering is light and may be surprising for those used to older cars. What it does do is make parking less of an effort but personally, I would prefer more feel. As for ride, it is on the firm side due to the fact that the car is short. It does take on potholes rather well, as long as you don't mind getting jarred slightly. I was rather impressed with the EcoSport's airconditioning system as it kept me cool on a 36 degree day and it wasn't even at the lowest setting.
If there is one demerit for the EcoSport, I would have to say it's the transmission. Dual Clutch Transmissions (DCT) are usually smooth but it wasn't the case for this particular EcoSport. It was abrupt, jolting me from time to time and was especially noticeable in traffic. It was odd given that I've been behind the wheel of the Fiesta and the old Focus TDCI which felt smooth.
DCTs generally do not like stop and go traffic and the key to driving one smoothly is to allow it move a few meters rather than inching forward while repeatedly stepping on the brakes. Try as I might, it reacted the same way. Then again, it still had less than 1,000 kilometers on the clock and during its time with me, I reckon that the transmission software was still learning my driving patterns.
Out on the highway however, the DCT was a lot smoother and seamless. It was a good highway companion and was relatively hushed during a cruise. As for fuel economy, I managed 7.9 kilometers per liter in the city (payday weekend traffic) and 14.8 on the highway.
Over the span of a week, I tried to find out why the EcoSport sells so well. It wasn't in the way it drove or the way it rode, but the pricing. For Php 998,000 in Black Edition trim, it offers a lot of value for the young, up-and-coming, always-mobile car buyer. With people looking for high-riding cars these days (useful against our frequent floods and road debris), the accessible price point of the EcoSport delivers a high-value package the caters to the needs of many.