Ford reveals cheeky little softroader

Ford is planning an all-out invasion on developing markets with this all-new compact 'softroader' that's just been unveiled at the Auto Expo in India and that invasion includes South Africa too, although no timeline has been given as yet.

The Ford EcoSport was designed to look like an SUV and even boasts the higher ground clearance typical of a softroader, but there is no 4x4 option. Instead the little crossover rides on the Ford Fiesta's front-wheel drive platform.

All-new Ford EcoSport looks like a baby SUV and is built on the Fiesta platform.

It also marks the introduction of an advanced new engine, namely Ford's new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost turbopetrol.

While that's a really small engine for a vehicle of this size, turbocharging and direct injection ensure it punches well above its weight, with outputs of 89kW and 170Nm from 1300 to 4500rpm - putting it in the same league as a modern 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine.

The big deal with this downsizing technology is improved economy and reduced emissions - the EcoSport emitting just 140g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle - that's less than today's 1.4-litre Fiesta.

Said to deliver great low-speed responsiveness and all-round smoothness, the little engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

Described as modern and innovative, the EcoSport was designed to combine class-leading design, technology, quality and safety into a package that's small enough for city driving yet substantial enough for country jaunts.

The vehicle was designed in South America but with input from Asia, Europe and North America to make it a truly global product.

Despite not being a pukka off-roader, it does boast an SUV-like design, commanding driving position, high ground clearance and integrated lower body cladding, meaning it should be up for a bit of mild off-roading.

EcoSport's development was shaped by market research in all of the regions where it will be sold. This helped create a unique vehicle, focused on the needs and desires of consumers. It will eventually be sold in nearly 100 markets worldwide.