Johannesburg - The Ford EcoSport is a common sight on South Africa’s roads, with 74 891 units having been sold since launch in 2013.
However, while it once enjoyed a market share of around 40% back in the days when there wasn’t much competition around, today it faces a slew of rivals from Volkswagen’s T-Cross at the upper end of the compact SUV segment to Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza and its Toyota twin at the lower end of the price spectrum. The EcoSport is still selling rather well, however, with the company managing to move between 600 and 800 units a month this year.
Competing against its more affordable rivals could get tricky in future however, with production winding down in the Indian plant that supplies South Africa’s Ambiente models, although Ford SA says it still has sufficient stock of this base model.
However, it appears that going forward the emphasis will be on the Trend and Titanium variants that are sourced from Romania. Also hailing from there is the new Ford EcoSport Active model, which was launched in South Africa this week.
Sold only in automatic guise, the EcoSport Active is priced at R393 700, which positions it neatly between the Trend auto (R375 300) and Titanium auto (R416 900).
The Active is set apart by a distinctive exterior package that includes large black wheel arch mouldings, to complement the unique 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels, as well as black treatment for the roof, front grille, side skirts and mirror caps and “Active” badging on the fenders. Ford has also installed dark-tinted privacy glass for the rear windows.
Customers can choose from four exterior colours, of which Luxe Yellow (which is more of a bright gold hue in reality) is the one you want if you want to stand out. Frozen White, Solar Silver and Magnetic Dark Grey are also on the menu if you don’t.
Inside you’ll find black leather seat upholstery, with “A” badging to denote its special edition status.
Standard interior features include a Sync 2.5 eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers and built-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also part of the deal is a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, rear parking sensors, manual air conditioning, seven airbags, Collision Mitigation System, ABS and ESC stability control.
We got to spend some quality time with the new Ford EcoSport Active during its media launch in Gauteng earlier this week.
We were impressed with the way this package enhances the visual appearance of this product, which has already been around for four years in facelifted form.
The cabin also looks the part and the overall level of perceived quality is hard to fault, while the Sync infotainment system is easy to operate. However, sitting behind myself I was disappointed with the relatively cramped rear legroom. Boot space is however on par with expectation, with 333 litres available through a side-hinged tailgate.
Power comes from the familiar 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, which pushes 92kW and 170Nm through the front wheels via a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.
On the road, the EcoSport cruises effortlessly enough in everyday city and highway traffic, however overtaking manoeuvres require the little engine to work rather hard and in such instances it can seem rather gruff and noisy.
We were quite impressed with the ride quality, however, and how composed it feels on twisty sections of asphalt despite the vehicle’s high centre of gravity. The Ford Fiesta chassis beneath it really does wonders for its on-road manners and the steering has a direct and communicative feel to it.
Overall, the Ford EcoSport has aged well considering the pre-facelift model was launched nine years ago, but with so much competition out there it’s no longer the obvious choice. Ford would do well to replace it with something fresher at some point in the not-too-distant future.