Long-term test: Ford's reworked EcoSport is a fun ride
Long-term introduction: Ford EcoSport 1.0 Titanium auto
Pretoria - When the reworked EcoSport was launched last year in Portugal, Ford had a host of its executives on hand to answer any questions underpinning the importance of the SUV to the manufacturer in the world’s market.
Locally it’s no less important to the people in Waltloo, Pretoria, with more than 45 000 units having left the showroom floor since its launch in 2013. Look in and around the city as well as on the highways: somehow there’s always an EcoSport in close proximity. It’s a bit like when you look for new wheels and decide on which ones, and they keep popping into your line of sight.
Well, we’ve added to the proliferation of EcoSports on our roads with a long-term top-of-the-range 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium six-speed automatic.
I’ve spent some time with it and so has my colleague, Kabelo Chabalala, who will give the views of a younger generation.
First up, though, let’s get the stats and specs out of the way.
Ford has received a multitude of awards for its 1-litre EcoBoost petrol engine over the past six years so it makes sense to slot it under the bonnet, and in the Titanium model they have mated it with a six-speed automatic gearbox with a torque converter.
I found it smooth around heavy traffic on the M1 as well as in town, and gear changes on the open road are almost seamless.
If you want, there are steering column-mounted paddle shifts ostensibly for better driving engagement but, to be honest, I haven’t felt the urge to use them yet because the EcoSport is easy and comfortable enough as is.
The little three-cylinder turbo engine pushes out 92kW and 170Nm of torque: not shabby at all for its size.
In everyday driving you hardly notice that the engine is as small as it is, but at speed you need to give it a bit of stick to make a safe pass, and here the gearbox takes a bit of time to get to the lower gear.
It’s also then that you wish you had a few more cylinders and horsepower.
It’s easily recognisable, with its cheeky SUV stance and the spare wheel mounted on the back door, unique to South Africa. There’s been some debate as to whether it shouldn’t be hidden, but apparently that’s the way South Africans like their SUVs, and owning a Defender, so do I.
Inside all controls are easy to reach, while leather seats make spending time both as a driver and a passenger a pleasure. As an added feature the seats are heated. In summer there’s no chance to use this except to be juvenile and switch it on maximum until a passenger notices and asks questions.
There’s space aplenty for odds and ends, including a sliding, folding armrest with an integrated storage compartment, as well as space under the passenger seat. Ford has also put its SYNC 3 infotainment system in the EcoSport, and without sounding overly dramatic it must rate as one of the best in the industry for ease of use and practicality.
It has Bluetooth, voice control, satnav, and the eight-inch screen can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures. Handy too are the automatic headlight and rain-sensing wipers as we head into summer showers.
Safety peace-of-mind comes in the form of electronic stability control, traction control, roll stability control, hill launch assist and a tyre pressure monitor which will tell you that the tyres are losing pressure long before you may need the use of the six airbags, including dual front, side and curtain as well as a driver’s knee airbag.
I’ve mostly driven the EcoSport in and around town, with an occasional trip along the highway, so I haven’t had the opportunity to put it through its handling capabilities yet, but at the launch driving from Durban back to Joburg along mostly back roads I had loads of fun on a lot of dirt and tar roads around the twisties.
Keep in mind it’s an SUV with a smallish engine so don’t expect X5 cornering and suspension, but it’s more than capable and steering feedback is light without feeling compromised.
I’ll be taking it down to the KZN South Coast in December and with three of us travelling I suspect the 334 litre boot will be well-filled. The trip will also be an indicator of how the EcoSport behaves loaded on the open road.
All models come standard with a 4-year/120 000km warranty, 4-year/60 000km service plan, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty.