2018 Ford EcoSport Facelift Compact SUV in CarToq’s first drive review

The EcoSport was starting becoming slightly out of date with the newer manufacturers bombarding the segment and taking the market share away from the segment-starter. Ford is back now with the new EcoSport which gets a long list of changes. Will it win the market again?  Let’s find out.

What has changed?

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The biggest change has come in the form of new Dragon-series petrol engine that is making global debut in India, and it will take priority in our review. The 1.5 liter, three-cylinder engine churns out a maximum power of 123 Bhp and peak torque of 150 Nm. When we visited Ford’s assembly plant where the Dragon engines are being made, we were quite sceptical about the smoothness of the three-cylinder engine. However, after driving the new EcoSport, the doubt goes away.

The Dragon engine is well balanced and will not let you know that it has been amputated of one cylinder. The engine is also very quiet when driven without pushing the pedal to the metal. However, the rev friendly engine screams above 3.5k rpm, and Ford says that they have done it intentionally to make it sound sporty. Ford has used their high-level engineering skills to quieten the engine, and it surely shows in the way engine operates. There is very less noise filtering into the cabin even while mashing the throttle.

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Ford has also taken care of the driveability with the new Dragon engine; The power and torque are very nicely distributed across the rev band. The petrol engine does not feel powerless in the lower revs and you do feel the strong low end of the vehicle.

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Ford offers a 5-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic with the petrol engine. The big change is the 6-speed automatic transmission. It is not dual clutch anymore and Ford has gone back to the good old torque converter. The gear changes in the automatic are not sluggish and it does not feel like a cost-cutting measure. However, while controlling the gears through the paddle shifters, the gearbox takes take some time react. During the overtakes, you will feel the delay but you do get used to it and after some driving, and then start timing the overtakes accordingly.

What about the diesel?

The diesel engine is the same old 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor that puts out a maximum of 100 PS – 205 Nm and the same 5 speed manual gearbox set-up as the current model. This is the combination that has been around for some time and it is tried and tested. The diesel engine has better lower end torque but compared to the petrol model, a lot of noise filters inside the cabin, especially at the high RPMs. The diesel engine also gets a lighter clutch set-up, which makes it much better to drive in city road conditions.

Enough about engines, has anything changed in the way it looks?

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Definitely! The new EcoSport comes with subtle changes, which are in sync with the global design of the vehicle. However, the car has received an Indian market specific change. We’ll tell you more about it later.

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The face of the EcoSport looks more aggressive now. It gets a large single grille, and larger, better-looking headlamps which have the integrated LED Daytime Running Lamps. The front fog lamps and indicators are nicely tucked away in a single housing placed on the redesigned bumper. The bonnet of the EcoSport gets a new power bulge.

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From the side, the EcoSport looks quite similar to the current model except for the new 17-inch alloy wheels which are available only with the top-spec Titanium+ variant. It is the first that a car in this segment gets 17-inchers and they really look good on the car. At the rear, the design remains same. In the international models, the spare wheel has been removed from the boot lid, which the Indian spec model continues to offer.

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The EcoSport has always been a good looking vehicle. With the new changes, the car looks up to date. Rivals like the Vitara Brezza and the Nexon will feel the heat when the EcoSport officially launches in India on the 9th of November.

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What’s new on the inside?

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A lot of new additions on the inside. The new EcoSport gets a long list of updates. A lot of customers felt the absence of the touchscreen infotainment system, which Ford later offered with a special variant.

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Ford is now offering the latest SYNC 3 touch-sensitive infotainment system with the EcoSport, and it looks really good. The screen itself is of high resolution, and the screen is placed at an upright angle at the level of eyes. It is a floating screen and does not catch reflections. We can easily say that this is the smoothest and the best-looking interface in the segment and easy to use too. There is no in-built SatNav system but who needs one when there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity?

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The SYNC3 infotainment is extremely easy to use and is set at the eye level. It gets bigger icons and smooth, very phone-like touch response. We truly enjoyed the new infotainment, but the speakers do not complement the infotainment system. They are not as rich and deep and you will find a better unit in the Harman powered Nexon’s infotainment system. That said, many customers love to upgrade their speakers according to the quality they want and it would not be a deal breaker.

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The instrument cluster is also all-new. It gets twin dials for speedometer and tachometer each and one monochrome square in the centre that acts as a multi-information display (MID). The MID shows various information like digital speedometer, fuel average and other regular stuff while one new addition is the TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System), again a first in class. There are two smaller dials below that show the fuel level and the engine temperature of the vehicle. The whole cluster is beautifully illuminated in blue backlight.

The MID can be operated by buttons placed on the new steering wheel, which is much easier to use than the stalk-mounted controls in the current generation vehicle. In the top-end variant, the steering wheel gets a soft leather cover that is extremely comfortable and premium to hold. It can be adjusted for rake and reach on the higher variants.

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The centre console gets AC controls similar to the Figo and control knobs for the touchscreen. The overall quality has gone up tremendously. Ford is always known for its quality and the new EcoSport shows all the signs of a quality product.

At the rear, the car still misses out on AC vents but the AC is powerful enough to throw cold air to the rear compartment. The centre air vents have been designed to throw air to the rear without disturbing the front passenger. There is a 12V socket placed smartly beside the rear bench. The socket is available only on one side and there is a small place to keep the phone too.

A lot of space inside?

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The EcoSport is not the roomiest car in the segment. It c0mes with a fairly large boot that can host up to three medium size luggage with all the seats in place. EcoSport has not been known for space in the rear, which is because of the larger boot size. To overcome the problem, the height of the rear seats have been raised. It makes more space for the legs and also brings you to the level of the windows, which adds an airy feeling of the cabin. The EcoSport continues to offer the rear reclining seats, but the mechanism of the reclining has changed. There are two buttons placed on the shoulder that can be used to recline the seat as per convenience. In the top-end variant, the front seat can be folded down to flat from the rear to make more space.

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All the four doors have bottle holders that can hold only small bottles and there are cubby holes in the middle that can hold two cups easily. There is central armrest in the front and a deep cubby hole below it. The glovebox also is spacious enough to keep small cans, and there is a partition to make more space.

Ford has also updated the front seats with slimmer and softer set-up, which are wrapped in soft black leather. There is a good amount of side bolsters to keep your body in place while taking high-speed turns. The driver seat gets height adjustment, but the lumber adjustment has been omitted with the update.

How good is it to drive?

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If it is a Ford, it has to drive good. The new EcoSport carries the same lineage of being a car lover’s delight with an addition of comfort. The suspension set-up is softer than before to give more comfort to the mass segment buyers. It does not affect the overall handling largely, but if you’re upgrading from the older EcoSport to this, you will miss the planted feeling on the turns. However, the passengers will enjoy the comfortable ride on the rough surfaces.

The electric power steering is precise and puts on weight during high speeds wonderfully. The steering is light enough to not exert pressure when you park the vehicle while on the highways it weighs up nicely to give you the confidence to take the curves without taking your foot off the accelerator. With the customer inputs, Ford has made the steering wheel slightly less-responsive. According to Ford, many customers complained that the steering is too sharp for their liking.

The EcoSport comes with a high ground clearance of 200mm, which enables it to take on the rough road patches without much pain. However, the car drives like a low-slung vehicle, thanks to the impressive suspension and steering set-up.

Ford EcoSport has always been a delight to drive, and the new one is no different. Yes, there are a few misses but if you do get used to it over time, and it remains the best handler in the segment without a doubt.

Should you buy it?

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EcoSport, the car that made the segment popular makes a comeback in a new avatar. With the new updates and better list of equipment, the EcoSport can now look in the competitor’s eyes with confidence. The EcoSport stays the best vehicle to handle in the segment, and the new infotainment system truly takes the centre stage. The petrol engine is a true update over the predecessor and the with the tried and tested diesel engine is on offer too.

If you love to be in the control of the steering wheel and want a fair share of technology in your vehicle, look no further. EcoSport ticks on all the right boxes and we believe that it fills most of the requirements of the market. Yes, there are many new offerings in the segment now, but with the new updates, Ford can easily regain the market share. The prices will be announced soon, and we hope that Ford will not make big changes to their current price list.