The Ford Ecosport is a segment leader, but watch out for the Maruti Vitara Brezza

If you remember the Ford EcoSport made its first appearance at the 2012 Auto Expo. It was a concept back then, but one which caught everyone’s attention. What followed for about a year and a half was anticipation and wait for a product which would go on to become a segment leader. Now after battling it out with major rivals, the EcoSport has another competitor coming up, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. We look at how (and why) the EcoSport can continue to be the segment leader, and also how the new kid on the block can challenge the vehicle.

First, what makes the EcoSport a strong proposition even two and a half years after it originally went on sale:

Distinct Styling

Ford EcoSport launched

Irrespective of the fact that the EcoSport made to our list of stylish yet cost-effective cars, the vehicle boasts distinct looks. The fact that it is still relevant even after more than two years since its launch, without any major facelift, is also a big thing in itself. And while the wide, gaping grille might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the interior surely is. The dashboard layout is unique, and the cabin still feels a special place to be.

Wide range of engine + gearbox options

The EcoSport is available in three engine and two gearbox choices. While there’s no AWD to speak of, the front-wheel drive configuration isn’t bad, either. It takes some time getting used to, but the dynamics aren’t bad, especially for a vehicle that boasts 200 mm of ground clearance, more on which later.

The base 1.5-liter petrol is good for intra-city driving and comes with an optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox, too. The diesel (of the same capacity) has been uprated and now makes 99 PS. It works well both in the city and on the highway.

EcoBoost – the enthusiasts’ choice

Ford EcoSport interior

But what sets the EcoSport apart from its usual rivals is the presence of the 1-liter turbocharged petrol engine. The ‘EcoBoost’ engine makes 124 hp and 170 Nm of torque, and when you’re not singing along the hugely addictive turbo-whine, it can deliver a decent fuel economy, too.

Obviously the Fiat Avventura Powered by Abarth can easily outclass the EcoBoost powered EcoSport, but keep in mind that the former is about a lakh and a half more expensive, and is more of a crossover hatchback than a crossover SUV.

Safety

While the base versions of the EcoSport lose out on ABS and airbags, the mid variant gets ABS while the top trims get dual airbags. But what stands out here, like on the Figo and the Figo Aspire, is the fact that you can get the EcoSport with a total of six airbags. No one in the segment offers that!

Not just that, the vehicle also boasts a decent four-star Euro NCAP rating, with superb occupant protection, in the side and curtain airbag-equipped version.

Segment leading off-road spec

Ford EcoSport

The lack of an AWD system will eventually be a deterrent in any sort of serious off-road action, but the lack of tarmac isn’t the EcoSport’s biggest concern. The ground clearance of 200 mm, along with the water-wading ability of up to 550 mm – that’s the same figure the Force Motors claims for the Gurkha. Keeping in mind that the Gurkha is a serious off-roader (even in stock spec), that’s still quite an achievement for this pseudo SUV, isn’t it!

And here’s how the upcoming Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza can challenge the Ford EcoSport:

Styling

Maruti Vitara Brezza

First and foremost, it’s the styling of the Brezza – conservative but more universally acceptable, we feel – which will appeal to the buyers. It lacks the distinct touches, but since it’s less polarising, expect a slightly larger fanbase. For instance those looking for a more grown up styling will easily be attracted by the Brezza, in the regular, non-dual colour roof version, obviously.

Pricing

With a starting price of Rs 5.6 lakh, ex-showroom, in 2013, the EcoSport was no short of sensational. The prices have since been revised more than once, and while it’s nowhere close to that figure, MSIL can surely repeat the same. But we all know Maruti knows how to price its products well – look at the Baleno for example – so it’s almost a given that the Brezza will be priced aggressively. Remember, 98 % localization is one factor. The other is the price reduction of the S-Cross, which means that the Vitara Brezza is almost certain to start from under 7 lakh rupees.

Fuel economy

Another aspect where the Vitara Brezza stands a strong chance is fuel efficiency. While average fuel consumption is largely dependent on how one drives the vehicle, the advertised figures are very much responsible in bringing the customers to dealerships. The compact SUV will be introduced with a 89 hp diesel (see there’s a power deficit but it could be lighter than the EcoSport) and given the Fiat-sourced engine is good in performance and fuel economy, expecting a conservative 25 kmpl claim on the Brezza won’t be wrong.

Brand value

The EcoSport is a well-known brand in itself, but MSIL still can’t be touched in terms of presence (dealer touch points). The same goes for the after-sales service, even though Ford has been constantly upping its game there.