Earlier in the day, the EcoSport S was my companion as I was cruising down the scenic East Coast Road [ECR] that runs from Chennai to Mahabalipuram and beyond, when I noticed a rival compact SUV pull up in the rear view mirror behind us. Lights flashing, the young guns in the SUV wanted to have a closer look at the new EcoSport S but parallel driving isn’t my cup of tea. Right then, downshifting a couple of gears and flooring the pedal, the EcoBoost came into its sweet-spot and within seconds, we starting gaining ground from the over-enthusiast lads. And this inspite of them being in a rival SUV with a larger heart and we being four on board! Ladies and gentlemen, the days of ‘there is no replacement to displacement’ are long gone.
Ford launched the EcoSport sunroof twins about a month ago in the form of the Signature and S editions. The former is based on the Titanium trim while the latter, S, the one you see here, is based on the fully kitted Titianium+ trim. But there is more to the S as this one marks the re-entry of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. It is also available with the good old 1.5-litre oil burner in case you are a diesel fan. Further, this EcoBoost engine now comes paired to a 6-speed manual gear that means you get an extra cog to play around with.
So what is new in the EcoSport S and how does it feel to drive? Well, after spending a good part of the day with it, here’s my verdict.
Quite a stunner
No two ways about it; the EcoSport S looks stunning, both in pictures and in the flesh. The biggest factor of course are the new 17-inch smoked wheels that up the bling factor completely. I hope these are reasonably priced so that owners of lower-trim versions can upgrade their wheels to these ones. Do note that while both the Signature and S editions come with 17-inch wheels, the design is different. The wheels come shod with 205/50 tyres and yes, that’s quite a low side profile given the Indian road conditions but Ford is confident that until unless you intentionally drive through bad roads or pot-holes, the set-up will do just fine without any damage to the wheels or the tyres.
Next up in terms of aesthetics is the all-black treatment that eliminates chrome usage completely. We love the grille finish (in black) and the (yet again) black treatment gets carried over to the roof and roof rails as well. And this brings us to the much talked about sunroof. Believe it or not, this was among the top requirements from current owners as per Ford’s official survey. We Indians seem to be in love with this feature and the EcoSport Signature is the most affordable sunroof-equipped SUV in India. Last but not the least, the S version also gets smoked HID headlamps – the new HIDs are functional and will definitely be a boon for night drives.
And because the S is based on the Titanium+, we believe the S will be available in seven different color options. The one you see here is the canyon ridge option.
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Changes continue on the inside as well and this is mainly due to the orange inserts at places – above the glovebox, under the screen, around the gear level and air-con housing, door pads and on the seats. This orange theme remains the same no matter which exterior color you pick.
The sunroof does make the interiors airy if you pull back the manual cloth cover, and this makes the cabin look more spacious than it actually it. Another change is the larger size of the driver information display. The conventional speedometer console with its tiny display has often been criticised but this one looks much better and houses even more information.
All other aspects remain as good as ever though I am not a fan of hard plastic on the fascia. This shortcoming is made up easily by the practicality factor – there is no dearth of spaces to keep your stuff. Co-driver gets his [or her] own place to keep the phone above the glovebox, dedicated mobile space for the driver in front of the gear lever, two cup holders, a place to keep the key fob just in case, more space behind it, generous space under the arm-rest and even a place to keep your shades. That said, the arm-rest does not offer the slide option for to and fro.
Space remains good if not excellent and for micro families, the EcoSport does just fine. One thing Ford could look at is introducing rear air-con vents to keep rear passengers cool in this hot SUV.
Boost is the secret here
Forget cubic capacity and every other figure looks impressive. Inspite of being two-thirds the size of the larger 1.5-litre Dragon series petrol engine, the EcoBoost units put out 2 bhp more and 13% higher torque. It is also 11% more efficient with a rated economy of 18.1 kmpl as against 16.3 for the 1.5-litre petrol with the same wheel size. And then there is one more gear on offer.
Numbers aside, the EcoBoost does feel livelier. The reason for this is all that torque that is available from just over tick-over. There is just a minor bit of turbo-lag but that gets corrected sooner than expected and from there on, all the way till 6,600 rpm, this motor screams its lungs out in pleasure which also translates into quicker momentum. Given the road and the right driver, the EcoSport S sprints from naught to sixty in 5.4 seconds and hits the ton mark in 11.5 seconds. For the weight, these figures are impressive.
Given the 3-cylinder set-up, there are slight vibrations are idle, but just about. What might bother owners will be the transfer of mild shakes through the gear lever, specially in the lower gears. Talking of which, this new 6-speed gearbox has decently good shifts but not as good as what we now expect from Ford cars. Don’t get me wrong, we did not encounter any mis-shifts but the shifts could be slicker. Also, for engaging reverse, you need to lift up and then move the lever to right-bottom.
A 6-speed set-up has also allowed engineers to play with the ratios. We feel the lower gears have been made slightly shorter and this rewards you with a peppy city drive. The gearing is so nice, it hardly lets the engine rpm drop under 1,500 which means part throttle response is excellent. The higher gears are suitable for highway usage. For example, at an indicated 100km/h, the engine is spinning at just under 2,400 rpm. Also, we appreciate the low speedometer error in the EcoSport which is under 5%.
Talking of numbers, the 1st is good for 52 km/h, 2nd for 90 and 3rd takes you all the way till 138 km/h, all figures being speedometer indicated. We did find a completely secluded piece of road and getting to 150 is easy, after which it takes its own time to about 175 km/h. Of course, we DO NOT advocate you to try such speeds, no matter what car and road conditions.
The EcoBoost is also more efficient, which brings us to the fuel economy figures. For the roughly 80 km run to our shoot location and back, we got an indicated 13.1 kmpl but this includes pushing the car, letting it idle during photo-ops and so on. I reckon at 90-100 km/h with the air-con running, this will deliver an easy 18-19 kmpl. We did a 21 km run to extract the maximum figure and got an astonishing 27 kmpl. I kid you not – this was with the cruise control set at 70 km/h and the air-con set at 24 degrees.
Rides well and…
The EcoSport has always been known for its rewarding ride. It does not have the sharpest steering for a Rs 8-12 lakh car but for the size and segment, its pretty good. Highway manners remain excellent and the car is reassuring. Ride quality too, given the wheels is acceptable but the moment you hit broken tarmac, pot holes or cement slabs, the low profile set-up shows its flip side. And this was with four of us on board. Of course, this is a small compromise to make for the benefits, and consumers have the option to pick 16-inch wheels via the lower trim levels.
And while visibility is good and you sit higher, the thick A-pillar remains a sore point, obstructing your view a lot. That said, we love the NVH levels on offer and this along with the quieter petrol unit [vis a vis a diesel] makes the cabin a peaceful place to be. And if you are in the mood, the sound quality from the speakers will keep you smiling. Top marks here.
And no, there are no changes to the suspension set-up or the steering geometry. These remain identical to all the other versions in the EcoSport line-up. So do the brakes.
Should you buy one?
With the S and the Signature editions, Ford has expanded the EcoSport family and made it ‘complete’ – there is surely an EcoSport for all kind of buyers. Right from Rs 7.8 lakh to 11.8 lakh with seven different trim levels, three engines and two transmission options. My pick, given the budget, will be the S. Yes, it seems pricey on paper but which other compact SUV gives you all the bells and whistles, safety package and a gem of a motor? If you look at what’s on offer, the value part comes in automatically. And Ford claims low running costs of just 36 paise per km. Standard warranty however could be better at three years.
To sum it up, you can’t turn more heads than the S at this price. It is packed with features, is quite safe and drives so well. The ride can be ‘firm and hard’ over not so good roads but the engine more than makes up for that. At 11.3 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, you won’t go wrong with the S.
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