The EcoSport has been on sale in India for over six years and continues to be Ford’s best seller in the domestic car market. And why not? It is the only sub 4m compact SUV that ticks a lot of boxes to justify the ‘SUV’ tag. Be it the boot-mounted spare wheel or high-speed dynamics and even the ample amount of ground clearance, the EcoSport has carved its own niche in the Rs 7-11 lac bracket.
Ford has not stepped away from experimenting with the EcoSport line up in India. This includes updates and special editions like the Signature and S variants. The latest edition to join the line-up is the Thunder and being the explorers that we are, we decided to review this new EcoSport in a different way. The plan was to fly all the way to Guwahati, pick up the car and head up North towards the Indo-Chinese border, all this before the monsoons unleaded their fury and soaked in the entire area.
I love white cars. Infact, my own personal vehicle back home wears the same colour and the Thunder edition we got too had the same shade. But, being an ‘edition’, Ford made sure the theme was broken well in places by the usage of black. ‘White n Black’ does gel well for most cars and this is no different. This includes the black masking on the hood that not only looks uber cool, but also prevents direct sun (rays) from reflecting into the windscreen and hence hampering your vision.
Up front, the grille, fog lamp housing and even the lower part of the bumper are finished in black and the same theme continues on the side panels and even the alloy wheels. The outside rearview mirrors too get the same treatment. If you are tall enough, you will also notice the black roof that also houses a sunroof.
Before I move further, lets talk a bit about the wheels here. The Thunder edition now is the only variant to come with 17-inch wheels as compared to 16 or 15 for the other trims. The wheels themselves look cool and inspite of lower-profile tyres, our adventurous drive didn’t throw up surprises for the sidewall. At the back, you have Thunder branding and a black spare wheel cover to finish the package.
The Thunder edition is about Rs 90,000 more expensive than the Titanium version which means you ought to get a lot of kit for this money. Apart from the exterior changes, the cabin too sees updates. For example the black and cognac theme for the seat upholstery and door pads which lends an air of freshness. The seats themselves offer ample comfort and our four day, non-stop trip was a testimony to this fact. The seats get a contrast stitch too.
As I said earlier, you get a sunroof in here and other additions include front door scuff plates, rear arm-rest with cup holders and 60:40 split for the 2nd row. Interior fit and finish remains very high though we would have liked a few more features. For example, cruise control is missing and the infotainment system doesn’t support Android Auto. Rear vents are missing but the (extra) strong air-con means passengers at the back have to wait just a few minutes before the entire cabin becomes cool. It is that good.
But all these small shortcomings take a back seat when you get behind the wheel. The Ford EcoSport Thunder edition is offered with both petrol and diesel engine options and we had the latter on the drive. This 1.5-litre unit is good for 100 PS of power and 205 Nm of torque. But the figures don’t tell even half the story. The USP of the motor is the way it behaves in real life. First, NVH or noise, vibration and harshness levels are segment-leading and second, power delivery is very linear.
We had a relatively new car to our disposal and yet the gear shift quality was better than most rivals though I must admit, the clutch could have been lighter. On the drive, we had a mix of perfect smooth mountain roads, inviting curves, broken roads and washed away stretches with streams and rocks. My initial apprehension about the low profile tyres getting damaged however vanished away within the first two days of the drive.
This also gets me to the ride quality. On smooth tarmac and twisties, there is no getting away from the fact that the 17-inch wheels aid handling and confidence. The steering feels a tad better in terms of inputs and overall stability of the EcoSport is confidence aspiring. Even normal undulations are taken care off though I agree, the off-road stretch to Bum La pass or even while exploring the beauty of the Sela Lake did result in a harsh ride. It is a small payoff for an otherwise good combination of looks (the style) and handling.
Our route to Bum La pass went through the Sela Pass as well and the numerous uphill stretches, especially the route ahead of Tawang put to test the diesel motor. Turbo lag is minimal and the ample torque from the low end of the rpm zone meant fewer gear changes. This also helped me keep fuel economy in check and we got an average of over 16 kmpl for the entire journey which is commendable given the lack of four-lane highways.
Priced at Rs 10.18 lakh for the petrol version and Rs 10.68 diesel variant (ex-showroom prices), the Ford EcoSport Thunder edition seems to carry the right value tag. It is feature loaded, looks the best among the current lot of sub 4m compact SUVs in terms of muscle and appeal and Ford’s low running costs further tilt the deal in its favour. I agree a few features are missing and the 2nd row is tight on space but for young guns who seek safety and solid build quality, this one is hard to ignore. Before I end, yes, the Thunder edition gets a full safety net of EBA (Emergency brake assist), ESC (Electronic stability control), TCS (Traction control system) and HLA (Hill launch assist).