Look at the two protagonists – the Fiat Avventura and the Ford EcoSport – and they represent what’s easily the segment that works the best for a market like ours. To start with, you have an increased ground clearance for both, rugged exterior designs, and the ability to take the cliched detour when the well-paved roads are clogged. So that’s the crossover genre for you, but the two vehicles here have another trick up their sleeve – both are running on turbocharged petrol engines – further adding to that excitement. With similar price tags and more or less the same segment they’re in, we find out which of the two is a better product.
First, the Ford. Launched in 2013, the EcoSport has been a hot-selling crossover for the company. In the EcoSport, there’s a 1-litre EcoBoost unit that makes 124 hp and 170 Nm of torque. Prices start at Rs 8.53 lakh for the Trend+ trim, while the better-equipped Titanium+ version is available for Rs 9.89 lakh.
The Avventura is based on the Punto, competes with the hatchback based crossovers, and like other Fiats, is appreciated for its looks. The vehicle here is the Abarth version, which means it gets the same 140 hp engine from the Fiat Abarth Punto – a 1.4-litre ‘T-Jet’ turbocharged petrol engine that makes 210 Nm of torque. There’s just one trim available on the vehicle, and it retails for Rs 10.01 lakh, ex-showroom.
Now, let’s get down to the business. Which is better?
While the EcoSport isn’t exactly a terrible handler, the Avventura clearly represents how a crossover in the segment should drive. There’s some body roll in both but the Avventura is more confident and can carry more speed with ease. The steering wheel might be a little chunky (with those thumb recesses) but it’s weighted well enough. The EcoSport on the other hand feels a bit disconnected in comparison, and while its steering is devoid of the feel, it’s a boon in the city.
What’s really surprising is the way the Avventura handles. The pair of Abarth monikers might have given it a bigger (and way more powerful) engine but the ride height remains unchanged, and that enables the vehicle to glide over bad roads. And when back on tarmac, it shines with what’s easily the best suspension setup in the segment of multifaceted cars.
While both are turbocharged units, there’s a clear advantage of about 400 cc that the Avventura enjoys. That gives it the ability to gather speed like no other vehicle in the vicinity. Apart from that, the engine has some character, too. The 2.5k rpm is when it really comes alive and, mark my words, keep both of your hands on the steering at all times. Why? Because the power delivery on the front wheels is so ferocious that it makes them squirm and spin – something called as torque steer. It’s hugely addictive and the vehicle can almost wheelspin at request. Also when not subjecting itself to a lot of revs and the insanity that follows, the engine stays vibe-free, which is a good thing for everyday use.
The EcoBoost isn’t low on character either. And given its size, the performance is quite decent but it certainly stands on chance when compared to the T-Jet, in terms of driving thrills. But it’s a real gem of an engine – drive it sanely and it will deliver a decent fuel economy, too. And unlike the T-Jet, the turbo whine of the EcoBoost is more audible, especially when you have the windows rolled down. Needless to say, it sounds good!
No matter how good the Avventura is as a package, the gearbox is a bit of a let down. You can of course adapt to how it engages and then start appreciating the vehicle a little more, but if we were to compare it, it sadly doesn’t pass with flying colours. Unlike the engine which is quick with a capital ‘q’, the gearbox lacks the feel and doesn’t slot in that well, either. The EcoSport’s unit is again not the best, but in comparison to the Avventura, it proves to be much better, and of course, less rubbery.
Anything else that you should know?
In terms of looks, the Avventura looks way better than the EcoSport. Accessing the boot is a bit of a challenge – even after being accustomed to the misery over and over again – while the one on the EcoSport is hinged on the left, so that is also a pain.
Fiat’s infotainment system is no match for Ford’s SYNC unit, and although the latter isn’t a tech-laden unit, it does not disappoint.
Quality of plastics has improved inside the Fiat, and presence of the brown leather on the door pads is a nice touch indeed. The EcoSport’s quality is more consistent, though.
In true Fiat fashion, the doors have a proper thud, but the Ford isn’t too far behind here.
Which one should you buy?
Fiat’s service is improving but Ford’s pretty much stable there – so that’s one thing you will have to keep in mind. However, as far as products go, it’s the Avventura Powered by Abarth that offers more fun, drives better, and does not disappoint at five-tenths too.