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Ford EcoSport Facelift: First Drive Review

  • Nov 20, 2017
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Ford launched the EcoSport in India in 2013, and with it, India got introduced to the now popular compact SUV bodystyle. The EcoSport was a runaway success for Ford until the country’s top-selling carmaker entered the segment with the Vitara Brezza, which is now the best-selling SUV in the country. Competition intensified this year with Tata launching the Nexon at a very competitive price. Understandably, it’s time that the EcoSport gets an update and fights back to reclaim the top spot in the compact segment. Will a new face, added features, and a new engine and transmission turn things back in the Ford’s favour? We find out.

Exterior

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The Ford EcoSport was always a good looking compact SUV and the update makes it more handsome. The cosmetic updates are confined to the front end with the EcoSport now getting a new front grille, which moves higher up the face now, and the Ford logo situated in the centre, like in the bigger SUV, the Ford Endeavour.

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The headlamps are redesigned and are larger than before. The round fog lamps have also been replaced by larger triangular units. The bottom splitter sees a mild redesign as well.

Interior

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The interior of the Ford EcoSport was in dire need of a makeover and thankfully, Ford has done just that. The EcoSport now gets an all-black interior theme and there’s a new 8-inch touchscreen display at the centre of the dashboard. The instrument cluster has also been revamped and it now gets a central display surrounded by gloss black inserts. The steering wheel is also new and it houses paddle shifters for changing gears with the automatic transmission.

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For comfort, seats at both the front and the rear now get softer cushioning. Boot space remains as is with all the seats up at 346-litres. Ford has, however, made some design changes in the boot that now houses a small compartment that can hold a laptop. The seats also fold flat now liberating 1178-litres of boot space.

Technology

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In order to keep up with the competition, Ford had to give the EcoSport new equipment and it starts with the large 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The touchscreen is bright and responsive, and gets the third generation version of Ford’s SYNC interface which is easy to operate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a part of the package now and you get 2 USB ports and a 12V socket at the front.

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The instrument cluster has also been redesigned. It could have been better in terms of styling though. Nevertheless, it does the work the way it’s supposed to and offers detailed info, which includes a display for the tyre pressure monitoring system.

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In terms of equipment, the EcoSport now understands when to switch on/off its wipers and headlamps. Not offering sunroof and rear air-con vents can be considered a missed opportunity. Ford has added keyless entry system in the EcoSport’s top variant. It senses the car’s keys in your pocket and unlocks the door as you grab the handle. While exiting, just tap the door handle and the EcoSport will lock itself.

Engine and Transmission

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The Ford EcoSport now comes with two engine options, not three. The 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine has been taken out and a new 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine replaces the existing 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder engine. The 1.5-litre diesel engine remains.

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The new petrol engine makes 123PS of maximum power and 150Nm of peak torque. The power output is almost in the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine territory, certainly higher than the 1.5-litre petrol engine that it replaces. This engine is more compact than the previous unit and Ford says that it’s more fuel efficient as well. While the odd number of cylinders might make it sound like a typical 3-cylinder unit at idle, the engine gets quieter as you get moving. It delivers healthy power in mid- and low-range and makes it nice to drive at city speeds.

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The 1.5-litre diesel engine delivers the same power and torque rating as before, 100PS and 205Nm, respectively. Ford has, however, retuned this engine to make it more fuel efficient than before. It now returns a claimed fuel efficiency of 23kmpl, 3kmpl more than before. The diesel engine, like before, has a very linear torque curve, which means there’s no surprising spike in power when you accelerate and the turbo kicks in.

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Other than the new petrol engine and the retuned diesel mill, Ford has introduced a new automatic transmission which replaces the dual clutch unit that was previously mated with the 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine. The new transmission is a torque converter and, therefore, not as modern as the dual clutch unit on paper. However, the new transmission’s characteristics are more suited to the EcoSport and to the conditions it will be subjected to in our country. At city speeds, the new transmission appears to shift cogs smoothly and quickly. The shifts also appear more predictable now, making you more confident of your footwork (on the accelerator pedal).

Ride and Handling

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With the facelift, Ford also got a chance to fiddle with the suspension. While it has not been thoroughly reworked, the EcoSport now gets different bushes which has changed the ride and handling characteristics of the SUV significantly. While the suspension still feels sporty, it goes over bumps and speed breakers in a much more composed manner than before. The changes have also made the cabin a lot more quieter than before. The only thing that affects the SUV are sharp bumps like level changes and rumble strips. Ford seems to have further insulated the cabin as very little road and engine noise makes its way into the cabin. It is barely noticeable at city speeds and makes the EcoSport more comfortable.

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Steering feel is excellent and befits the Ford badge. It complements the sporty suspension setup around corners too. Although it is fairly well controlled, there is still some body roll that comes from the tall boy stance and the short wheelbase. All of these combined together still keeps the sporty edge that we’ve come to love over the years. The Bridgestone Ecopia 205/50 R17, in our opinion, could do with a little more grip as we know that this chassis can handle more.

Verdict

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Although the changes seem small at first glance, they do make a significant difference to the way the EcoSport drives and feels. The new petrol engine, automatic transmission and the technology package has given the Ford EcoSport what it takes to compete with its newer and updated rivals. When it comes to pricing, the EcoSport is likely to be more competitively priced than before as the American manufacturer has increased the level of localisation from 60-65 per cent to nearly 85 per cent. Ford even says that the updated EcoSport will be cheaper to maintain. The company says that the EcoSport’s maintenance cost is likely to be 7 to 10 per cent lesser than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza! This should ensure that the EcoSport will find itself in favour with sub-4 metre SUV buyers, like it did when it was launched in 2013, again.
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