As the subcompact SUV and crossover segment is growing in popularity, Ford decided it was time to stop watching the parade go by and step in with its own vehicle. The EcoSport is new to the U.S. and Canadian markets, but it’s not a fresh design. Not a problem, as consumers don’t seem to mind—or notice.
On the other hand, the 2018 Ford EcoSport competes with some very well-engineered machinery such as the Hyundai Kona, the Honda HR-V, the Mazda CX-3, the Subaru Crosstrek and the Nissan Qashqai, just to name a few. Those five rivals are the best-selling subcompact SUVs in Canada this year, some of which sell more than twice as much as the Ford. So, it’s got its work cut out for it.
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For starters, buyers who don’t feel the need to get an all-wheel drivetrain will obtain an EcoSport with a turbocharged, 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that develops 123 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. It may sound underwhelming, but truthfully, there’s enough torque—which peaks from 1500 to 4500 rpm—for adequate performance, and the engine isn’t as rough as it would seem, despite having an uneven number of pistons firing away. During our test with a front-drive EcoSport, we averaged 8.2 L/100 km with quite a bit of highway driving. Not bad.
The optional all-wheel drivetrain is combined with a naturally aspirated, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that dishes out 167 horsepower and 149 pound-feet of torque. The extra muscle has to deal with about 280 pounds (127 kilograms) of additional weight, but the EcoSport is somewhat livelier with the bigger engine. The AWD variant consumes more fuel around town, although on the open road, the 2.0-litre engine is actually more efficient—8.0 L/100 km versus 8.1—than the turbo three-banger.
At wide-open throttle, the 2.0-litre engine is also a better choice, as the 1.0-litre mill can get fairly noisy. The suspension is on the stiff side, so the EcoSport’s ride is rough on badly maintained roads—or anywhere except on the highway. The steering feels as if there’s a split second delay before the front wheels turn, but we get used to it. In a nutshell, the Ford isn’t a thrill to drive, but it isn’t a chore either.
The stubby 2018 Ford EcoSport was designed with a high roofline and a jacked-up ride, and towers over the sporty, low-slung CX-3 and Kona. The advantage is easier ingress and egress, as passengers simply slide onto the seats instead of climbing into the cockpit. At the rear, there isn’t a vertically opening liftgate, but a door that opens sideways to the left. It’s not a big deal, but we must realize that if someone parks really close behind us at the mall, it might be tricky to stuff boxes in the cargo hold.
The latter’s capacity is average in its segment, so that’s ok, but the rear seatbacks don’t fold completely flat. The cockpit’s rather narrow, although there’s a good amount of headroom and the seating position is high up. Back-seat passengers benefit from above-average legroom. The optional SYNC 3 infotainment system is perched high up, and just like in other Ford products, it offers a simple interface with a reactive touchscreen. The rest of the controls are straightforward and easily accessible.
The EcoSport’s base price is set at $22,099 before freight and delivery charges, but adding all-wheel drive and the 2.0-litre engine means we’ll spend at least $24,599—more or less the same price as its rivals. Our front-drive SE is listed at just over $27K, which would put us within a few bucks a month of a bigger and more refined Ford Escape.
There’s nothing wrong with the 2018 Ford EcoSport. It’s just that it’s not the most rewarding to drive in its segment. It’s not the roomiest. It’s not the most fuel-efficient. And it feels like an aging design, because it is. It has many strong qualities, but in the world of subcompact SUVs, there are better choices are there. Covering all the bases is a good move, now Ford has to give the EcoSport some improvements to make it stand out on the market.