First Drive – 2018 Ford EcoSport Imaginative Compact SUV

by Tony West and Daryl Payne

First introduced in Europe in 2014, the EcoSport compact SUV is now on the streets in the US with a high performance ST companion.

 

Ford has a new hit in their arsenal of SUVs. In a time of instability, Ford has managed to increase sales domestically and in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Recently Ford announced they were stopping all sedan production soon and they’ve continued to react to government regulation changes and tariffs by trimming production of some of their trucks overseas.

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport

We reviewed the Ford EcoSport SES AWD this fall in Chicago and were surprised by how much of a punch this CUV packs. The whip is eye-catching on the outside with a wide-body stout profile. Plus the cabin is fresh with innovative driver assistance and safety tech.

 

Design – Youthful, Mature Professional and Stylish

The EcoSport is versatile in what it does and who it attracts. Stoutness helps the whip look more sporty and masculine. Clean lines inside and out with smooth surfaces emphasizes high comfort making it more attractive to women. Twelve colors are available for the exterior paint job including an optional contrasting painted roof that extends to the pillars, upper door frames, rear roof spoiler and side mirrors. Optional finishes include Magnetic Low Gloss, Shadow Silver, Flash Grey and High Gloss Black. Seventeen and 18 inch wheels are available.

New for 2019 is the Ford’s high performance ST model trim that adds blacked-out features and more horsepower. Along with the EcoSport ST, Ford is dropping the Kuga ST, Mondeo ST and SMax ST models overseas. First EcoSport ST adds black finish, black roof rails, black headlight bezels, 17 inch Dark Tarnish alloy wheels, extended painted roof and mirrors.

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport

The bold front fascia of the new EcoSport has a big trapezoidal grille and wraparound headlights and daytime running lights. For a smaller SUV, the EcoSport has a commanding stance with big alloy wheels pushed to the corners. The EcoSport SES grille features

Ford Ecosport tailgate
Ford Ecosport tailgate

active shutters.

Daryl likes the tailgate that opens sideways. It allows for loading and stacking taller items and more cargo in general. Moonroof, power mirrors and tow hooks are all standard with the SES model.

 
 

Style Forward Tech-Enhanced Cabin

The driver-focused cabin of the new EcoSport features fresh style and well-thought-out comfort and convenience tech.

Many CUV competitors keep it simplistic CUV cabins. But Ford gives the EcoSport leather/cloth combo seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather wrapped shifter, plus an 8 inch touchscreen – all standard. Ambient lighting can be customized with seven colors.

Ford EcoSport interior
Ford EcoSport interior

The EcoSport is designed with optimal comfort and rugged style in mind. The CUV delivers a new level of refinement with user-friendly controls, new soft touch materials and a revised center stack with less buttons. Drivers sit up high in 6-way heated seats with expanded visibility from a raked windshield. The rear cargo and front seats are spacious, but the 2nd row legroom is limited. With front passengers pushing their seat way back to get comfy, rear passenger would have very little legroom.

Ford EcoSport interior
Ford EcoSport interior

Daryl also liked how the large steering wheel with controls for audio, cruise control, voice command, the multi info display and the big shifter that made him feel like he was driving a big truck.

The cabin also features a host of storage options including a new height adjustable boot floor that allows for up to 334 liters. The center console storage can fit a tablet. And the rear seats are 60/40 flip-up split-folding.

The futuristic looking driver’s dash features a 4.2 inch instrument cluster that shows useful stats like average mpg’s, range, mileage, outside temperature and trip all on the default screen. Then drivers can scroll to see audio, driver’s info, a compass Bluetooth and driver assistance settings.

The simplistic center stack has two large vents, a center area for climate controls and the top area designated for audio and vehicle settings via touchscreen. The seamlessness adds to a more rugged feeling in the CUV. And the 8 inch touchscreen houses a bunch of controls and customizations for infotainment safety and convenience tech.

Ford EcoSport interior
Ford EcoSport interior

The colorful navigation displays icons for landmarks, and terrain illustrations plus predicative traffic. Ford’s sophisticated SYNC 3 system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Some EcoSport models have a 6.5 inch color touchscreen.

The EcoSport SES we reviewed features Wi-Fi capability along with two standard USB ports and available 10-speaker B&O Play sound system. Valet Mode locks the screen with a 4-digit code. The sporty EcoSport ST interior offers a flat-bottom steering wheel, partial leather seats with Miko Dinamica suede inserts, and leather shifter along with stainless steel scuff plates and sport pedals.

 
 

Confident Performance with Less Resilience

The Ford EcoSport talks a good game as a supposed rugged CUV. And its specs prove that it has versatility in its DNA with an efficient 4-cylinder 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine and sport tuned suspension. And the whip proves to be fun and exciting at high speeds able to switch lanes and corner with a descent level of precision.

But the EcoSport falls short where it strives to be the most unique – actual ruggedness. The CUV talks a good game about how it’s a go-anywhere small SUV, and for the most part it is. In favorable road conditions the CUV can embark on adventure in nearly any weather.

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport

Intelligent all-wheel drive adjusts torque front and rear in fewer than 20 milliseconds – awesome. But supposed refined dampers, springs and rear axle beam are robust enough as I could feel every bump, not severely, but not sufficient enough to feel like AWD or the sport tuned suspension. Power steering should be smoother in this upscale CUV.

Auto Start Stop technology saves an okay amount of fuel, but it still costs nearly $45 to fill up the SUV in Chicago. Start Stop tech causes the EcoSport SES to power down with a rumble and locks the steering wheel after being idle for a only second. In situations where drivers may need to pause and plot a maneuver Start Stop tech render’s them powerless. Start Stop tech makes taking off in the EcoSport jerky and huffy as well.

Sport mode opens up the throttle a lot and shuts off Start Stop tech. So I was able to hit the gas and leave foes in my dust. Four-wheel disc brakes stop on point.

Standard safety tech is competitive in the EcoSport with a standard Blind Spot Information System, reverse camera and for the first time cruise control with an adjustable speed limiter. Roll Stability will adjust torque braking to help drivers maintain control.

Improved occupant protection now includes driver and passenger front airbags, driver knee airbag and new side airbags that provide extra protection and are designed to direct the occupant away from impact. Perimeter alarm is also new standard.

As the compact SUV market saturates, more CUVs will claim to be the new hot thing ready to take over. The EcoSport authentically tries to break new ground as a under $25k SUV that can go off the beaten path for real adventure.

 

Check out more photos of the Ford EcoSport SES AWD on our Facebook Page!