New Ford EcoSport First Drive

Test Location: Cascais, Portugal

The new Ford EcoSport looks very like the withdrawing model. That’s no surprise because it’s been given a facelift for 2018 rather than a full body transplant. Ford has done this to keep down with the supermini SUV kids’ market.The EcoSport is essentially a Fiesta on stilts and it now has a sharper edge. The car has got a more assertive grille now and all-new LED daytime running lights. Both bumpers have also been given a nip and tuck, and there’s a funkier array of paint colours for the new year. Oh, and if you want bigger alloys, there are cool designs on offer for 17 and 18-inch wheels, too. In basic Zetec guise, the EcoSport still revolves on 16-inch wheels, which look rather like shirt buttons set in large arches.

Under the metal, the EcoSport is essentially unchanged. It leads with a MacPherson strut front axle and has a torsion-beam rear fitted. The brand has, however, had the SUV specifically tweaked for European road surfaces. That means that the dampers, springs, ESP and steering have been fine-tuned to offer a more settled ride than before.

There are also a couple of key add-ons for 2018’s Ford EcoSport line-up: Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and a 1.5-litre Ecoblue diesel unit. The AWD can vary the way torque is divided between axles. Fifty % is sent to the back axle quicker than you can blink. Sorry to say, AWD models won’t hit the UK’s shores until mid-2018.

That new powerplant pushes out 125PS and is accompanied by the Blue Oval’s elderly 1.5-litre TDCi diesel. This only produces 100PS and is, therefore, a tad feeble for an oil-burner. It’s the petrol engine most people will care about. That’s why the much-lauded Ecoboost power unit is being offered up to two forms. There's a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with 125PS, or a new-to-the-line-up flagship 140PS unit, as tested here. You’ll get over 54mpg from both, although furnishing the less potent Ford with the elective six-speed automatic transmission (unobtainable on the more commanding engine) drops that considerably to just 48.7mpg.

The Ecoboosts are the best engines in my opinion, though my predilection would be for the more authoritative 125PS one. It takes 12.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph, which although on paper looks lame, feels fine in real life.

The six-speed automatic gearbox has pathetically tiny shift paddles on the wheel, so they’re not worth bothering with. Other than that, the auto box changes smoothly if left alone. And when it comes to the chassis, things have taken a turn for the better. The car will cruise smoothly along bitumen, with little in the way of twitchiness at high speeds. However, the new EcoSport still doesn’t handle minor or urban roads well, with every little lump and bump making itself known in the cockpit. So, unusually for a small SUV, the EcoSport appears to cope better with longer commutes than it does with short bursts of town driving. Nevertheless, Ford’s steering is bang on, and the brakes scrub off momentum excellently. These things alone make the 2018 EcoSport nice enough to drive. 
The EcoSport’s cabin has seen a major step-up for 2018, too. The switchgear is easier to use, and the car now houses a centrally-mounted infotainment screen. This allows you to access tunes, maps and messages from your smartphone, via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Alas, Ford hasn’t managed to banish all the hard plastics from the outgoing EcoSport. Some scratchy stuff remains, but the seats are more comfortable, and the steering wheel is wrapped in hide, as standard.
The latest EcoSport is now available in Ford’s popular ST-Line. The auto-maker claims this trim will take 35% of sales. It adds athletic bodywork, some extra luxuries in the cabin and adds sports suspension. Oh, and it costs £800 more than the middle of the pile Titanium EcoSport.

So, while the EcoSport still isn’t perfect, it’s loads better than before. The SUV is not as good as the Fiesta, but it’s a useful car to have if you’re desperate for a vehicle with extra height. Moreover, its cabin now equals any competitor - and there’s a notable selection of factory-fitted tech.

Pros ‘n’ Cons
  • Steering √
  • Kit √
  • Practicality √
  • Brakes √
  • Unsettled on minor roads X
Fast Facts (1.0-litre EcoSport 140PS - as tested)
  • Max speed: 116 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 11.8 secs
  • Combined mpg: 54.3
  • Engine layout: 999cc three-cylinder petrol turbo
  • Max. power (PS): 140
  • CO2: 119 g/km
  • Price: £17,495 as tested
Written by motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay.
For more CarCliq reviews click here
Looking for a used Ford EcoSport? Click here

Search our Stock