Introduced back in 2012 in its second and current iteration and then revised in 2018, the Ford EcoSport is still going strong in several markets, with production continuing in India. Based on the same B-car platform underpinning the sweet Ford Fiesta hatchback, the EcoSport gained a new compact three-cylinder ‘Dragon’ engine in 2018, and in testament to Ford’s rarely matched talent at making fun small cars, the EcoSport remains one of the most practical, maneuverable and rewarding to drive compact crossover SUVs on the market nearly a decade later.
Measuring just 4-meters long without its externally-mounted spare tyre the EcosPort rides on a short wheelbase with short overhangs and excellent in-segment agility. Meanwhile, its well-packaged and tall body provides good space and visibility, and generous ground clearance. Styled somewhat like a longitudinally compressed SUV or vertically elongated hatchback, the EcoSport’s dimensions may not instinctively imply sporty driving, but that is exactly what the EcoSport improbably delivers in a segment where ‘sportiness’ is often superficial and little more than what can be charitably described as design-led window dressing or marketing cliché.
Face-lifted for the better in 2018, the EcoSport ditched a somewhat ungainly stacked grille for the much cleaner, more charismatic current fascia, and its almost playfully aggressive interpretation of larger Fords’ contemporary design language. With big and broad twin-slat and slotted grill flanked by squinting and browed lights, the EcoSport’s feisty flavour is complemented with an eager stance implied by its rising waistline, jutting tailgate spoiler and high-set rear lights. Prominent wheel-arches and lower black cladding meanwhile play up its SUV-inspired aesthetic, and good off-road angles deliver genuine dirt road ability.
A more powerful and economical replacement for the EcoSport’s outgoing 4-cylinder engine of the same displacement, the revised version’s new naturally-aspirated direct injection 1.5-litre 3-Cylinder ‘Dragon’ engine develops 121BHP at 6,500rpm and 110lb/ft torque at 4,500rpm. Lighter and more efficient with aluminium block and head, and twin variable camshaft timing, the ‘Dragon’ is smooth and refined as three-pot engines go, with its integrated exhaust manifold, and returns estimated 6.8l/100km combined cycle fuel efficiency. That said, when driven at full tilt, it still has a familiarly visceral, if subdued, off-beat three-cylinder engine note.
Progressive in delivery and happily revving to redline, the EcoSport’s engine is responsive at low-end and flexible in mid-range for a compact non-turbo unit, and is estimated to propel its 1,212kg mass through 0-100km/h in 13-seconds and onto around 175km/h. Driving the front wheels, the EcoSport’s engine would ideally be mated to a manual gearbox, as available in its domestic Indian market. However, the regionally-available 6-speed automatic is smooth, slick and intuitive shifting, with well-judged ratios, but only offers two selectable driving options, and not manually individual and sequential gear selection.
More responsive and quicker driving in real world conditions than its modest headline stats might suggest, it is however not the EcoSport’s outright performance figures which make it particularly sporty. What makes it a sporting standout standout in its segment is however its fluent agility, rewardingly connected handling and ‘just right’ dynamic package. Driven extensively under different conditions, the EcoSport seems to come into its own on narrow, snaking switchbacks and sprawling country lanes, where it conjures much of the nimble, flickability and light-footed maneuverability that make its smaller Fiesta relation so great.
Tidily eager into corners with quick steering, lightweight engine and short wheelbase, the EcoSport turns on a proverbial dime yet well controls body lean for a tall comfortable riding crossover. Easy to precisely place on road with its compact dimensions, good front visibility and nuanced and intimate steering feel and feedback, the EcoSport makes swift point-to-point progress with little need to dial back momentum through twist and turns. Fun and fast cross country, the EcoSport’s suspension is meanwhile supple yet settled, and its brakes intuitive in pedal travel and response.
Nimble and adjustably agile through corners, the EcoSport nevertheless delivers good grip levels, with only very rare mild understeer in specific conditions. More so, the EcoSport feels ever reassuring driven briskly, and communicates the limits of its dynamic envelope with a clarity that inspires more confidence than many more technologically sophisticated and expensive cars. Comfortably absorbing lumps and bumps in its primary reaction, the EcoSport may initially jounce up slightly on sharp crests, but is otherwise superb in its segment for its buttoned down vertical and rebound control and fluent management of imperfect road textures.
Well packaged inside in terms of space efficiency, the EcoSport offers genuinely good rear headroom and adequate rear legroom. With its spare tyre located externally on its side-swinging tailgate, the EcoSport has a spacious vertically-oriented cargo area with additional underfloor storage, and allows useful access in low roof garages. The downside of the external spare tyre is that one needs to be careful it doesn’t bump into walls or other cars when opening the tailgate in narrow parking spaces. Easy to maneuver in such confines, the EcoSport meanwhile features rear parking sensors and camera.
Pleasantly airy, uncomplicated and unpretentious inside, the EcoSport’s cabin features clear, user-friendly controls, dials and infotainment system, and incorporates good quality fabrics and materials, including more soft surface textures than expected for its segment. Its driving position is alert, upright and commanding, with grippy contoured tilt-adjustable steering wheel, generous headroom and comfortable, supportive and well adjustable seats. Rear passengers get a split-folding bench and armrest, but no independent air vents. That said, the EcoSport Trend specification is nevertheless well-equipped with safety and mod cons, if not over-equipped with expensive and often unnecessary features.
Specifications: Ford EcoSport 1.5L
- Engine: 1.5-litre, transverse 3-cylinders
- Valve-train: 12-valve, DOHC, direct injection
- Compression ratio: 11:1
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
- Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 121 (122)  @6,500rpm
- Specific power: 80.9BHP/litre
- Power-to-weight: 99.8BHP/tonne
- Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 110 (149) @4,500rpm
- Specific torque: 99.6Nm/litre
- Torque-to-weight: 123Nm/tonne
- 0-100km/h: 13-seconds (estimate)
- Top speed: 175km/h (estimate)
- Fuel consumption, combined: 6.8-litres/100km (estimate)
- Fuel capacity: 52-litres
- Length,: 3,998mm (without spare tyre)
- Width: 1,765mm
- Height: 1,647mm
- Wheelbase: 2,519mm
- Track, F/R: 1,518/1,516mm
- Headroom, F/R: 1,005/952mm
- Legroom, F/R: 1,089/932mm
- Shoulder room, F/R: 1,353/1,303mm
- Hip room, F/R: 1,310/1,292mm
- Luggage volume, behind 2nd/1st row: 591-/1,415-litres
- Kerb weight: 1,212kg (estimate)
- Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / torsion beam
- Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
- Turning circle: 10.6-meters
- Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs / drums
- Tyres: 205/60R16
Rivals and alternatives
Ford Fiesta Active
A slightly raised version of the well-received seventh generation Ford Fiesta, the Active version is no crossover, but plays to SUV-like styling flavours. More importantly, its increased ride height works to its favour in dispatching the lumps, bumps and various road imperfections, but with near identical agility and handling prowess that the standard Fiesta is famed for.
Specifications: Engine: 1-litre, turbocharged transverse 3-cylinders; Gearbox: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 100 (99)  @4,500-6,500rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 125 (170) @1,500-4,000rpm; 0-100km/h: 11-seconds; Top speed: 191km/h; Length: 4,068mm; Width: 1,756mm; Height: 1,498mm; Wheelbase: 2,493mm; Weight: 1,164kg
Gracing Ford’s tiny Ka-based coupe back in the 1990s, the Puma nameplate has since 2019 been re-tooled for a small European market crossover. Built on the same platform as the Fiesta, the Puma is slightly larger and sportier in its styling than the EcoSport, and is offered exclusively with 3-cylinder engines, including a powerful 197BHP performance ST version.
Specifications: Engine: 1-litre, turbocharged transverse 3-cylinders; Gearbox: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 123 (125)  @6,000rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 125 (170) @1,400rpm; 0-100km/h: 10.2-seconds; Top speed: 191km/h; Length: 4,207mm; Width: 1,805mm; Height: 1,537mm; Wheelbase: 2,588mm; Weight: 1,326kg