First drive: Ford EcoSport S
Winner of many awards, the Ecoboost, is back under the hood and it brings styling updates too
It’s been five years since Ford kicked off a bit of hustle for the compact urban SUV pie. The EcoSport swept through the dealerships like a tide and possibly accelerated the pace of development for every other compact SUV that was to see the light of day. Half a decade later, the market place is crawling with options and this time around, Ford is being forced to show its hand. A facelift, new variants and now the return of the 1-litre, turbocharged ecoboost engine have all been introduced within the last year. So, will the S cut it for Ford this time around?
Let’s begin with what has changed. Most notably, it is the 17-inch alloy wheel which stands out pretty clearly with its smoked-out finish. This replaces the regular 16-inchers for the S, as compared to the rest of the versions available. If you are familiar with the car, you will notice the blacked out theme on the grille, headlamp, roof rails and the roof itself. Moreover, Ford has decided it is time for the EcoSport to get a sunroof, although, they have also decided to call it a, err, ‘fun-roof’. They haven’t stopped with the exterior bits though, the interiors too get distinguishing elements like the orange inserts on the dash, orange stripes on the seat covers. Even the dials in the instrument cluster get chrome rings in the S.
The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, updated with Sync 3 functionality remains the centre of attraction with two USB ports to connect to. First device to be plugged in gets precedence, so, in case you want your tunes on the drive, you know what you’ve got to do. While it works seamlessly, I would’ve preferred better orientation toward the driver for added convenience. Speaking of which, apart from the settings menu to change parameters on the screen, you also get a dedicated button to switch it off for night time use, which is useful. There are a plenty of utility/ storage spaces around the car as well along with a reasonable sized glove box. While most of the plastics that you touch are pretty well finished, there are a couple of edges that feel rough, like the little recess that sits on top of the glovebox.
On the move, the 1-litre, EcoBoost motor continues to impress with its refinement levels, despite being a three-pot engine. There isn’t any perceivable vibration and the 123bhp unit settles into a pleasant hum at cruising speeds. Low-end response isn’t the best, but it manages to gather pace as the revs climb toward the redline, north of 6000rpm. With 170Nm of torque available at the tap of your right foot right from 1500 revs to 4500rpm, the EcoBoost manages to clock triple digit speeds in good time. Ford, of course, has swapped the older five-speed ‘box for a six-speed one for the S and this allows a far more relaxed highway cruise. You can now settle into a triple digit cruise at just below 2500 revs and even engage cruise control to make life that much easier. It doesn’t quite have the precision of older Ford boxes, although this one is likely to get better as it clocks more kilometres.
However, out on the East Coast Road, in the middle of a blazing hot summers day, there was little scope for either. I landed up loading up the aircon to try and keep the cabin cool and used a lot of mid-range power to get through the trip. There isn’t a whack that arrives from the turbos at any point, but you do get linear acceleration which keeps getting better as the revs build. There aren’t many corners on the ECR, unless you count the chicanes through the police barriers, so I wouldn’t want to comment about the handling on the EcoSport, shod with new tyres. Although, Ford’s usual firm set up tends to work well. In fact, it did pretty well to damp out most of the little bumps that arrived, despite these being lower profile tyres at 205/50 R17. Steering feel though could do with some more feedback and weight to make it properly engaging.
With the unveil of the S edition and the fact that Ford has brought back the 1-litre, turbocharged EcoBoost, engine, there is a bit of a conundrum. The existing 1.5-litre, Dragon motor makes only 2bhp less, is naturally aspirated but slightly less efficient between tank ups. However, it is also 85k cheaper than the ecoboost version and misses only the sunroof. But then again, the higher torque rating on the ecoboost and the availability of a sixth ratio should make for a better drive and highway cruise. Not to forget the exclusivity it will carry with the S badge, thanks to the bigger alloys and its blacked out theme, along with the accentuated interiors which makes it easy to distinguish on the road. At 11.37 lakh (ex-showroom), the EcoSport S does command a premium for its award-winning engine, but it is one that you may want to opt for. More power and cooler styling never harmed anybody.